Mark Webber took the top step for the first time this season on the weekend, with his victory in Brazil marking his seventh career F1 win.
It may have been a bittersweet victory for Webber however, with back-to-back world champion and teammate Sebastian Vettel relegated to second place after battling with gearbox issues.
"It would have been nice to fight with Seb all the way through, but I enjoyed the last few laps greatly," Webber said.
Vettel compared his gearbox issues to the 1991 race when Ayrton Senna took victory after overcoming the failure of his car's second, third and fourth gears.
The German acknowledged the big difference, of course.
"The difference between Senna and myself was a step on the podium, but the gearbox just kept getting worse," Vettel said.
"Mark drove a fantastic race. We've had a pretty amazing season, and it would be over the top to be upset now."
McLaren's Jenson Button took third, making a strong pass on Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso but finding Vettel too hard to reach.
Button's second-step finish helped him secure an overall second place for the 2011 season.
- Mark Webber
- Sebatian Vettel (+16.9)
- Jenson Button (+27.6)
- Fernando Alonso (+35.0)
- Felipe Massa (+66.7)
- Adrian Sutil (+1 lap)
- Nico Rosberg (+1 lap)
- Paul di Resta (+1 lap)
- Kamui Kobayashi (+1 lap)
- Vitaly Petrov (+1 lap)
- Jaime Alguersuari (+1 lap)
- Sebastien Buemi (+1 lap)
- Sergio Perez (+1 lap)
- Rubens Barrichello (+1 lap)
- Michael Schumacher (+1 lap)
- Heikki Kovalainen (+1 lap)
- Bruno Senna (+1 lap)
- Jarno Trulli (+1 lap)
- Jerome d'Ambrosio (+1 lap)
- Daniel Ricciardo (+1 lap)
Webber's Words On Finishing First
"It feels very good; it’s always nice to win. The battle with Sebastian wasn’t a strong battle in the end because he had a problem, but even so, my pace was strong and I felt very good in the car. It’s a nice way to finish the year."
"I felt good in the car and getting the fastest laps at the end was very rewarding. Looking back, it wasn’t the greatest season for me, but also not the worst. I had a weak start to the year and wasn’t able to capitalise on misfortune from others or put myself in a situation to win fair and square, which is what you want, but in motorsport you take the victories when they come."
"So, it was a very important win for me today and for the team to finish on a high is great. I really enjoyed the last few laps. This is a great track for the team and we have gained three wins in a row here."
Lauda tips McLaren to challenge Red Bull in 2012
Niki Lauda has tipped McLaren to mount a serious challenge to Red Bull's dominance in 2012.
His prediction immediately followed a Red Bull one-two in Brazil, with Mark Webber winning and Sebastian Vettel - despite a nearly race-long gearbox problem - nonetheless able to beat McLaren's Jenson Button to second place.
"I think we can be satisfied," said the team's Dr Helmut Marko, "because we have already been using some of the parts that we will use in 2012."
Triple world champion Lauda, however, warned Red Bull to expect a closer fight from McLaren in 2012.
"McLaren started this season really badly, but afterwards was the only team that could catch Red Bull," he told German broadcaster RTL.
"Next year they will be Red Bull's biggest opponent, if they start with a good car from the beginning.
"If they start at the same level, then it becomes a developing struggle between them and that's where McLaren has the lead, technically," added Lauda.
Despite Webber's win in Brazil, it is Button who completed the season as championship runner-up to Vettel.
"He beat Lewis this year and was very consistent," said Lauda, "while Lewis was up and down with his personal problems.
"Jenson drives with a smooth line while Lewis is like a maniac," added the great Austrian, "so I think it is Jenson who will be significantly involved in the behaviour of the new car."
Raikkonen on list of 2012 candidates admits Boullier
Boss Eric Boullier has refused to rule out signing Kimi Raikkonen to race for the team to be known as Lotus in 2012.
Earlier, the 2007 world champion was linked to Williams but it is believed the famous British team turned down his multi-million euro demands.
Now, in the Interlagos paddock, attention has turned to Renault team boss Boullier's claim last week that he has been in contact with Raikkonen's management team headed by Steve and David Robertson.
"Kimi was - or better said, is - one possible scenario," Germany's Sport1 quotes Boullier as saying, after the recovering Robert Kubica was ruled out for the start of the 2012 season.
Actually, the list is long and complicated, with the seat currently occupied by Vitaly Petrov also in doubt and Romain Grosjean considered first in line for any vacancy.
"I think the speed was there," said Boullier when asked about the new GP2 champion Grosjean's recent Friday outings, "the feedback was very good, the team enjoyed working with him. I cannot say more than this.
"It's part of the assessment we decided to go through, he did it positively and now it will be reported to the board and then we will see."
Bruno Senna is also anxiously waiting to know Renault's decision, which is now expected in the coming days.
"Hopefully I will have a relaxing Christmas," he told Portuguese language reporters after qualifying at Interlagos.
