Mark Webber won the Monaco Grand Prix today ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica. He leads the world championship for the first time in his career.
It was Red Bull’s second 1-2 finish of the season and the fourth team 1-2 we have had in six races, which must be some kind of record.
If it seemed effortless for Webber, the race was nonetheless full of drama with no less than four safety cars.
“It’s the greatest day of my life every F1 victory is special but to win on the streets here and join all the great winners is very special, ” said Webber. “You have to enjoy your victories and to get a 1-2 in the Principality is unique. This is the biggest F1 race you can win. I feel I’m driving pretty well, the fire is still in my belly.
“I’m not low on confidence. It’s two races, we’ve done well. If you can do this four or five times in a row you’re on a good run. I needed the result in Barcelona and we knew it would be a tight fight here. Let’s keep chipping away but things can change quickly in this game.”
Webber led away from pole with Vettel passing Kubica off the line for P2. Barrichello made a great start up to 6th place from 9th on the grid. But Williams team mate Nico Hulkenberg had a huge accident in the tunnel which brought out the safety car.
Jenson Button retired after just one lap due to an extraordinary operational error by McLaren where they left a bung in the radiator, which cooked it.
Starting from the pit lane Fernando Alonso took the opportunity offered by the safety car to pit and switch to the hard tyre. He had started on the super soft tyre, clearly hoping for just such a scenario.
It worked well for him as he was able to pass the new teams cars relatively easily and then when the cars in front of him pitted be picked up places, moving to 6th place by lap 22. But he lost a place at the end, when Michael Schumacher cheekily passed him in the last corner as the safety car was released to allow the cars to finish the race.
However the race stewards, of whom Damon Hill was a member this weekend, decided that the move was illegal and gave Alonso the sixth place back and handed Schumacher a penalty which dropped him out of the points. Alonso is now just three points behind the Red Bull drivers.
A second safety car was brought out on lap 32 by an accident for Rubens Barrichello, who suffered a puncture up the hill which sent him smashing into the barriers. He had to visit the stewards after throwing the steering wheel out of the cockpit into the path of Hamilton.
Webber opened up a 9 second lead before the pit stops and had extended that before the second safety car. But he soon pulled away from Vettel again at around 4/10ths of a second a lap as the race reached the midway stage.
Kubica was staying with Vettel, but did not have the pace in the car to mount any more of a challenge. Later in the race he flat spotted a tyre and concerned about the vibrations, he eased off.
A third safety car was deployed on lap 44 when the race control identified that a drain cover had come loose at Massenet corner, where Barrichello had gone off.
At the restart Webber pulled away again, Kubica locked a wheel under braking for St Devote, but he got away with it.
At the end there was a dramatic collision between Karun Chandhok and Jarno Trulli who collided at Rascasse with the Lotus ending up on top of the Hispania. Webber was right behind them, but managed to squeeze through a gap on the inside.
Red Bull has had the fastest car all season, but it has taken six races for them to lead both championships. Webber and Vettel are tied on 78 points, with Webber leading by virtue of having two wins. Red Bull have the lead in the constructors’ championship for the first time.
Of the upcoming tracks only Canada could be considered a weak track for them, with Ferrari and McLaren likely to have the upper hand. Red Bull has been working on a drag reducing rear wing and may have it in time for that race, where it would come in handy.
Apart from that, Red Bull will be untouchable in Turkey and especially Silverstone.
As for Webber he is becoming a bit like Nigel Mansell who was dismissed as a journeyman in his early career and who also came into his prime at the age of 33. It’s early days yet but it is looking as though the championship will be between him and Vettel, with Alonso and the supporting cast praying for more speed.
MONACO GRAND PRIX, Monte Carlo, 78 laps
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h50:00.000
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 0.448
3. Kubica Renault + 1.600
4. Massa Ferrari + 2.600
5. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 4.300
6. Schumacher Mercedes + 5.700
7. Alonso Ferrari + 6.300
8. Rosberg Mercedes + 6.600
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 6.900
10. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes + 7.300
11. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 8.100
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 9.100
13. Petrov Renault + 4 laps