x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

No conspiracy theory in Mark Webber's Brazil success

The thoroughly deserved victory by the Red Bull driver was the highlight of the Brazilian Grand Prix, reviews Gary Meenaghan

Mark Webber celebrates his victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
Mark Webber celebrates his victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Five things we learnt

Webber deserved his victory

There was a genuine sense of pleasure in the paddock as Mark Webber, one of the most popular drivers in the sport, signed off the season with his first win of 2011.

The Australian has been roundly criticised this year due to his inability to challenge his Red Bull Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel, despite having the same car.

For the most part in 2011, Webber has shown himself as a capable driver in qualifying but has often failed to start well, losing several places before the first corner.

In maintaining his position in second place on Sunday, he was able to capitalise on Vettel's gearbox issues and while not being overjoyed to be deliberately handed the lead, he was happy to collect his seventh win in F1.

Conspiracy theorists immediately started claiming Vettel's problems had been engineered.

It was too convenient, they said, that Red Bull, who had earlier this month noted that a Webber win before the year's end would round off a perfect season, achieved their goal. But with team orders now legal there would have been no need to conjure up such a situation.

Webber won fair and square. As the 35 year old said: "That's how it goes in motorsports sometimes."

Lotus in the money

Team Lotus secured 10th place in the constructors' championship courtesy of both drivers finishing at Interlagos and Heikki Kovalainen placing 16th. The result means the team will be awarded a massive financial windfall to recognise their performance in the past two years.

Tony Fernandes, the team owner, said the US$25 million (Dh91.8m) the team will receive will be critical for the development of the marque, which will operate under the name Caterham from next season.

Fernandes was nearly in tears in the paddock, while Kovalainen said the team was going in the precise direction he was promised when he joined.

Pic to get his chance in 2012

Before Jerome D'Ambrosio had even left the paddock, Virgin Racing released a statement confirming the sport's worst kept secret: the Belgian will be replaced next year by Charles Pic, the French rookie.

Pic, who has competed in GP2 for the past two years, tested for Virgin earlier this month at Yas Marina Circuit as part of the Young Drivers Test and he might not be the only participant to make the step up.

Valtteri Bottas has been strongly linked with Williams, while Spain's Dani Clos is being watched closely by Hispania. Jean-Eric Vergne, who tested for Red Bull, may yet be given a seat at Toro Rosso, but the situation is complicated with Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastian Buemi and Daniel Ricciardo already fighting for the two seats.

Brazilian talent dwindling, but passion is not

Before the race, local media were worried the Brazilian Grand Prix - Sao Paulo's biggest sporting event of the year - would be cast into insignificance by the Brazilian Campeonato, where Corinthians, a local football team, were looking to secure the league title. Yet Paulistas are passionate and proud and filled the stands admirably.

When Felipe Massaprovided a rare highlight with some on-track doughnuts at the end, they cheered like he had finished on the podium.

Lewis Hamilton, shown strong support despite taking the title from Massa in 2008, also took the opportunity of a Brazilian Grand Prix to end the feud with the 30 year old that has cast a shadow over both drivers' seasons. Such an act had been long called for and will allow both men to return in February with nothing on their minds but improving on what has been a disappointing year for both.

Money talks at Williams

The support shown to Rubens Barrichello was worthy of a driver who has competed in more than 320 grands prix.

Everybody paid their respects to the veteran as Sunday appeared to be the Brazilian's swansong.

The 39 year old is determined to race on, but Williams have been open about the fact they are exploring other options.

The most disappointing aspect is that while he looks destined to lose his seat, despite showing glimpses of real pace in an uncompetitive car, his teammate, Pastor Maldonado, is certain to retain his place.

The Venezuelan has acquired more stewards' penalties than any other driver and performed several dangerous manoeuvres on track.

Yet with Maldonado comes money from PDVSA, a Venezuelan petroleum company. When a man with the experience, talent and likeability of Barrichello is unseated by a reckless rookie because of sponsorship, something is very wrong.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae