Saturday, 3 December 2011

Formula 1 - Brazilian Grand Prix 2011

Interlagos Circuit, São Paolo, Brazil.
After 18 races, which should've been 19 were it not for Bahrain being a little busy to be holding a motor race, we come here, back to good old Brazil, home of Senna, Massa and Barrichello, for the final race of the 2011 Formula 1 season. For the 15th time this year, World Drivers Champion Sebastian Vettel had managed to extract the most from the fastest car on the grid and get pole position, setting a new record for most poles in a season. With the dominance he's had this year, his team mate Mark Webber hadn't won a single race in 2011, when an identical car had won 11 times, so with his car only one place and 0.2 seconds behind Vettel's, could the Australian go into the winter with a success rate higher than zero?
Off the line, it seemed not. Sebastian Vettel stayed ahead off the line as Mark Webber got off to a bad start as usual, being immediately pressurised by Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, who passed Lewis Hamilton round the outside into the first corner. The Red Bulls remained 1st and 2nd, but Button in 3rd was under pressure from Alonso. Meanwhile, local hero Rubens Barrichello started in 12th, bogged down off the start and ended up in 19th before the second half of the lap, which was a shame. On lap 2, Michael Schumacher passed Paul Di Resta to retake 10th place with ease.

On lap 10, however, Bruno Senna proved harder for Schumacher to pass. He out-dragged the Lotus-Renault before they even started braking, but turned in slightly too early, causing contact between the two of them. This left Senna with a broken right front wing endplate and Schumacher with a punctured left rear tyre. The incident was investigated by the stewards as Schumacher limped to the pits and came out stone dead last.

Next lap, Fernando Alonso was still pressurising Jenson Button, looking for a way past him at Turn 4 and getting a better run out of the corner (and subsequently T5). This allowed him to draw alongside Button going into the fast Turn 6, and edge ahead. Button then backed off and let him overtake around the outside. He then started to fall into the clutches of McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton as they passed a now-lapped Michael Schumacher.

Bruno Senna pitted on lap 13 for new Option tyres, damaged wing still in place. Meanwhile at the front, things were about to stop being so rosy for Sebastian Vettel. On lap 14, his race engineer radioed in telling him to "short-shift 2nd gear, we have a gearbox problem". Short-shifting just means changing up early, probably to put less stress on the gearbox. He was OK for most of any lap, as 2nd gear is used only twice on this high-speed track. This was likely to be an overheating issue, as the hot conditions were also causing some tyres to blister. Jenson Button pitted on lap 15 for a new set of Option tyres, with Hamilton and Alonso pitting together on lap 16. Ferrari won the pit-stop battle by 0.2 seconds with their 3.7 second stop. As Vettel started lap 17, which he finished by pitting, he was told to short-shift 3rd gear as well. The overheating problem was getting worse...

The stewards had finally made a decision on the Senna-Schumacher incident, deciding that Bruno could have braked harder to avoid catching Michael's tyre and putting the German into last place, so he was given a drive-thru penalty. Mark Webber pitted in on lap 18, exiting behind Vettel and leaving Brazilian driver Felipe Massa in the lead of the Brazilian Grand Prix, although this was because he hadn't pitted yet. He didn't lead for long though, as Vettel got close to him through the Senna S's at the start of the lap and passing Massa with DRS heading towards Turn 4, after which he pitted at last. Nico Rosberg overtook Jaime Alguersuari for 9th place at T1 on this lap, boosting Mercedes GP a little in the fierce mid-field battle for championship positions.

On lap 23, Timo Glock left the pits with a loose wheel, which shook itself free very quickly and left him exiting the pits with only three wheels on his Virgin Racing car (which will be renamed Marussia next year). This lead to yellow flags, but not a Safety Car. This meant that the gearboxes had no time for a breather, and Bruno Senna skipped a gear coming out of Turn 3 on lap 27, stunting his acceleration and allowing a chasing Pastor Maldonado's Williams to cruise right past him down the back straight. The part of Senna's wing that was damaged on lap 10 had degraded further, and the endplate was now sitting just late of the apex on Turn 2 after being shaken free by the kerb. Thanks to the gearbox issues Vettel had, by lap 28 Mark Webber had halved the gap to the leader over the last five laps or so, making the gap 1.4 seconds. It was then that he was told "Short-shift, every corner, every gear" by his race engineer, to which he replied "OK, but then I will fall behind, I will fall behind". Music to Mark Webber's ears if he could've heard it. Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado had spun round and hit the tyre wall between turns 7 and 8. Still, there was no Safety Car, nor was there any rain despite teams predicting there would be all weekend.

