Monaco GP - Sunday - Race Report
Webber's Master Class
He's done it from pole on a high speed track, and now he's done it from pole on high-downforce low speed Monte Carlo. Mark Webber completed two inch perfect wins from pole position in a week and left Monte Carlo joint top of the world championship with Red Bull Racing team mate Sebastian Vettel.
After a superb qualifying performance the Australian answered any doubters that remain in perfect style when he produced a dominant performance to win F1's blue riband event.
Webber survived no fewer than four Safety Car periods. The second one, for an accident to Rubens Barrichello's Williams, was especially cruelly timed, wiping out Webber's hard-earned 12s lead 31 laps into the race.
He rebuilt some of his advantage but then the third appearance of the course car came 12 laps later as a result of a loose drain cover at Turn 3. The fourth and final Safety Car came three laps from the end when Jarno Trulli took a lunge down the inside of Karun Chandhok at Rascasse, with the Lotus finishing up atop the HRT.
"For sure it's the greatest day of my life today," Webber said. "It started yesterday with qualifying but this place is such a test for two hours. There were a lot of Safety Car and dodgy back markers, and it was about getting the restarts right - the tyre pressures and everything. So an absolutely rewarding win and I'm elated, joining the likes of Ayrton Senna and guys like that as winners around here. Someone reminded me that Jack Brabham won here back in '59 and so it's been a bit of a wait for the Aussies!"
"I had my heart in my mouth when I was just behind that last shunt. My engineer Ciaron (Pilbeam) said that I had Jarno and Chandhok up ahead and I saw Jarno going for a lunge and thought 'What the hell is going on here!' I was a bit worried at first for Karun, with the car on top of him and I hoped I would have an option to go down the inside, and thank God I did."
Vettel admitted that Webber had been too strong for him. "I just wasn't able to keep up with him," the young German admitted. "Late on when I finally felt some better grip I wasn't too far off but in the first stint he was already 10s down the road and to be honest I had to look more in the mirrors today than try to take on Mark because Robert (Kubica) was pushing quite hard and at the restarts I was going more sideways than forwards. It's a long season and I'm happy today with second."
Front row starter Kubica thought that he had the potential to finish second but lost out to Vettel off the start and was only third through the first corner and unable to find a way past the Red Bull thereafter.
"On the dirty side of the grid it was a bit difficult," the Pole explained. "Normally I would defend my position but I saw that Mark was a bit slow away and thought I might have a chance to overtake. I went on the power a bit too much and got wheelspin and ended up losing a place to Sebastian. I think we were a bit quicker after the restarts and our pace on the hard tyre was a bit quicker but I locked a front inside wheel and flat-spotted a tyre. The pace was still surprisingly good after that but the vibration was so bad that I couldn't see the pit board and over 250kph it was hard to see the braking point. But I'm happy to be third - nobody was expecting to see us on the podium here."
The race's opening lap was dramatic when Nico Hulkenberg lost control of his Williams in the tunnel after a front wing failure, suffered a hefty shunt and brought out the first of the four Safety Cars. Jenson Button was also an early retirement, the 2009 winner succumbing to a cooked engine due to starting the race with the left-hand sidepod cover still in place...
Fernando Alonso, who started from the pitlane after his monocoque-breaking accident in Saturday free practice, had to do something different strategy-wise and elected to come in to change to hard tyres at the end of the opening lap and then run to the end. The initial Safety Car was a good break for him and he effectively joined the tail of the field with his stop already made. Alonso then aggressively despatched the tailenders with aggressive moves at the chicane and was up to sixth place when the pit stops were done.
This being Monaco though, overtaking among evenly-matched cars was nigh on impossible and the finishing order was much as it was throughout, with Felipe Massa's Ferrari taking fourth place, ahead of Lewis Hamilton's McLaren Mercedes.
Sixth place was controversial. With the final Safety Car pulling in after Rascasse on the last lap, it was expected that everyone would negotiate the final turn and drive across the line in order, but Michael Schumacher forced his Mercedes inside Alonso and took sixth. McLaren had warned Hamilton not to try anything, whereas Mercedes had allegedly told its drivers to try to overtake, apparently in conflict with the regulations.
Race stewards announced that they were looking into the matter but the preliminary race classification had Schumacher sixth, Alonso seventh, Nico Rosberg eighth, and the Force Indias of Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi ninth and 10th. Should Schumacher attract a penalty, Toro Rosso's Sebastian Buemi was the first finisher outside the points.
With six of the season's 19 races completed, Webber and Vettel have 78 points apiece at the top of the championship table, with Alonso on 73 pending the stewards' deliberations, Button on 70 and Felipe Massa with 61. Red Bull Racing leads the constructors chase on 156 points to Ferrari's 134, and McLaren Mercedes on 129.