x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Webber's finally the man

The Australian is relieved when, after 130 grands prix, the Red Bull driver comes in a winner at the Nurburgring.

Red Bull's Mark Webber celebrates on the podium after winning the German Grand Prix.
Red Bull's Mark Webber celebrates on the podium after winning the German Grand Prix.

Typical of a man whose career has been full of near misses and should-have-been moments, even his first victory in Formula One did not prove easy for Mark Webber. The Red Bull-Renault driver finally claimed his first win at the 130th attempt in yesterday's German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, finishing 9.252secs ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel after an eventful race.

The Australian overcame making contact with Rubens Barrichello's Brawn-Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes at the start and being given a pitlane drive-through penalty for touching Barrichello to come out on top. Ferrari's Felipe Massa drove superbly to take his first podium of the season with third, while championship leader Jenson Button could only finish fifth ahead of his Brawn teammate Rubens Barrichello.

Nine months ago, his season had been in jeopardy after he was hit by a car while riding a bike during his own fitness event, The Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge, and suffered a broken leg. But despite missing some of pre-season he recovered to be fit for the start of the season and after finishing second three times this year at China, Turkey and Britain he finally reached the top step in Germany.

"It is an incredible day for me," he said. "After pole I knew I was in a good position to win the race this year, I thought the only thing that could beat me, or test me even more, was the rain, but that held off." Most of the drama came at the start as the front runners were swamped by the fast starting Kers (Kinetic energy reserve system) cars of McLaren and Ferrari. The world champion Lewis Hamilton made a rocket start from fifth and pulled alongside the pole-sitter Webber, who had moved across and touched Barrichello as the Brazilian went past him to take the lead.

Hamilton too tried to pass Webber but his right rear tyre brushed against the Red Bull's front wing, puncturing the tyre and sonsequently the Briton lost a lap returning to the pits. Barrichello led from Webber, with the second McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen holding up a queue of cars headed by Button, Massa and Vettel. Webber, though, was forced to pit on lap 14 for a drive-through penalty as a punishment for his contact with Barrichello.

"I lost Rubens off the start, I thought he had gone to the left but he went right and I banged into him. I had a drive-through and my engineer kept me calm," the Australian said. Barrichello pitted at the same time and his hopes of victory on a three-stop strategy were hurt as he was stuck behind Massa's Ferrari for much of his second stint, allowing Webber to pull away and deservedly win on his two-stop fuel strategy.

A problem with the refuelling rig cost Barrichello more time at his second stop and he would eventually be overtaken at the final stop by Button as both Brawns struggled to generate heat in their tyres in the cool conditions. Vettel recovered from being sixth out of the first corner to take second and he moves to within 21 points of Button in the title race, with Webber a further one and a half points adrift.

Good strategy earned Nico Rosberg fourth spot, while Fernando Alonso was seventh and Kovalainen was eighth. But there was agony for Force India as they again missed out on a points finish as Adrian Sutil collided with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and damaged his nose cone when running sixth. The German would go on to finish 15th. gcaygill@thenational.ae