But German reports say Caterham's Heikki Kovalainen is even an option, with the Finn said to have an exit clause in the event that a bigger team offers a seat.
Likely Force India refugee Adrian Sutil is yet another candidate, with his Medion backing reportedly speaking louder than his legal trouble with Genii executive Eric Lux.
Tost admits driver clean-sweep possible for Toro Rosso
Even Toro Rosso's team boss insists he doesn't know who will be in the race cockpits next year.
He told Marca sports newspaper that the decision will be referred to team owner Red Bull's Salzburg headquarters.
"Right now nothing is decided," he said, amid rumours Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari might be ousted to make way to newcomers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
"When this race is finished it will go to Salzburg for a detailed analysis of what the drivers have done. They will decide what is best for the team," said Tost in Brazil.
The Austrian however said he has been satisfied overall with Buemi and Alguersuari in 2011.
"When the car was good, they have had a good performance. Yes, in that way we're happy," said Tost.
Swiss Buemi, however, is the more experienced of the pair but he has scored fewer points, even though he has had the lion's share of the technical problems recently.
"Jaime has had two or three really good races, really good," said Tost.
But he refused to estimate the chances that he might be working with a new driver in 2012, or possibly Australian Ricciardo as well as Frenchman Vergne.
"There is always the possibility," said Tost. "Nothing is ruled out at this time."
Cheeky Vettel celebrates record with Mansell moustache
Sebastian Vettel celebrated breaking a nearly two-decade-old record with a cheeky dig at its previous holder.
Although the back to back world champion took a couple of races longer to achieve it, Vettel on Saturday raced past Nigel Mansell's 1992 record of 14 poles in a single F1 season.
The 24-year-old admitted beating "the master" - who 19 years ago set the record in an Adrian Newey-inked Williams - was "very special".
But he later stuck on a giant orange moustache whilst celebrating with his mechanics; a cheeky nod to Briton Mansell's 90s look.
Vettel's Interlagos pole was less than two tenths faster than the Q3 time set by his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
"Unfortunately I could not look after old Nigel today," the Australian joked, "I tried to help him but it didn't work out, so a good lap for Seb."
Another consolation prize for Webber this weekend was receiving the DHL Fastest Lap award, with his six fastest laps of the race to be unbeaten by any rival in 2011.
"It's a lot better than a lot of the trophies we get on the podium; a lot of them are quite boring but it is quite a nice trophy and also a beautiful Rolex," he said.
Barrichello juggling five phones to extend F1 career
In his quest to hang on to his unprecedentedly-long F1 career, Rubens Barrichello has revealed that he is waiting for calls on five mobile phones this weekend at Interlagos.
There is a sense of sadness at the 2011 season finale that it could be the last for the 39-year-old Brazilian, whose long career spans an astonishing 37 per cent of F1's entire world championship history since 1950.
In what was potentially his last ever qualifying effort in an uncompetitive Williams, Barrichello was just two tenths shy of scraping into the top ten, while his teammate Pastor Maldonado failed to make it out of Q1.
"I have shown that I still have the speed, the experience and the motivation," Auto Motor und Sport quotes him as saying.
"I think that with Williams changing a lot for next season - new people, a new engine - at least the drivers should be consistent," he added.
As he juggles multiple mobile phones amid his firebombing of potential sponsors for 2011, it sounded like a sad plea, but Barrichello insists he is coping better than at the end of 2008, when Honda pulled out suddenly.
"This time it won't be so long (to wait) because I'm been through it before; in the next few weeks I'll be relaxed," the Paulista insisted.
"I'll just take my five phones everywhere and wait for the call. Everyone who is interested in me can reach me at any time."
Earlier this week, his countryman Felipe Massa called on Barrichello to quit now, arguing the dishonour of a former grand prix winner having to become a 'pay-driver' in order to stay in F1.
"I know Felipe means well," said Barrichello, "but I see nothing dishonourable in trying to find the money, and actually nobody has asked if I bring money or not. I don't think it is the decisive factor."
2012 driver lineup in place, for now - Fernandes
Tony Fernandes on Sunday moved to clarify the uncertainty surrounding his F1 team's driver lineup for 2012.
With Team Lotus becoming Caterham next season, current drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli both have contracts to stay put.
But there have been rumours that Finn Kovalainen has attracted interest from rival teams, possibly Renault.
Boss Fernandes told Reuters at Interlagos: "I'll hold on to him whatever."
There has also been speculation about Jarno Trulli's seat, with reports Fernandes is in talks with Red Bull to accomodate one of the energy drink's new hopefuls Daniel Ricciardo or Jean-Eric Vergne.
"Right now we have a contract and he (Trulli) will race," Fernandes said, without elaborating.
Rival boss Martin Whitmarsh, meanwhile, closed the 2011 season by denying McLaren's preparations for next season will be affected by aerodynamicist John Iley's defection to Caterham.
"John looked after wind tunnel management. He wasn't chief aerodynamicist," he is quoted by the Mirror.
"We are very comfortable we have good aerodynamics programme for next season," added Whitmarsh.
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