Mark Webber clinched his first victory of the season in Brazil when a "serious" gearbox problem forced Sebastian Vettel to hand over the lead.
Vettel defied the odds and managed to keep his gearbox working to the end and finished in front of Jenson Button who had a great battle with Fernando Alonso to finish on the podium yet again. Alonso was fourth ahead of Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil.
It was bright sunshine at Interlagos and the much-promised rain didn't look like turning up. It was 25C in the pitlane and 47C out on track.
Six Rows of Grid : 1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Button, 4.Hamilton, 5.Alonso 6.Rosberg, 7.Massa, 8.Sutil, 9.Senna, 10.Schumacher, 11.DiResta, 12.Barrichello
It was a fairly even getaway when the red lights went out, Vettel took off smartly from pole, Mark Webber was not so quick from P2 and had to go defensive against Jenson Button. Fernando Alonso got another strong start and was immediately in front of Lewis Hamilton - he looked to squeeze between Webber and Button, but then decided to try the outside line and unfortunately for him found Button going wide, too.
Felipe Massa was straight past Rosberg and almost inside Lewis Hamilton, but the McLaren driver managed to hold onto the place through the Senna esses. Another Brazilian driver wasn't doing so well further back. Rubens Barrichello had qualified 12th but got bogged down at the start and lost seven places. By the end of Lap 1 he was back in a sorry 19th place.
Positions after Lap 1
1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Button, 4.Alonso, 5.Hamilton, 6.Massa, 7.Rosberg, 8.Sutil, 9.Senna, 10.DiResta, 11.Schumacher, 12.Petrov, 13.Buemi, 14.Kobayashi, 15.Kovalainen
The big shock was that Michael Schumacher actually lost a place at the start - something that hasn't happened all year. By Lap 2 he was past Paul Di Resta, though and closing on Bruno Senna.
At the front, Sebastian Vettel set off like the familiar scalded cat and had a DRS-free 2.2 second gap by Lap 2. By Lap 6 both Red Bulls looked like clearing off into the distance and Jenson Button was coming under pressure from Fernando Alonso who had Lewis Hamilton just behind him. At the same time Adrian Sutil was beginning to put pressure on Nico Rosberg for P7.
By Lap 9 confirmation came over on team radio that there would be no rain for 30 minutes.
On Lap 10 the home fans groaned as Michael Schumacher put a move up the inside of Bruno Senna down the start/finish straight to grab P9. The front-on camera made it look as though Schumi cut acutely in front of Senna, but when the stewards investigated the collision they gave Senna a penalty for causing the contact.
It resulted in parts of the Renault front wing getting bent backward and braking off while it gave Michael Schumacher a rear puncture (very much like his 2006 race when a puncture sent him to the back). Senna got a drive-through penalty for the move, but ultimately his chances were ended by the loss of fourth gear from Lap 20.
Schumacher limped back to the pits, spreading tyre debris around the track as he went. This debris actually helped Fernando Alonso pass Jenson Button a lap later because heading into Turn 6 Button didn't want to drive over it - and then noticed he had Alonso on his outside and couldn't go defensive. It was a great move by Alonso and he began to pull away from Button.
Jenson pitted at the end of Lap 15 kicking off the first round of pit-stops. Hamilton, Alonso and Rosberg came in a lap later, Vettel on Lap 17 and Webber on Lap 18. Nobody gained or lost places through it.
However there were signs that all was not well in the leading Red Bull car. On Lap 14 Vettel's engineer radioed through that he needed to short-shift in second gear, cutting the revs to avoid stressing the gearbox. By Lap 17 that had extended to 2nd and 3rd gear. By Lap 24 that had upped to a very tight-lipped "Sebastian we have a serious gearbox problem." After the race his engineers admitted they didn't think he would get beyond half distance.
Positions after Lap 22
1.Vettel, 2.Webber, 3.Alonso, 4.Button, 5.Hamilton, 6.Massa, 7.Sutil, 8.Rosberg, 9.Petrov, 10.DiResta, 11.Kobayashi, 12.Buemi, 13.Perez, 14.Alguersuari
Timo Glock exited his pitbox with only three wheels firmly attached and as he turned left at the end of the pitlane, only three wheels came with him, the fourth preferring to go straight on. That was that for Timo in 2011.
Up until Lap 23 Vettel had been reducing his pace slowly. But from Lap 24, when Mark Webber put in a 1:17.030, the gap quickly reduced from 2.8 seconds to 0.5 seconds on Lap 28. By the end of Lap 29 Webber was past and Vettel had to accept the inevitable.
Button came in for more tyres on Lap 32 - he went for the harder Prime tyre while Hamilton, who was just 0.9 behind his team-mate before the stop, got a set of Soft Option tyres. Alonso pitted for more Softs on Lap 36, but Felipe Massa - who had stopped much later than the other front runners - would only make one final pit-stop opting for a two-stop race.
