After breaking the record for total pole positions in a single season on Saturday, Sebastian Vettel had a twelfth win of 2011 in his sights. But the Red Bull driver was to be ultimately thwarted by a gearbox problem. Victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix went instead to team-mate Mark Webber ahead of Vettel and Jenson Button.
The pole sitter defended his position to perfection at the start and entered the first corner well clear of Webber and Button. Alonso nailed Hamilton off the line as both Mercedes GP drivers dropped back by one position. Rosberg was in eighth place, Schumacher was eleventh, but the record championship winner reclaimed his tenth position from Paul di Resta on Lap 2.
After four laps, Vettel had already built up a healthy lead of two seconds. Button was meanwhile having trouble fending off Alonso who for his part had Hamilton all over the back of him. In the midfield, Schumacher was duelling with local hero Bruno Senna. Schumacher tried to overtake him on Turn 1 but clipped his rear tyre and sustained a puncture. The Mercedes GP driver had to make a premature stop and was followed into the pit lane by Senna. The race stewards looked at the action replays and imposed a drive-through penalty on Senna.
Button came for his first pit stop on Lap 16, followed by Hamilton and Alonso one lap later. The Ferrari man was the winner of the first stint, having overtaken both McLarens. Vettel pitted on Lap 18, Webber on Lap 19.
The award for botched pit stop of the day goes to Timo Glock and his crew; the Virgin mechanics failed to tighten the nut on his rear right wheel which came off as German driver was still in the pit lane, thus ending his race prematurely. The stewards considered the failure so egregious that there will be a post-race investigation. Pastor Maldonado had to park his car at the side of the track on Lap 28.
Meanwhile at the front, Webber was gradually closing the gap on his team-mate who eventually let the Australian through at the end of the home straight. On Lap 32, Button opened the second series of pit stops, which enabled him to pass Massa a couple of laps later. Meanwhile, Hamilton developed a gearbox problem of his own, which led to his retirement on Lap 48.
Out at the front, Webber maintained his lead from Vettel, while Alonso and Button slugged it out for third. Ten laps before the finish, the McLaren driver sailed past Alonso in the DRS zone to claim both the remaining podium and the championship runner-up spot.