x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Webber's relief at taking podium place

Australian increases title advantage after third-place finish Peter Rutherford SINGAPORE // Mark Webber was a happy man after escaping from Singapore with an increased points lead in the world championship. The Australian, who had gone into the event with a five-point advantage at the top of the standings, saw it increase to 11 after he finished third behind Fernando Alonso's Ferrari and his Red Bull-Renault teammate Sebastian Vettel in yesterday's race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

He was fortunate to survive a collision with Lewis Hamilton, who before the race was his nearest championship challenger, and Webber, who now has 202 points, acknowledged that he was more than satisfied with his rewards for his day's work. "Waking up this morning I would have been happy with third," he said. "I am very happy - this was the toughest weekend of the year for me. I didn't feel comfortable all weekend. To get third place out of it is great. It is easy to panic so I had to stay composed."

Of the incident with Hamilton, he said: "I got caught up a bit, Lewis got a big run on me. There was contact and it's not something you want to do all the time." Webber had run in fifth place early on, but the decision to pit early when the first safety car came out, proved to be an inspired one as it vaulted him up the order to third. "I thought 'I am not sure about this' - I questioned the team to start with and they said it's the right thing to do, so... It was an incredibly strategic race for us," he added.

The result also boosted Red Bull's hopes of winning their first constructors' championship. The Austrian team extended their lead over McLaren-Mercedes to 24 points after their haul of 33 points from Singapore. McLaren only picked up 12 thanks to Jenson Button's fourth place. * Reuters