x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Mark Webber to keep feet on ground despite triumph

'It's a long, long season,' says Australian after Red Bull complete dominant win in a surprisingly dry British Grand Prix.

Mark Webber, the Red Bull driver, raced to his ninth career victory at the British Grand Prix yesterday. Clive Mason / Getty Images
Mark Webber, the Red Bull driver, raced to his ninth career victory at the British Grand Prix yesterday. Clive Mason / Getty Images

SILVERSTONE, England // He may still wear the No 2 on his Red Bull Racing baseball cap, but Mark Webber showed yesterday at Silverstone Circuit that he is ready and capable of being the No 1 driver not just in his team but also in his sport.

The 35 year old complemented his victory in Monaco earlier this year with a second success in three years at the self-proclaimed "Home of Motorsport".

The win – a closely fought strategical triumph over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso – saw Webber join the Spaniard as one of only two drivers to have triumphed more than once in this season's nine races.

Two years ago, Webber – after Red Bull had appeared to show preferential treatment to teammate Sebastian Vettel – passed the chequered flag first at Silverstone and told team principal Christian Horner: "Not bad for a No 2 driver". Yesterday, following a surprisingly dry race, the Australian was more content, reaping the deserved plaudits and congratulating his team. It was his ninth career victory.

"I am absolutely over the moon, absolutely rapt," said Webber, who had started from second position behind Alonso.

With both drivers employing different tyre strategies, the race was a slow-burner that saw the Spaniard lead for the majority of the 52 laps.

However, following the final round of pit stops, Webber emerged on a faster rubber and was able to eat away at his rival's advantage turning the Spaniard's lead from 3.3 second with 10 laps remaining to 1.3 seconds with eight laps remaining.

"It was obvious that he was pushing as hard as possible, but the balance wasn't with him," Webber said of Alonso. "That's when you've got to smell the blood and you've got to go for it."

With four laps to go, Webber passed the two-time world champion on the outside and sailed off into the distance, eventually passing the chequered flag 3.06s ahead of Alonso.

Vettel finished third to cap a dominant day for Red Bull in what is their bona fide home race – the team's factory is based less than 15km from Silverstone in Milton Keynes.

Webber came within a race of winning the world championship in 2010 when he finished eighth at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Now he sits second in the drivers' standings only 13 points behind Alonso approaching the midway point of a 20-round season. In an erratic year in which unpredictable results have been the only predictable aspect, consistency is key and Webber has finished in the top 10 at all but one race weekend this season.

"I'm not low on confidence at the moment," Webber said.

"It's a long, long season and I'm not getting too fired up about any particular championship positions, but what is for sure is that I have a nice haul of points to keep going with. I'm not sitting on 20 points trying to start my campaign from here. So it's going well so far."

Webber's contract expires at the end of the year and he is due to start negotiations with Red Bull in the coming week or two.

Yesterday's result has strengthened his hand, especially with strong rumours of Ferrari showing an interest.

When Alonso was asked whether he would like Webber to join him in Maranello next season, the diminutive 30 year old joked he would "need to put something on my shoes to be a little bit taller - that would be the only thing if I changed teammates".

Yet save for the final four laps, it was Alonso's shadow that stretched farthest as he sped off from pole and created what appeared to be an unassailable lead before the final pit stop forced him to run the slower, hard tyre compound. Such superiority was unimaginable only a few months ago as the Italian manufacturers struggled for pace early in the season.

"I'm very proud of the Ferrari recovery in the last few weeks," said Alonso, who won the previous race, in Valencia.

"Now we are fighting for the victory in the last three or four grands prix, so we're heading in the right direction."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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