x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Vettel left red-faced as teammate Webber has the last laugh

The Australian cruises to his third Formula One victory of the season after overtaking Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel on the opening lap.

Webber finished 1.36 seconds ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton after converting his anger at handing a key car part over to Vettel.
Webber finished 1.36 seconds ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton after converting his anger at handing a key car part over to Vettel.

SILVERSTONE, England // Seldom has justice been more poetic. One day after being obliged to hand over new parts to Sebastian Vettel, his Red Bull-Renault teammate, who used them to secure pole position, Mark Webber underlined that it will take more than internal politics to derail his quest for this year's Formula One drivers' championship. The Australian driver made a flying start to yesterday's British Grand Prix at Silverstone, swatting Vettel aside at the first corner and going on to lead every centimetre of the race. Webber started second, traditionally disadvantageous because that side of the circuit is usually dirtier and offers less traction, but there was no significant discrepancy yesterday. "There have been lots of support races this weekend," said Webber, "and I think that helped keep the track clean." Webber drew alongside Vettel before the first corner and did not flinch when the German attempted a defensive chop. Just behind, Lewis Hamilton took a look to Vettel's inside - and there followed the slightest of touches between his McLarenMercedes's front wing and Vettel's right-rear tyre. "I got too much wheelspin off the line," Vettel said. "I moved across to cover myself, but Mark was already there so I had to let him go. People tell me Hamilton then touched my rear wheel, but I didn't feel anything."

He did when the wounded Bridgestone deflated as he reached Becketts, a series of sweeps entered at almost 190mph. He did remarkably well to bring the car under control, but after bounding across the grass - and out of contention - he was obliged to crawl back to the pits for an early tyre change on lap two. Hamilton shadowed the leader for a couple of laps, but the Australian soon built a comfortable lead over the Briton. Hamilton made his mandatory pit stop on lap 16, Webber following one lap later, and the two cars were six seconds apart when the safety car was deployed on lap 28. It was dispatched to allow marshals to sweep debris from the main straight, after Adrian Sutil (Force India) ran into the back of Pedro de la Rosa's BMW Sauber on the approach to Copse. The race resumed at the start of lap 31 and, as he had before, Webber was able to pull away. "The safety car is always a slight concern," he said, "but I'd had a gap before and there was a reason for that. "It was actually a bit of a benefit, too, because with the whole field bunched up there weren't so many slower cars to pass in the final stages of the race."

Given McLaren's difficult start to the weekend - they had to abandon a new-specification floor on Friday evening - Hamilton was happy to finish second. "It's a reflection of all the hard work the guys have put in," he said. "We're not as fast as Red Bull, though; Mark did a phenomenal job and I knew I wouldn't be able to outpace him." Fernando Alonso started third for Ferrari, but he made a poor start and was later given a drive-through penalty for short-cutting a corner while passing the Renault of Robert Kubica. That was awarded just as the safety car appeared, so he had to wait until the race resumed before he could serve his punishment - and with the cars all in a line he slipped down to 16th place. The safety car had the opposite effect for Vettel, who was able to recover some lost ground and scramble his way to seventh. With Alonso penalised and Kubica falling victim to a differential failure, Nico Rosberg took a distant third for Mercedes GP, although he had to resist fierce pressure from Jenson Button as the defending champion recovered from 14th to fourth. "Unfortunately," said Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal, "we had to ask Jenson to turn down his engine revs. Because he started so far back, we assumed he wouldn't be running at his natural pace and gave him a lighter fuel load than Lewis. "He made a great start, though, and was up to eighth by the end of the opening lap, so he was running rather faster than we'd anticipated." sports@thenational.ae