The 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix was in many ways very similar to the season as a whole. It wasn’t a classic, but it wasn’t a waste of time. It’s a shame that rain never fell, despite a threat on both Saturday and Sunday, but there were some fine performances up and down the grid and I think we can probably walk away from this year with a smile on our faces.
The whole session was overshadowed by a threat of rain that never materialized. While it might have been pretty fun to see some wet conditions mixing up the standings, the threat was all that was needed to ensure plenty of action on track.
Qualifying One provided very few surprises. I’m sure 2010’s polesitter Nico Hulkenberg would not have shed any tears for his 2011 Williams replacement when Pastor Maldinado’s Q1 exit marked the worst overall season performance of a Williams driver. Hulkenberg looks set to take Adrian Sutil’s place at Force India next season, but I can’t see where Maldinado will fit in the grand scheme of things if his only redeeming feature becomes cash.
The McLarens showed very early promise by locking out the front row and it was interesting to see Sebastian Vettel only finish P5. Of course the other drivers joining Maldinado were the "New Teams."
Qualifying two was close enough but the top six was quickly established and the real fight was between Torro Rosso, Renault, and Barrichello. Nico Rosberg turned some heads when he finished the session in second, but ominously Vettel was the man ahead of him.
Qualifying three was unfortunately hindered by Vettel’s supreme performance and the relative lack of speed from the other drivers when it really counted. Vettel cruised into his record 15th pole position and the only man who looked close to beating him was Mark Webber in the sister Red Bull. Jenson Button rounded out the top three with his best ever Brazilian qualifying and Bruno Senna was able to please the crowd with a P9 finish.
The Ferrari team were consistently present, but made very little impression on the top four places. Lewis Hamilton looked so good in practice and the early sessions of qualifying but ultimately lost his mojo in the final shootout.
Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil, Bruno Senna, Michael Schumacher, Paul Di Resta, Rubans Barrichello, Jamie Alguersuari, Sebastien Buemi, Vitaly Petrov, Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldinado, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Daniel Ricciardo, Jerome D’Ambrosio, Timo Glock
The final start of the 2011 season was about as clean as you can get in Formula One. Sebastian Vettel cruised off into the sunset, Mark Webber held off a Jenson Button move going into turn one, and the rest of the field fairly negotiated the first few tight corners.
Here were the positions after one lap:
Vettel, Webber, Button, Alonso, Hamilton, Massa, Rosberg, Sutil, Senna, Di Resta, Schumacher, Petrov, Buemi, Kobayashi, Kovalainen, Perez, Alguersuari, Trulli, Barrichello, Maldinado, D’Ambrosio, Liuzzi, Ricciardo, Glock
There were a few little changes from the beginning, but probably the most noticeable position change came from Fernando Alonso when the Ferrari man used yet another great start to pass Lewis Hamilton into turn one.
The first bit of significant action came on lap 10 when Bruno Senna and Michael Schumacher made contact with each other going through turns one, two, and three. Schumacher seemed to have the move sorted by turn one, but Senna stayed firm and held on through turn two. During the tussle the cars touched twice; Schumacher came away with a puncture, Senna a damaged front wing and a pretty harsh drive through penalty.
It wasn’t too long before we got our next exciting installment when Alonso pulled a phenomenally skillful high speed overtake on Button as the two drivers took to turn six. It looked at this early stage as if the McLarens were really struggling to keep up with the frontrunners pace.
Around lap 14 we learned that Vettel was suffering with a gear box issue. The issue got persistently worse as the race developed and helped maintain a level of excitement, but the 2011 World Champion did an excellent job to eventually nurse the car home.
It was around this time that the cars began to stop for the first time. I’m afraid these pit stops brought next to no change in the positions.
By lap 30, Vettel’s gear box issues had become ‘serious’ and the team felt it was best to let Webber take the lead. Vettel was clearly unhappy about this and made sure that the world knew he was yielding by letting his teammate pass in an unnecessarily tricky part of the track (he could have quite easily given way on the pit straight). I believe Webber would have passed Vettel eventually anyway so I would like to stress that Webber’s victory was 100 percent deserved and certainly not gifted.
The second stage of pit stops happened over the next few laps, but again, very little changed. By lap 38 we learned that Lewis Hamilton was now suffering with gear box problems too! Hamilton held out for another 10 laps, but his disappointing season was brought to an early conclusion when his car finally gave up.
Button had put the harder compound tire on in his second stop when most of his main rivals had opted for a second set of the softer compound. McLaren clearly hoped that Button could hold out until the end, but they were perhaps a little disappointed to have to bring their sole driver in on lap 53.
However, it certainly wasn’t all doom and gloom for Button. In a turn of fortunes, Alonso’s pace began to fall completely off the map and Button’s McLaren began a run of super fast laps. The 2009 World Champion was eventually able to pass Alonso with DRS and will no doubt be pleased to have finished on the Brazilian podium for the first time since 2006.
This was the last significant action of a race that was on the whole pretty uniform, but certainly not a waste of time.
I fear that 2011 may well prove to be my final Formula One season. I do not want to dwell on the Sky deal, it’s happened and it isn’t going to change. It hasn’t been a bad season, certainly not the best, but far from the excitement that built up from about 2005 to 2010. I would say that the 2011 Brazilian Grand Prix was pretty similar in many ways.
It’s a shame that 2011 couldn’t quite live up to the previous six seasons, but since I’ve been an F1 fan I can’t remember such a run of excellent year on year action. I’ll walk away from Formula One with a smile on my face, and though I leave with immense bitterness in my heart, I wish the sport I have grown to love all the best in the future.
Drivers’ Championship Final Top Three
Constructors’ Championship Final Top Three
Red Bull: 650
1 Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault
2 Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault
3 Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes
4 Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
5 Felipe Massa, Ferrari
6 Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes
7 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP
8 Paul Di Resta, Force India-Mercedes
9 Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
10 Vitaly Petrov, Renault
11 Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari
12 Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari
13 Sergio Perez, Sauber
14 Rubens Barrichello, Williams-Cosworth
15 Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP
16 Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus-Renault
17 Bruno Senna, Renault
18 Jarno Trulli, Lotus-Renault
19 Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin-Cosworth
20 Daniel Ricciardo, HRT-Cosworth
DNF Vitantonio Liuzzi, HRT-Cosworth
DNF Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes
DNF Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Cosworth
DNF Timo Glock, Virgin-Cosworth