A delighted Mark Webber has paid tribute to his Red Bull team after leaping into serious contention for this year’s drivers’ championship with a dominant display in theincident-hit Monaco Grand Prix.
The 33-year-old Australian led from his fourth pole to the finish and made light of four interruptions for the introduction of Safety Cars on his way to a second win in a row after Spain last weekend.
He finished, unchallenged, half a second ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel as the Red Bulls delivered their third successive one-two and fourth in six races this year, this time ahead of Pole Robert Kubica who was third for Renault.
“Unbelievable – thank-you,” said Webber over the team radio after taking the chequered flag. “You deserve every bit of this. The car is fantastic.”
It was the fourth win of his career and his second this year as he became the first Australian victor on the famous Mediterranean street circuit since Jack Brabham won in 1959, on his way to the world title.
“This is incredible, the greatest day of my life,” said Webber.
“To win here is very special, this place is such a test for any driver – two hours means a lot of work too and today the track conditions changed, there were back markers and the Safety Cars.
“I knew I had to get all the basics right – the stuff like the re-starts, tyre pressure and the rest of it – to make sure. I am honestly so ecstatic and it is very, very special to win here and join those guys like Ayrton Senna and the rest. Today, this is a real ‘ripper’ for me.”
Webber’s win lifted him to the top of the drivers’ standings on 78 points, level with Vettel as the season continued to unfold as a Red Bull contest.
It is the first time an Australian has led the championship since Alan Jones in 1981. Defending champion Briton Jenson Button slipped off the top in his McLaren when his engine failed as he ran slowly behind a Safety Car on the opening lap.
“I think it got a little bit hot on the way to the grid,” he explained. “We left a bung in on the left-hand side of the car that obviously you’re meant to take out on the way to the grid. That’s cooked the engine.”
Vettel said: “I couldn’t keep up with him today. He was gone too far away for me and I had to race to stay second this time.”
Kubica added: “I tried to pass Sebastian, but I lost the place on the first lap and that was it.”
Brazilian Felipe Massa came home fourth for Ferrari ahead of the 2008 champion Briton Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren with seven-times champion Michael Schumacher crossing sixth for Mercedes after a controversial move behind the Safety Car to pass Spaniard Fernando Alonso on the final lap.
Schumacher was later given a 20-second penalty for the move and that dropped him to 12th in the official placings.
That promoted Alonso to sixth ahead of Schumacher’s Mercedes team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg with another German, Adrian Sutil of Force India, eighth.
Webber was almost drawn into a late drama when he came into the Rascasse hairpin to find Italian Jarno Trulli of Lotus colliding with Indian Karun Chandhok of the Hispania team in spectacular fashion.
“He flew in the air and I was just hoping there would be some room to go through on the inside and I would have some options,” said Webber. “Thankfully I did.”
Chandhok said: “Jarno Trulli has just apologised to me – there was absolutely no way he could get through there. It’s a real shame because I was driving my best race of the year so far and I was on track to be the best of the new teams.
“His car just missed my head. I ducked down and it came over and hit the roll hoop.”
While Trulli’s crash may have been spectacular, it was no more horrifying than the two that saw the two Williams men eliminated earlier when they crashed out – German rookie Nico Hulkenberg in the tunnel and Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello at Massanet – in separate incidents.
Both were huge accidents that caused great damage to the cars, ripping off wheels and wings. “After my pit stop, the car was not together, the steering wheel felt numb,” said Barrichello.
“Something was not good until the crash. They are analysing what went on.”
For Webber, there was no immediate analysis pending. “I predict a few sore heads in the morning,” he said.
“You have to celebrate your wins and they don’t come any better than this.”