Mark Webber made history today becoming the sixth different winner in the first six races of the season; something that has never happened before in F1.
In an extremely close finish, the Australian polesitter won by a margin of 0.6 seconds over Nico Rosberg, his fellow front row starter, with Fernando Alonso moving from 5th on the grid to 3rd at the finish. He takes sole control of the drivers’ world championship table. Sebastian Vettel who went from 9th to 4th.
Improved qualifying has been a key to Webber’s improved performance this season and his pole here, while unexpected, was crucial to his success here. He inherited it from Schumacher after he took his five place penalty, but had been quick enough to challenge and take the opportunity.
“I’m very happy it’s good to win here fair and square from the pole position,” he said. “Consistency is noce but wins are what wins championship. If you get a chance, as I did today, you need to grab it with both arms and anything else. This is the weakest car we’ve had in the last three years here but it was enough to win.”
Webber said it was only on the last lap that he believed he would win for the second time.
It was a race that had a surprising twist on what we have come to expect this year, with the new Pirelli tyres holding out longer than expected to allow the drivers to make just one stop. The leading drivers had expected to make another stop further on in the race, however Sebastian Vettel proved in the first stint that the harder prime tyre could withstand the final fourty laps and he was able to leap-frog Lewis Hamilton during his stop to take fourth position.
The winding characteristics of the circuit meant that overtaking was scarce, and up until the final ten laps the race was uneventful with the threat of heavy rain never coming to fruition. In that final part of the Grand Prix the top three cars were joined by Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa to make for an exciting climax as the cars made their way through traffic, but the cars finished in that order.
Webber made a perfect start and controlled the race throughout, only losing the lead to his late stopping team mate. Behind him there was chaos at the first corner as Romain Grosjean was forced into the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher and spun across the track at the first turn. The remainder of the grid managed to take avoiding action, except for Kamui Kobayashi who hit the Lotus and they both retired from the Grand Prix.
Behind Webber and Rosberg, Hamilton initially led the chasers and sat comfortably in third, but a very quick in-lap from Alonso allowed him to exit the pits ahead of the Briton after staying out an extra lap. Hamilton dropped back further when Vettel eventually stopped and the two came very close on the pit-exit, with Vettel coming out on top. Vettel’s pace on worn soft tyres was astonishing and as the leaders struggled to warm up their new soft tyres after the stops, he was able to get himself into the game.
Ironically, the warm up issue also meant that had he known, Alonso could have won the race by staying out a few laps longer before stopping. This would have got him ahead of Webber and Rosberg. But no-one would have predicted it or gambled on it.
Felipe Massa had his strongest showing of the season, matching the pace of those in front and pressuring his team mate early in the race. He ended the race only five seconds behind Webber making for one of the closest finishes in Grand Prix history.
The second group of the race was led by Paul Di Resta, the Force India driver getting the better of his team mate to collect a decent haul of points for the Silverstone squad, albeit thirty-five seconds behind Massa.
Bruno Senna completed the points scorers and made up for a poor qualifying, he was one of the main gainers during the first lap incident. Further back Heikki Kovalainen had a race long battle with Jenson Button and they came very close on more then one occasion as Button became frustrated and spun trying to overtake the Caterham driver. Button soon retired and will be happy to see the end of a miserable weekend. For Kovalainen however he will have given his team a lot of confidence, showing a lot of competitiveness throughout the weekend.
Button was one of many non-finishers, after Grosjean, Pastor Maldonado, Pedro De La Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi retired on the opening lap Michael Schumacher also failed to make the finish due to a fuel pump issue. The fastest qualifier yesterday still has only two points this season and has been extremely unfortunate with reliability.
Rosberg was magnanimous after the race; “Mark drove a very good race, in control of the race and of me and there wasn’t much I could do,” he said.
MONACO GRAND PRIX, Monte Carlo, 78 laps
1. Webber Red Bull 1h46:06.557
2. Rosberg Mercedes + 0.643
3. Alonso Ferrari + 0.947
4. Vettel Red Bull + 1.343
5. Hamilton McLaren + 4.101
6. Massa Ferrari + 6.195
7. Di Resta Force India + 41.500
8. Hulkenberg Force India + 42.500
9. Raikkonen Lotus + 44.000
10. Senna Williams + 44.500
11. Perez Sauber + 1 lap
12. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1 lap
13. Kovalainen Caterham + 1 lap
14. Glock Marussia + 1 lap
15. Karthikeyan HRT + 2 laps