30/11/2011

Brazilian GP, Interlagos - A fitting finale indeed

After exactly 8 months the 2011 F1 season came to an end. Yes, the season’s first race took place on 27th March, 2011 and the season ended on 27th November, 2011. This is quite co-incidental that the season began with a weekend dated 25th-27th & ended with the same dates. A strong rain shower was predicted for the race but as we all know, we cannot trust the weather at all and it proved right as the rain never came. Mark Webber won his first race of the season at the last race with Vettel at P2 & Button at P3.

Here is the detailed report on the weekend, for the last time this season:

FP1:

Brazil was back as the last race of the season after a gap of two years in that slot, all the teams & drivers are always happy to return to a track of historical significance. The Friday prediction was dry running and it was bright & sunny throughout. The first session of the last race went fairly incident free. Webber topped the timesheets with Button at P2 & Hamilton at P3. Hulkenberg sat in place of Sutil for the session & he finished at P8 while Di Resta ended at P9, a great start to the weekend without any real issues.

FP2:

The teams continued with the assessment of the tyres and various other parts on the car for the qualifying & race. Another smooth session for all the teams with only a yellow flag disruption at the end after Perez’s car stalled on the track. Hamilton took the P1 spot with Vettel at P2 & Webber at P3 by the end. For Force India Sutil was back in the car and finished at P9 & Di Resta finished at P10, completing another good session which prompted Di Resta to say that it had been the best Friday in terms of collecting data. What was interesting is the time-sheets where from P9-P24, we saw all the team-mates one after the other: Sahara Force India’s, Lotus Renault’s, Sauber’s, Toro Rosso’s, Williams', Team Lotus’, Marussia Virgin’s & HRT’s.

FP3:

Rain was predicted for today including this session but none could be seen during the session at all. This was the final practice session of the 2011 season, the final one hour of practice. Yet again there were no dramas during the session as there were no incidents or stoppages. Vettel topped the timesheets by the end of the session with Button at P2 & Webber at P3. Sutil ended at P6, once running at the top of the timesheets while Di Resta ended at P9 in their Force India car. That was it from the last practice session of 2011 season.

After the practice session it was clear that the McLaren & Red Bull battle for pole will go on and I had the feeling that Vettel will sneak it. As for Force India, both the cars in Q3 was very much possible, so much so I had a feeling that they might even get close to top 5.

Qualifying:
Q1:

The last qualifying session of the season began in Brazil with lots of question over the weather as rain clouds were hovering over the track. With rain threat all the drivers were not in the mood to take risks & they straightaway headed out to set times to get through to Q2. In the end, it was Button at P1 with all the new teams bowing out as usual along with, this time, Maldonado. All qualified well within the 107% times. Notably HRT beat both the Virgin’s. While both the Force Indians made it comfortably to Q2, with Sutil ending as high as P4.

Q2:

The main part of the qualifying session and also the tricky session - just one mistake and you won’t make it to the Q3 battle. The weather was still threatening with rain but till the end it was all dry. Vettel came back strong to top the timesheet in this session, setting the stage for a McLaren VS RBR showdown. Sutil was comfortably in the top 10 but unfortunately for Di Resta the situation was a bit tricky as he was pushed back to P11 after Schumacher ended his lap. Di Resta couldn’t improve as he was on used set of tyres and thus he was out in Q2.

Q3:

By the time Q3 began, all worry about rain was gone, once again the weather prediction went to the ashes. All the top teams came out to set times, this season it became a trend that all the top teams do two runs while the lower half either do one run or not at all set times. The impressive qualifying lap was once again to be seen as Vettel got the pole position yet again breaking Nigel Mansell record of 14 poles in a season with the new record being 15 poles. Joining him at the front row was Webber at P2 and behind him was Button at P3. Force India’s Sutil qualified at P8 ahead of Senna & Schumacher.

I would say a fruitful qualifying for the Force Indians, matching the likes of Renault & Mercedes. I was very much hoping for a double point finish from them and thus sealing the P6 in CC. The qualifying battle was won by Sutil with 10-9 to Di Resta.  As for the top battle, I was hoping for Webber to win but won’t take anything away from Vettel, it was a superb lap to get the pole.

Race:

The day had arrived, the 2011 season coming to end. For the last time this year we saw the 24 cars on the grid getting ready for the race & Mr.Bernie moving up and down the grid greeting and meeting drivers and various other people. The atmosphere at the circuit was amazing, the dedication & love of the fans was there to be seen. The local support for the local drivers Massa, Barrichello & Senna was overwhelming. There was 80% chances of rain during the race with dark clouds hovering over the circuit but rain never arrived. Here it was for the last time we were hearing, ‘As the five red lights illuminate the Brazilian GP is a go...’ It was another good start from Vettel with most of the field staying the same in front. The first overtaking move we saw was from Alonso over Button to take the P3 position, it was a pure racing overtaking move. Sutil stayed at P8 while Di Resta moved upto P10 but was soon overtaken by Schumacher.

There was a tussle between Senna & Schumacher on Lap 10 through which Di Resta gained two places to be P8. While on front, Webber took the lead from Vettel after the German was radioed about a gearbox problem. A gearbox problem later forced Hamilton to retire from the race of a trouble season for the Briton. Meanwhile, Sutil was driving a fantastic race fighting with Rosberg, both on a different strategy though. But eventually, Sutil overtook Rosberg at the start/finish line, to get the P6 position. Sutil later told that it was a nice & fair battle. Team-mate Di Resta who gave way to Sutil earlier was behind Rosberg after Sutil overtook him. It was later known that he too had gearbox problem and was radioed to bring the car home safely.

At the front, Webber took a comfortable lead over Vettel who had a lonely race. Alonso couldn’t hold on to the P3 position due to a different strategy to Button who got his rhythm back and overtook Alonso to seal the final position in the podium & also P2 position in the drivers dhampionship. Webber won the race then after and also had the fastest lap of the race on the last lap, his teammate finished at P2 & Button at P3. As for Force India, Sutil drove an absolutely faultless race to finish at P6, ahead of Mercedes' & Renaults'. He also moved upto P9 in drivers championship, his career best. While Di Resta finished the race at P8, getting some more valuable points for himself and the team, he ended at P13 in the championship. Force India as a team secured their P6 position in the constructors championship, falling short of just 4 points behind Lotus Renault.

It was nice to see Massa doing a donut post the race was over. All in all it was a good race and an amazing season which also witnessed the Indian GP. Time went by quickly as the cars do on the track. There were loads of ups & downs during the season. I am very happy that Force India did so well after starting the season on the slower side. Hope they continue with the upward surge in 2012. Also, I have enjoyed writing these weekend blogs. This was my first attempt and seems to be successful. Loads of things to be covered in the off season, don’t worry we not going anywhere. Stay tuned with Auto India Sports!!

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