Red Bull said Vettel was told to short-shift in second and third from lap five.
|Sebastian Vettel||Mark Webber|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’11.918 (-0.181)||1’12.099|
Red Bull drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
|Pit stop 1||Soft 20.927s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 20.652s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 22.094s|
Not for the first time this year, Vettel wasn’t completely happy with his car on Friday, but was satisfied with it on Saturday and claimed his record-breaking 15th pole position of the year.
According to his team mate, there were concerns the evening before the race about Vettel’s gearbox. Webber said during the press conference: “I know how hard the guys worked on [Sebastian’s] gearbox last night because it wasn’t completely smooth.”
As early as lap five Red Bull detected the gearbox was losing oil, and instructed Vettel to short-shift in second and third gears to reduce stress on it – the lower gears put the box under greatest stress.
Vettel said: “It was during the first stint, at some stage, that I got the message ‘we have a gearbox issue’. It sounded pretty strong, pretty severe, so I turned down the engine and then immediately started to short shift and it just kept getting worse.
“I got through the first pit stop and obviously gained a little bit on Mark, because I came in a lap earlier but then at some stage I realised that it was still pretty early in the race, our main priority is to finish the race and Mark would be catching up and the most important thing would be to help the team to win the race.
“I tried to be very clear on the radio that I cannot keep first position with the pace that we were going or whatever they asked me to do, what was required to manage the gearbox and then I told them ‘OK, but obviously advise Mark’ or ‘tell Mark that I would let him through’, to give him the chance to keep pushing, don’t lose any time getting past me because at that stage I didn’t know whether I would see the chequered flag or not.”
Vettel said he was glad to make it to the end of the race: “I then just kept losing more and more time towards the end, so I had to be more and more conservative. At some stage I said that ‘I feel like Senna in 1991 when he had to manage the gearbox problem around here’. Obviously it was totally different for him, he was Brazilian and he still managed to win the race.
“I was forced to push in areas where I was allowed to, in the corners, but as soon as I went on the straight, I obviously had to shift earlier. I don’t know if you have walked the track or have run the track, but getting out of the last corner is pretty steep so there was no chance to really… I tried to stay with Mark as well as I could, in case the problem solved itself and we could go again, but in the end I was just trying to keep the gap.”
He ran wide and lost time following his final pit stop: “I was a bit surprised when I got onto the [mediums] and warm-up was a bit poor and then I think I just got caught out with the traffic ahead and lost too much at the front with a little bit of warm-up.”
Following questions over whether Red Bull pretended Vettel had a problem to help Webber win the race, Red Bull showed data from the gearbox to some journalists, who were satisfied Vettel had experienced a fault.
|Pit stop 1||Soft 20.755s|
|Pit stop 2||Soft 20.99s|
|Pit stop 3||Medium 20.781s|
Webber completed Red Bull’s sixth front row lockout of 2011, less than two-tenths off his team mate on one of the shortest circuits on the calendar.
Vettel scorched away to a 2.2 second lead in the first two laps, and Webber was 3.8s behind at lap ten. Webber pitted after Vettel the first time around, and Vettel’s lead peaked at 5.2s.
It then fell rapidly and by lap 28 Webber was within half a second of his team mate. Two laps later he was through into the lead.
Webber said: “I thought he was either in tyre trouble way earlier than he should be or no KERS or something was going on, because one thing [Sebastian] doesn’t do is forget how to drive from one lap to the other.
“When I started to take a pretty big chunk out of him per lap, I thought something might have been going down and then Ciaron [Pilbeam] informed me that he had a gearbox problem and I think I could smell it a little bit when I got close, and there was also a little bit of fluid.”
Webber entertained himself in the closing laps by trying to improve his fastest lap, setting the quickest tour with his last effort: “It was getting a bit frustrating because I kept pinching the front a little bit into turn eight.
“On the last lap I got it a little bit better otherwise I was probably going to bail a bit earlier, but I kept pushing pretty hard.
“Yeah, that’s what it’s about, isn’t it, pushing yourself and backing yourself and having a crack. I was only racing myself at that point so it was a nice little feeling, as I say, to have the car working well underneath me.”
He added: “I want to dedicate this win to a close friend of myself and my family, Bob Woods, who’s a very ill man at the moment, so this win is for him.”
2011 Brazilian Grand Prix
Image © Red Bull/Getty images