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2011 Recap - A dependable display

What looked to be a blowout early on ended in a thrilling chase into the twilight hours of the season – in the end Red Bull’s Mark Webber ran away with the 2011 DHL Fastest Lap Award

Mark Webber’s win at the final Grand Prix of the 2011 Formula 1TM season in Sao Paolo, Brazil, was the culmination of some extremely consistent driving throughout the year. That consistency saw him race a remarkable seven fastest laps during the 20-race season.

He demonstrated dependability second to none, finishing every race in the top five save the Italian Grand Prix where a collision with Ferrari driver Felipe Massa forced him to limp to the finish line at the back of the pack. And Webber earned the right to stand atop the winner’s podium no less than nine times this year, missing that chance by mere seconds six other times.

2011 was Red Bull Racing’s year. The team scored a hat trick when Sebastian Vettel won the World Drivers’ Championship, they took home the World Constructors’ Championship and Mark Webber snatched up the DHL Fastest Lap trophy.

A blowout?
The race for the coveted 2011 DHL Fastest Lap Award looked to be a blowout early on as Webber set fastest lap after fastest lap, leaving the competition in the dust. After only six Grand Prix, Webber had already pulled way out in front with four fastest laps to his name. He was in the top five on the two other circuits.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, no stranger to speed, scored the first fastest lap of the season in Melbourne at the 2011 Formula 1TM Qantas Australian Grand Prix. Webber followed with three wins in Malaysia, China and Turkey. At the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton joined the race, followed by Webber’s fourth fastest lap in historic Monte Carlo.

Fastest lap drivers dominate

It was at the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal where the fastest lap drivers also began to dominate the field. Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button ran a late fastest lap that put him in a position to capitalize on a rare but fateful error by then-leading Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel. The 2009 World Champion referred to the race as “the best victory of [his] career.” At the 2011 Formula 1 Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia, the top six finishers were the same six drivers who had run at least one fastest lap in the 2011 season. Vettel led the race from pole to podium, taking the fastest lap and the checkered flag.

The streak continued in Britain and Germany in July as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso mastered the famous Silverstone Circuit – where he holds the track record – to win both the race and the fastest lap, and Hamilton drove a fast and nearly flawless race in frosty conditions on the infamous German Nürburgring, taking both his second checkered flag and second fastest lap on the season.

Feel the heat

The race for the Fastest Lap trophy heated up again in Budapest a week later, even though the weather didn’t. Spectators were treated to a rollercoaster ride of twists and turns as drivers slid wide through the turns, spun out and wandered off the track. Webber also saw his control of the fastest lap lead slip as Massa managed to grab his second.

It didn’t take long for the Australian to tighten his grip on the trophy once again. Just three weeks later in Belgium, Webber responded with a hair-raising, high-precision performance fit for a champion, grabbing his fifth fastest lap of the season, a lap that also solidified his second place finish in the race.

The chase
In the weeks to follow the competition made a thrilling, last-ditch effort to chase down Webber’s now seemingly unyielding grip on DHL’s annual award. In Italy, Hamilton’s poor start left him battling for third place, a fight he eventually lost but not before putting together a series of courageously fast laps as the race drew to the close, setting a number of fastest laps that culminated in the fastest on the second-to-last lap of the race.

In Singapore, under floodlit skies, Hamilton’s teammate Jenson Button piloted a flood of flawless final laps to destroy the huge lead Vettel had opened up early in the race after a series of fastest laps of his own. Although he took second place, the British driver walked away with the fastest lap and a great deal of respect from his fellow drivers.

Button followed up his performance with another statement on Japan’s much-loved Suzuka Circuit, topping the podium – his third win of the season – and grabbing his third fastest lap of the year to join his McLaren teammate Hamilton and move up to within two of Webber. Team McLaren was coming on strong in the second half of the season, recording four fastest laps in six races. Since Vettel had secured the World Drivers’ Championship with his third-place finish, it then appeared that the British McLaren duo were looking to leave their mark on the 2011 season, and that mark would be called the 2011 DHL Fastest Lap Award.

A hat trick

Their hopes were dashed over the next two races as Vettel – who obviously wasn’t planning to cruise his way through the remainder of the season – first grabbed both the win and the fastest lap in Korea and then his third fastest lap of the year at Formula 1’s history-making inaugural Grand Prix in India. With two races to go, his performance made him a real contender to win the 2011 DHL Fastest Lap Award and score a hat trick for Team Red Bull.

In the end Red Bull did score the hat trick, but it was teammate Mark Webber who delivered the third piece of the puzzle for the team. He ripped up the Yas Marina Circuit to record his sixth fastest lap and round off what was undoubtedly Red Bull’s year. To crown a year of dependable driving, Webber finished with a checkered flag at the season finale in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he also drove his seventh fastest lap. With his closest competitors at three fastest laps apiece, he had literally left them in the dust.

Mark Webber’s consistent speed and high performance throughout the 2011 Formula 1 season is precisely what the DHL Fastest Lap Award aims to showcase and honor. His dependable driving showed time and again that he was, in fact, the fastest man on the track in 2011.