Webber ends season on a high

The Australian took his first and last win of 2011


By Olivier Ferret

28 November 2011 - 07:55
Webber ends season on a high

Mark Webber claimed his first win of 2012 at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix after Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel was forced to hand over the lead due to gearbox problems.

Webber started from second on the grid and held the position when the red lights went out despite pressure from Jenson Button’s McLaren. Ahead, though, Vettel was through turn one and away. The champion soon built up a solid three-second lead over Webber and the race seemed to be going away from the Australian. But the pendulum swung back in his favour before the first round of stops when Vettel began receiving messages from his engineers that he his car had a gearbox problem.

The solution was for Vettel to short shift in second to minimise stress on the gearbox, but that warning soon applied to all seven gears and the champions’ times began to fall away. Vettel soon informed his team that he would allow himself to “fall behind” and on lap 29 Webber pounced, sweeping past to claim the lead and 42 laps later the seventh win of his career.

“It would have been nice to have a race with Sebastian all the way through but I think he’s had a little bit of a problem,” said Webber of the seventh win of his career. “It’s a win that you’ll take, for sure, because I’ve had enough bad luck and whatever you want to call it. That’s the way that motorsport goes sometimes. So, very important win for me and the team to finish on a high. I enjoyed the last few laps, to be honest. It’s always nice when you finally… I could pit a bit later and cover people off and do all that sort of stuff, so that was good. I enjoyed doing the last few laps. That was a nice way to finish.”

The Australian added that the victory was a good confidence boost going into the winter break. “I think I can have a stronger season than this year,” he said. “Clearly I started off poorly for lots of different reasons. You’ve got to look at all different areas to get at the highest level, and when the bar’s high it’s obviously not just Seb. I don’t come here thinking about just him, we’ve got some class operators in other teams: JB, Lewis, Fernando… these boys are on the case. So, that’s what makes it rewarding.

“It’s a nice little tonic for me to finish the year, that’s why those last few laps for me to feel the car and give the RB7 a bit of a send off for me because it hasn’t had an amazing amount of memories for me but today was a very special day for me and I’ll have that over the winter. Although some other nice drives as well but Seb clearly had a great year and so did the team, Renault, reliability. We were bomb-proof in many areas and that made it hard for the opposition. So that is important. And I’m looking forward to learning how to surf in the winter and backing off a bit, recharging and then coming back in February and concentrating on the job again.”

Despite having to cede the victory to Webber, Vettel insisted that he was not unhappy with the result. “Mark drove a fantastic race, he deserved to win,” he said. “I don’t really like calling this bad luck. Surely, if something like this happens it’s not in your hands. Still, I tried to do my best: tried to stay as close as I can; tried to keep the gap to Fernando for most of the race and then Jenson at the end. I think we had a pretty amazing season and I think it would be over the top being upset now. We take this second place and a one-two finish for the team, which is great and… yeah, it has been a phenomenal year and a very strong finish as well so now I think we are all ready for the winter and looking forward to the break to recharge our batteries and come back as strong as this year, hopefully, at the beginning of the season next year.”

Vettel came under pressure from a flying Jenson Button in the closing stages, but despite sometimes running almost a second per lap quicker than the Red Bull driver, the McLaren man simply ran out of laps and had to settle for a third place that confirmed him as Drivers’ Championship runner-up to Vettel. “I’m happy to be on the podium. It’s nice to get my 12th podium this year,” he said. “It’s been a good year, it’s not been a perfect year but it’s been a good year and we can really take a lot from this season, a lot of positives, sort out a few little issues that we had with reliability and I think we will be looking pretty good.

“I think for us the main thing is to have a strong winter – we’re not able to drive the car – but have a strong winter at the factory and come out fighting at the first test not at the first race. A big thank you to the guys. I think we’ve really grown as a team this year, I feel a big part of the family of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes. They might not look like it from the outside but they do have a lot of passion and they will do anything to win.”

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