Brazilian GP 2011: minute by minute

15.45pm GMT Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the final race of the 2011 season, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

The question on everybody’s lips is, will it rain? It has been forecast to come down all weekend but there is absolutely no sign of rain with only 15 minutes to go before the start. Paul di Resta has already said that he thinks it will be dry, despite everyone’s conviction til about half an hour ago that precipitation was a given.

Sebastian Vettel starts on pole after a flawless, demonstration run yesterday. Every single apex was hit perfectly. Mark Webber is in second place on the grid with Jenson Button third and Lewis Hamilton fourth. Fernando Alonso leaves from fifth, with Rosberg sixth and Massa seventh.

With just over ten minutes to go, the sun is out. Any showers will come rather literally out of the blue. Jonathan Neale of McLaren says that “all the indicators are that it will [rain]” in a neat piece of Woking-speak. He should hope his indicators are right – a dry race wouldn’t favour his chargers.

It may, of course, be Rubens Barrichello’s final race in F1. His seat is by no means guaranteed for next season and an era could be coming to an end.

The grid is now being cleared and the hum of engines is intensifying. The crowd are really wonderful here, entering fully into the spirit of the event.

They are now off around the twisting, characterful track on the parade lap. All of the cars are on soft tyres and there may be some degradation coming into play this afternoon.

Lewis Hamilton over eggs it a bit into his slot, but uses the hill to roll back onto it. Useful.

Lap 1 And the lights are on, and now they’re off! Webber had a bad start…Button cannot get past though! And Alonso’s nicked a place from Hamilton! Vettel leads out of the Senna S.

Lap 2 Vettel leads from Webber by a second already followed by Button, Alonso and Hamilton. Massa is sixth, Rosberg is seventh and Sutil is eighth. Senna has remained in ninth, a good job. Paul di Resta and Michael Schumacher are fighting and the German is past the Scot for tenth.

Lap 3 Vettel is now more than two seconds ahead of the pack and we are all marvelling at it. Incredible. DRS is enabled, which may help Paul di Resta. On the replay of the start, credit must go to Felipe Massa, who used home advantage to jump up a place. Barrichello, meanwhile, fell right back, losing quite a few positions.

Lap 4 Alonso is catching Button in third.

Lap 5 Schumacher apparently did not start on new tyres and had to get past di Resta, which he managed.

Lap 6 There are some dark clouds over to the north of the track, but nothing immediately threatening just yet. Schumacher is bearing down on Bruno Senna in ninth, but seems to have understeer on those old tyres.

Lap 7 Vettel’s margin of superiority is over three seconds.

Lap 8 Button is backing Alonso into Hamilton. That’s what friends are for. But the Spaniard looks as though he will threaten the front McLaren.

Lap 9 Nothing is happening. The FIA’s thingamabob says there’ll be no rain in the next 30 minutes.

Lap 10 The closest battle on track is the Senna-Schumacher one for ninth. He’s on him as they go over the line! They’ve come together! Schumacher seemed to chop him into the first left hander, but Senna ran into him in the esses named after his uncle. The first bit was definitely Schumacher’s fault, but Senna may be to blame for the second part, which is where the damage has been done. It’s under investigation. Schumacher has a puncture but Senna looks to have survived unscathed.

Lap 11 Alonso has taken Button round the outside of Turn Six – phenomenal. Button looks not to have defended that at all…what a move, though.

Lap 12 Hamilton is on Button now, scenting blood. Vettel is complaining of blistering and that’s something a number of people may be suffering from.

Lap 13 Senna pits, although it seems to be unrelated to the incident.

Lap 14 Vettel has a gearbox problem! He is being told to short-shift.

Lap 15 Mark Webber now has the bit between his teeth. People are pitting left right and centre now. Sutil is in now, and Petrov was in about thirty seconds ago.

Lap 16 The tyres are lasting less long than the teams envisaged. Button pits and emerges into seventh place.

Lap 17 Alonso and Hamilton come in. No drama – the Englishman’s stop was a mite longer.