The Brazil GP was clearly a place that inspired gearbox problems, because apart from Senna and Vettel's problems, Hamilton's car was beset with gearbox issues that couldn't be solved by judicious downshifting. Paul DiResta also had gearbox problems in the Force India.
Button and Hamilton's stops had put them behind the going-long Felipe Massa and Button closed in and then got past the Ferrari going down to Lake Descent (Turn 4) on Lap 39. Hamilton had a lot more trouble getting past and was just too far back on the main straight. So McLaren chose to bring him early for his final set of the harder Prime tyre.
Ferrari decided to spoil his fun by bringing Massa in a lap later and Hamilton was still behind him. Finally on Lap 48 the McLaren gearbox gave up the ghost and Lewis coasted downhill into retirement.
Positions after Lap 48
1.Webber, 2.Vettel, 3.Alonso, 4.Button, 5. Massa, 6.Rosberg, 7.Sutil (3 stops), 8.Alguersuari (1 stop) 9.DiResta, 10.Kobayashi, 11.Petrov, 12.Buemi
Everyone by now had stopped at least two times (except Alguersuari) but it was expected that Jenson Button would try and run till the end on his Primes, Felipe Massa would also run till the end (albeit a long way from the front four) and that everyone else would stop again for the Prime tyre they had yet to put on.
Adrian Sutil, despite his three stops was hot on Rosberg's tail in pursuit of P6 and looked to have past him up the inside into Turn 1 on Lap 49 - except Rosberg failed to accept that and left his braking very late and got the place back. A lap later and Sutil - on fresher tyres - had learned what to do and was far more brutal in the move he pulled. P6 was his from Lap 50.
The big battle going on in the midfield, unwatched by the TV cameras, was the battle for 7th and 8th in the constructors' championship with the places: 9.Kobayashi, 10.Petrov, 11.Alguersuari, 12.Buemi, 13.Barrichello, 14.Perez. Perez had dropped back after a spin, but Kobayashi was doing his Sauber best to keep ahead of the two Toro Rossos. They were one point ahead and just needed to keep that advantage.
It was a big surprise to see Jenson Button heading down pitlane for another set of tyres at the end of Lap 52. Would he put on a set of Softs to sprint to the line? No, it was another set of the hard tyres - to guarantee the balance of the car. Ferrari decided to make their final stop for Alonso two laps later and he came back out 4.6 seconds in front of Jenson still in P3.The McLaren team then radioed through: "Jenson, you can do qualifying laps till the end of the race" and Button duly obliged. On Lap 55 Button put in the Fastest Lap with a 1:15.989 - he followed that up a lap later with a 1:15.998. The gap to Alonso came down from 4.6 seconds to 3.6, to 2.9, to 1.4 on Lap 58. While the Red Bulls were enjoying trouble free pit-stops on Laps 58 and 59, Button closed the gap to Alonso to 0.6 on Lap 59.
Jenson then began the calculation of where best to use KERS and employ the DRS to get past the Ferrari. He steamed very close to Alonso down the start/finish straight, tucked right behind him through Turns 1, 2 and 3 then pulled alongside him going down into Lake Descent. After that he was gone.
He began to haul in Sebastian Vettel at 0.8 a lap, but the Red Bull was already 11 seconds down the road. Vettel had been given periodic warnings about his gearbox all through the race - especially on Lap 45 where he put in the fastest lap of the race and was told off straight away. But despite the pressure from Button it held out.
Mark Webber sailed on in the lead and had some Vettel-like fun at the end, putting in three successive fastest laps on the last three tours finally bringing it down to a 1:15.324 on Lap 71. It was a welcome victory, making it only two Brazilian GPs out of the last 12 where the polesitter had won.
Vettel's P2 was a minor miracle "like Senna in 1991" he thought (where Ayrton won with his car jammed in gear) and Button's P3 confirming him as runner up in the drivers' championship. Alonso took P4 ahead of a distant P5 Massa and a great drive from Sutil for P6 ahead of Rosberg, DiResta, Petrov and Kobayashi.
The Japanese driver had secured Sauber's place above Toro Rosso, while the old adversaries Barrichello and Schumacher finished the race in 14th and 15th.
It wasn't the most exciting of Brazilian GPs but at last Mark Webber had finished in front of his team-mate. Definitely something that will aid him when he takes to the trails of his Tasmanian Challenge in the weeks ahead.
01. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h32:17.434
02. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 16.983
03. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 27.638
04. Alonso Ferrari + 35.048
05. Massa Ferrari + 1:06.733
06. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
07. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
08. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
09. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
10. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault + 2 laps
17. Senna Renault + 2 laps
18. Trulli Lotus-Renault + 2 laps
19. D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps
20. Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
Did Not Finish
Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 62
Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 37
Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 27
Glock Virgin-Cosworth 22