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Webber wins Brazilian GP ahead of Vettel

Updated: November 27, 2011, 18:03


Red Bull driver Mark Webber of Australia, right, pours champagne on teammate Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany during the podium ceremony of the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Interlagos race track in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011. Webber won the race and Vettel finished second. (AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano)

SAO PAULO(AP) Mark Webber ended the season on a high note with his first win of the year at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday after Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel struggled with a gearbox problem.

Vettel, who had already secured the Formula One title, still finished second after letting Webber get past him almost halfway through the race at the 4.3-kilometer (2.6-mile) Interlagos track.

Jenson Button of McLaren finished third to secure second place in the drivers' standings.

Webber easily passed Vettel on lap 30 after his teammate reduced his pace when he was told by the team that there was something wrong with his gearbox.

"Very early I got the call that we had to manage the gearbox problem,'' Vettel said. "It sounded pretty severe. It started to get worse. My main priority was to finish the race.''

Webber finished third in the championship with the victory. It was the Australian driver's seventh overall win in F1, and the second in Brazil after winning in Interlagos in 2009.

"Today was a good grand prix for me. It's not a bad thing to finish the year like this,'' Webber said. "I felt good all weekend. It would have been nice to have a race all the way through (with Vettel) but he had a bit of a problem.''

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was fourth and crowd favorite Felipe Massa, in his 100th race for Ferrari, was fifth. Adrian Sutil of Force India finished sixth and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes was seventh.

Vettel, the winner in Brazil in 2010, won 11 races this season but finishes the year without victories in the last two races. He retired on the first lap in Abu Dhabi because of a puncture.

The second-place finish came a day after the two-time champion captured his 15th pole position of the season to break Nigel Mansell's 19-year record. The 24-year-old German was trying to win his 12th race of the year, which would allow him to finish the season only one victory shy of Michael Schumacher's record set in 2004.

"I think we had a pretty amazing season and it would be over the top being upset now,'' Vettel said. "So we take the second place, the 1-2 finish for the team, which is great.''

Vettel had clinched the title four races ago, at the Japanese GP.

Red Bull also had already won the constructors' championship, with McLaren finishing second and Ferrari third.

"To sign off the year with a 1-2 finish is a fantastic way to end the year,'' Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "To have won 12 grands prix and defended both world championships is fantastic.''

On a dry track despite forecasts of rain in South America's biggest city, Webber took the lead when Vettel gave his teammate plenty of space at the end of the main straight.

Red Bull told Vettel early on that data from his car showed a gearbox problem and asked him to short shift when in second gear. The problem then got worse and the team later said Vettel had to short shift in every gear, considerably slowing his lap times.

"The problem appeared on lap 5, due to a gearbox that was losing oil,'' Horner said.

After Webber got past, though, Vettel again increased his pace and had no problem staying behind his teammate. He even set fastest laps a couple of times. Webber eventually finished with the race's best lap.

Vettel dismissed suggestions that team orders may have come into play to try to help Webber finish second in the points standings.

"We had no choice,'' Vettel said. "More and more I was forced to slow down and at the end I was not using second gear.''

Lewis Hamilton, the winner in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago, also had a gearbox problem on his McLaren and eventually retired on lap 46.

Seven-time champion Schumacher of Mercedes had a punctured left-rear tire while trying to pass Bruno Senna of Renault at the end of the main straight. Schumacher had already got past Senna when the Brazilian's car touched his tire and forced him to make an unscheduled pitstop that led to a 15th-place finish.

Senna also had to make a stop because of damage to his car and eventually received a drive-through penalty for the incident and finished 17th.

Veteran Brazilian driver Rubens Barrichello, who is yet to secure a drive for next year and could have made his last F1 race after an 18-year career, got off to a slow start from 12th position and finished only 14th.

Timo Glock of Virgin had a tire come off his car after a pitstop and he had to retire at the exit of the pit lane on lap 23. The incident prompted racing officials to fine Virgin in 5,000 for an "unsafe release'' from the pits.

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