Lap 18 Vettel comes in. He overshoots the marks slightly – can Webber jump him as a result? Senna has a drive-through for that Schumacher crash. Not unduly harsh.

Lap 19 Webber pits and emerges…behind Vettel, by a long way. Must have been a bad in-lap from the Australian. The McLarens look to have admitted defeat to Alonso.

Lap 20 The order now is yet-to-pit Massa, Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Kobayashi, Sutil, Perez, Alguersuari, Rosberg, Petrov, di Resta, Buemi, Trulli, Barichello, Senna, Maldonado, Kovalainen, d’Ambrosio, Liuzzi.

Lap 21 Vettel passes Massa, who has still yet to pit, for the lead.

Lap 22 Massa pits. He looks to be trying to make it a two-stopper afternoon, whereas the others are committed to three now.

Lap 23 Timo Glock has lost a wheel and becomes the first retirement. He left the pits prematurely and that was very dangerous indeed. Luckily the stray wheel did not make it as far as the race track.

Lap 24 Vettel is matching Webber’s pace despite the gearbox problem. Evidence, if any were needed, of his complete and utter dominance over the other man. He gets reminded to short-shift in second and third gear.

Lap 25 The McLarens are line astern and seemingly stuck. Their pace is nothing to write home about at this phase of the race.

Lap 26 Maldonado is going to have Senna for 16th. Yes. Senna has made it easier for the Venezuelan by double shifting into turn three.

Lap 27 Webber is now catching the man in front somewhat. So he should be.

Lap 28 Vettel says that he will fall behind (Webber) if he short-shifts. Willingly? And a Williams is in the wall at turn eight so we have yellow flags.

Lap 29 It’s Maldonado there, in the wall, seemingly unhurt and without major damage. But it is in an awkward place. Will there be a safety car?

Lap 30 Vettel lets Webber through in an orchestrated move. The Australian leads from his limping team mate. Still waved yellows at eight, but we have not yet seen exactly what happened to Maldonado.

Lap 31 McLaren are preparing to receive Jenson Button and will put the harder compound on.

Lap 32 Button pits. He will be hoping that the hards goes better for him than did the softs.

Lap 33 Hamilton is wrestling his machine round, intending, no doubt, to cut that gap to Button. The FIA thingamajig is now portending rain.

Lap 34 Hamilton into the pit lane. He is on softs, theoretically quicker, and has come out behind Button on the hards.

Lap 35 “There could be rain on the way – we’ll go as far as we can on these tyres,” Red Bull tell Vettel.

Lap 36 Alonso pits. Perez has been off the track…he was running 12th and now is in 14th.

Lap 37 Ted Kravitz, in the pits for the BBC, informs us that McLaren’s choice of tyres for Button was indeed tactical. That, and the fact that Senna has lost fourth gear.

Lap 38 Hamilton becomes the latest driver to be told he has a gearbox problem. Overheating affecting many of the field today.

Lap 39 The order now is Webber, Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Button, Hamilton, Rosberg, Sutil, di Resta, Kobayashi, Buemi, Alguersuari, Petrov, Perez, Barrichello, Kovalainen, Senna. Button is menacing Massa and he is through down to turn four! The leader Webber pits.

Lap 40 Vettel pits from second place. Hamilton is catching Massa, which is a nice prospect. The Englishman locks up in his earnestness.

Lap 41 The Massa-Hamilton fight is most entertaining. The Ferrari appears to have the advantage in a straight line, though, which will make it tough for the chasing Englishman over the start line.

Lap 42 Massa made an error to let Button by, it transpires. He won’t want to lose out to Hamilton, though.

Lap 43 No sign of that rain yet.

Lap 44 Hamilton is miles behind over the start-finish straight.

Lap 45 As if to admit defeat on track, Hamilton pits. He’ll try to get to the end on those new tyres – quite a big ask, you’d have thought.

Lap 46 Massa pits and comes out…ahead of Hamilton! That is annoying for the McLaren man.