On lap 30, with the gap down to 0.6 seconds, Vettel was forced to concede defeat and let Webber through. He braked early and on the inside into Turn 1, letting his team mate take the normal racing line and pass him like he was lapping him. Next lap, Jenson Button was the first of the front-runners to switch to Prime tyres, which he said he was happier with during Friday practice (in terms of handling balance), but would he stay on these slower tyres until lap 71 and the chequered flag? Contrastingly, on lap 33 Lewis Hamilton put more Option tyres on, meaning he definitely had to do one more pit stop before the end of the race. But would he get to? On lap 37, he was told that he too has a gearbox problem, and that "There's nothing you can do out there to help it, so just keep going". So short-shifting won't help? Who knows whether it was the same problem as the short-shifting Vettel?

By lap 39, the McLarens were chasing the Ferraris, with Jenson Button DRS'ing past Felipe Massa into T4 on the Brazilian's 100th Grand Prix (and his 10th anniversary of racing with Ferrari). Then it was the turn of Lewis Hamilton, Massa's sparring partner. Despite some fans holding their breath at the prospect, it actually ended up being tit-for-tat for a while, and by lap 44 of 71, he still hadn't been able to get past the Ferrari No. 2. Having lost over 7 seconds to Button in front, McLaren said enough and pitted Hamilton for Prime tyres. After Massa had pitted a lap later, he was still narrowly ahead of Hamilton as they headed to Turn 4 on lap 46. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel was going too fast for his engineer's liking and was forced to hear the words "serious gearbox problem" for probably the tenth time that race. Unfortunately, it was worse for Hamilton. On lap 47 he exited turn 3 just 0.4 seconds behind Massa, but his gearbox failed to select any more gears, and he coasted down the back straight before pulling up well out of the way next to a barrier on the exit of Turn 6.

On lap 49, the midfield battle for points was still raging, as Adrian Sutil - now the lead Force India - tried to go round the outside of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes GP into Turn 1, but Rosberg saw him coming and remembered that the corner has a late, open apex, so even though Sutil was ahead of Rosberg in the braking zone, Nico just stayed left and out-braked the Force India to overtake him back, as it were, thus retaining his 6th position. Next lap though, Sutil tried again, getting past him much earlier on the straight and leaving Rosberg no choice but to concede the position.

On lap 56, Jenson Button's Prime tyres had given up on him, and he pitted in for some more. Ahead, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari wasn't so good on the Prime tyres, meaning Jenson was able to catch and pass him on lap 62 in the DRS zone and take 3rd position. Meanwhile, after swapping places a few times with Vettel in the pits, Mark Webber was busy pinching the Fastest Lap from his team mate as well, setting a 1:15.480 on lap 70 out of 71, which he then beat on his final lap with a 15.324 as he took his first and only victory of the year. Some will argue that it was because of his team mate's poorly gearbox, but he won't care. He can go into the winter and back to Australia in 2012 with a win on his mind, and that will be a real boost for the 35-year-old. Jenson Button and the two Ferraris (in the usual order) made up the top 5. Worthy of note is Kamui Kobayashi, who started 16th on the grid and finished 9th, earning the points to keep his Sauber F1 team ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso in the championship.

And so ends another season. While 1st position was held most of the time by one man, the racing behind him has been truly excellent all the way down the field. The new DRS feature has made the racing seem artificial at times, as did the Pirelli tyres at the start of the year, as all you needed to get past someone was a fresher set of rubbers (even just 2 or 3 laps newer) and you could out-corner them with ease, but Pirelli seem to have kept a lid on that now, and with the lessons learned by those in charge as to how to optimise these features, we should be set up for a truly epic 2012 season, even if many people in the UK can no longer watch all of it live, for no reason at all other than greed, which bugs me a lot and will all year... but apart from that the actual Formula 1 is going to be fantastic, as we look forward to the penultimate year of this V8 era. See you then!

Final results & points. Click to open in a new tab.

1 comment:

  1. Brazilian Grand Prix is a Formula One championship race which is currently held at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in Interlagos neighborhood, Socorro district, São Paulo. It is one of most challenging f1 races in the world; it is a full time entertainment for formula 1 lovers. Watch F1 Brazil Grand Prix 2015 Live