Our first foray into the fast and not-so-fast of the Brazilian Grand Prix starts at the sharp end of the grid – otherwise known as the Top Dogs.
- Sebastian Vettel: Quali – 1st, Race – 2nd
- Mark Webber: Quali – 2nd, Race – 1st
Was the Kennedy assassination really the work of a lone gunman? Did Neil Armstrong actually set foot on the moon? Have I really won the Nigerian national lottery? I don’t even remember buying a ticket.
But, more pressing than all of these, did Sebastian Vettel really have gearbox problems in Brazil? Well yes, he probably did, but that won’t stop me acting all suspicious.
Mark Webber finally broke his 2011 win duck at Interlagos, though it took a *cough* ‘gearbox’ problem from team-mate Vettel to hand him victory.
Webber was decent all weekend, qualifying second (impressively close to Seb) and recovering from another bad start to hold P2 off the line. Given the Red Bull’s pace he was always going to have an easy run once Vettel began to slow, and duly secured third in the standings with a victory.
The champion meanwhile took pole with a monster lap, then nursed a car with increasing *cough, cough* ‘gearbox’ woes to P2, 16 seconds behind his team-mate and 11 clear of McLaren’s Jenson Button. That’s pretty good.
So it’s difficult to give this to Webber, as in no way did he out-perform Seb this weekend; that said if I give it to Vettel I’ll never hear the end of it, and I’ve always been one for taking the option that guarantees me a quiet life. Well done Mark.
- Lewis Hamilton: Quali – 4th, Race – DNF
- Jenson Button: Quali – 3rd, Race – 3rd
Jenson Button: 2011 F1 World Championship runner-up. Okay, he didn’t fight for the title – no one did – but it’s still a mighty achievement. He capped what was perhaps his best season in the sport with a fine drive in Brazil, taking his seventh podium in eight races.
Jenson enjoyed a great battle with Alonso, being passed at Ferradura early in the race only to re-pass the Spaniard eight laps from home. Vettel aside these two have been the top performers of 2011, so it was a treat to see them scrapping.
Lewis couldn’t maintain his Abu Dhabi form in Brazil, qualifying behind Jenson and slipping further back in the race as Alonso passed him at the start and Massa jumped him at the stops. Apparently a terminal gearbox problem ended his worst grand prix season mercifully early, though it was more likely a conspiracy on the team’s part to stop him running in to Massa again. *Cough, cough*
- Fernando Alonso: Quali – 5th, Race – 4th
- Felipe Massa: Quali – 7th, Race – 5th
The story of Ferrari’s season was played over a single race in Brazil: Alonso qualifies fifth, makes a great start, puts a brilliant move on a McLaren, charges on, but eventually falls back as his car’s ultimate lack of pace is shown up and finishes fourth.
Meanwhile, in Noweheresville, Felipe Massa trundled home over half a minute behind his team-mate to complete a miserable, podiumless season. Stat fans might like to note that this is the first time since Didier Pironi in 1981 that a Ferrari driver has completed a full campaign without once climbing on to the rostrum. Maybe Felipe can take comfort from the fact that Pironi won two races the following year.
Ferrari need to start next season strongly. Stefano Domenicali can’t afford to oversee another failure, whilst Massa finds himself seriously under pressure for his driver. Alonso? All he needs is a car capable of fighting for wins. Give him that and the sky’s the limit for the Scuderia.
- Adrian Sutil: Quali – 8th, Race – 6th
- Paul di Resta: Quali – 11th, Race – 8th
Deserving Top Dog, Adrian Sutil drove an absolute blinder in Brazil to net Force India a cool eight points and grab himself a career-best ninth in the drivers’ standings. It was great performance – and yet he’s days away from being confirmed as the man who will depart the team to be replaced by Nico Hulkenberg.
Team-mate di Resta also came home strongly in P8, but ultimately he’s been second best at Force India this year. A good rookie, no doubt, but whether the mix of he and Hulkenberg will be as well rounded as the 2011 line-up only time will tell. Adrian, meanwhile, deserves to land somewhere in 2012.
Badger’s Best: Sutil