Lap 47 Red Bull are fuming with Vettel, who is setting fastest laps with apparently no regard for his sensitive gearbox. Hamilton has no gears and is going to retire.

Lap 48 Nothing Hamilton could do about that – a straightforward failure. He parks.

Lap 49 Rosberg and Sutil are fighting over sixth. Sutil is doing excellently. And they are very close over the line! Sutil is past…but Rosberg slides beautifully up the inside and retakes the place. Experience and skill from the Mercedes driver.

Lap 50 They are at it again over the line! This time Sutil is uncompromising and makes sure he leaves no room for Rosberg. Sutil is on fire now.

Lap 51 Some conjecture that Red Bull are staging this gearbox issue with Vettel to give Webber a win. A bit far-fetched, methinks.

Lap 52 Alonso is doing well in third.

Lap 53 Perez is threatening Barrichello in 13th position. Button is pitting again. This means he has effectively conceded third to Alonso unless anything happens to the guys in front.

Lap 54 Webber leads by 6.7 seconds from Vettel. They are followed by Alonso, Button, Massa, Sutil, Rosberg, di Resta, Kobayashi and Petrov.

Lap 55 Perez takes thirteenth from Barrichello. Alonso pits.

Lap 56 Button sets the fastest lap and is only 4.6 seconds behind Alonso after that stop of the Spaniard’s. He does have a chance, after all.

Lap 57 “A little bit unfortunate, but I enjoyed racing out there…it’s been a long year,” says Lewis Hamilton.

Lap 58 Needless to say, if Button hadn’t been a mite toothless in defence earlier, he wouldn’t be having to chase and pass Alonso now. He’s only 2.9 seconds behind the Ferrari, though.

Lap 59 Webber pits for the final time.

Lap 60 Vettel now into the box, a way behind Webber. Button is now on Alonso – incredible chase from the Somerset man. He’ll be putting the pressure on as the race comes to a close.

Lap 61 Over the line they’re together but Button makes no move…into four Button is not close enough. David Coulthard points out that he used no KERS in the first part of the lap, saving it, no doubt, for the long straight.

Lap 62 Alonso hogs the inside into turn one and defends…but through the essex he is close and as Alonso goes defensive into the straight Button uses the DRS and is through. Sweet revenge.

Lap 63 Vettel has been off the track and McLaren inform Button now that the German has a gearbox problem. Another late valiant charge from Button? What a great latter half of the season from him.

Lap 64 Button is six tenths quicker than Vettel but the gap is still over ten seconds.

Lap 65 Webber leads from Vettel, Button, Alonso, Massa, Sutil, Rosberg, di Resta, Kobayashi, Petrov, ALguersuari, Buemi, Perez, Barrichello, Schumacher, Kovalainen, Senna.

Lap 66 Martin Brundle, getting right to the heart of the issue, says that the question at hand is whether Button can break Vettel’s gearbox. There are only five laps left and there’s a fair bit of traffic up the road.

Lap 67 Button is losing time in that traffic – in the shape of Vitaly Petrov. The gap is down to nine seconds but it looks unlikely that anything will change.

Lap 68 No rain expected. Ha.

Lap 69 Fernando Alonso’s DRS is not working. Not, you hazard, that he will need it. His team mate Felipe Massa does the rather unusual thing of letting Barrichello unlap himself considering that the latter is in a fight with Michael Schumacher.

Lap 70 How is the Vettel/Button gap going? It’s just over eight seconds. No chance, then, unless Vettel has an issue.

Lap 71 Webber leads into the final lap. An inherited win, but he still had to convert the race.

MARK WEBBER WINS THE BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX

The Australian takes the final honours of the 2011 season, followed by the champion Vettel, Button, Alonso, Massa, Sutil, Rosberg, di Resta, Kobayashi, Petrov, Alguersuari, Buemi, Perez, Barrichello, Schumacher, Kovalainen, Senna, Trulli, d’Ambrosio and Ricciardo the last of the finishers.

That is it from me for this season – stand by for a season review in the not-too-distant future, and don’t forget to catch all your F1 news on this website. Thanks for following.