After eight years of competing in Formula One, Australian’s Mark Webber has finally won his first Grand Prix in a drama-filled German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.
Though the Red Bull Racing driver had to earn this victory the hard way following a drive-through penalty after making contact with not only Rubens Barrichello on the run down to the first corner but also the fast-starting Lewis Hamilton (which resulted in the world champion making an early pitstop due to a puncture).
Webber’s victory came at the perfect moment as many questions were been asked by the media whether he could win a race against his highly rated team-mate Sebastian Vettel. This triumph not only has silenced his critics but after 130 races, Mark Webber has finally done it. He becomes the third Australian in the sport’s history to take the chequered flag (Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones were the others to taste the champagne on the top step on the podium).
Sebastien Vettel finished in second position earning Red Bull Racing’s third one-two result this season. Even though the young German was expected to win his home race following his Silverstone victory three weeks’ ago, Vettel was simply outclassed by Webber. Nevertheless, by finishing in P2 Sebastian moves into second in the drivers’ standings just 21 points behind series leader Jenson Button.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa took his first podium of the season in third, ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Williams and the Brawns of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.
The Brawns were unable to challenge the Red Bulls at the Nurburgring and Rubens in particular was bitterly unhappy to be outraced despite leading from lap one.
The expected wet weather never interfered the German Grand Prix but the opening lap was very eventful. Thanks to the KERS system available on the McLarens and Ferraris, which gives an advantage of 15 metres off a standing start, the KERS cars thrust forward. Lewis Hamilton – who started in fifth – actually was in the lead as he charged around the outside of Webber and Barrichello. The pair banged wheels as the Australian defended quite aggressively against the Brazilian.
Into the tight right-hander of Turn 1 at the Nurburgring, Hamilton braked but at that moment he felt a nudge from the back. In fact, his rear-right tyre had made contact with Webber’s front wing endplate which resulted in a puncture. Lewis had to limp back to the pits, which ultimately ruined his race within minutes of the Grand Prix. The world champion would later on finish a lap down right at the back.
Barrichello emerged from the Mercedes-Benz complex in front of Webber, with Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren) and Massa (Ferrari) also benefiting from their KERS boost to jump to third and fourth positions, ahead of Button and Vettel.
Button dived inside Massa to take fourth at the start of lap two, but Kovalainen proved a tougher hurdle and the Brawn remained bottled up behind the McLaren until the points leader made his first of three stops on lap 13.
Meanwhile Webber’s aggressive move towards Barrichello off the grid had attracted the race stewards’ attention, and it was soon announced that he would receive a drive-through penalty.
He served this on lap 14, just as Rubens was making his first pitstop, and with the slower Kovalainen and Massa having bottled up the rest of the pack, Webber was able to emerge in the lead. The Australian then pulled away during the five laps he still had before his first scheduled stop, while his likely challengers stared at the back of Massa’s Ferrari, which was not due to pit until lap 25.
This effectively neutralised Webber’s penalty and brought him straight back into contention for race victory, especially as he was only making two pit stops, whereas the Brawns were to pit three times.
As those on long first stints finally pitted, Barrichello led again, but had lost a lost of time following Massa until the Ferrari stopped – and now had Webber closing on him rapidly despite the Red Bull being heavier, such was the latter team’s pace advantage today.
When Barrichello was delayed by fuel rig trouble at his second stop, Webber was left with a clear lead over his team-mate Vettel, who had jumped Massa at the first stops, then extended his advantage with a handful of laps a second quicker than the field before easing off, his overdue win secured.
The Brawns’ third stop guaranteed that they would fall behind not only Massa, but also Nico Rosberg (Williams), who had crept into contention in the queue behind the Ferrari early on, then gained a lot of ground thanks to a long first stint and some very rapid mid-race times, duly taking fourth from P15 on the grid.
Button caught Barrichello in the third stint and then jumped ahead at the final stops, after which the duo tried to chase down Rosberg while simultaneously coming under pressure from the flying Fernando Alonso.
The Renault driver appeared destined for the midfield as he spent lap after lap trapped behind the one-stopper of Timo Glock following his first stop, but once he had passed the Toyota, Alonso really came alive – setting the fastest lap of the race even on heavy fuel following his last stop. However despite his best efforts, he could not get around the Brawns at the end.
A short first stint and long middle stint did not work well for Kovalainen, dropping him from his early third to eighth at the finish, as he fended off pressure from Glock, Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber), Giancarlo Fisichella (Force India) and Kazuki Nakajima (Williams).
Fisichella had briefly run in the top eight thanks to a bold early charge on a three-stop strategy, while Glock made up for his pitlane start following yesterday’s poor qualifying and blocking penalty by running 37 laps on his first tank of fuel. His Toyota team-mate Jarno Trulli went in the opposite direction – pitting for repairs on the first lap and never featuring afterwards.
Kimi Raikkonen had run close behind team-mate Massa until retiring with a loss of power, shortly after an incident with Adrian Sutil that ended the German’s chances of taking Force India’s first points.
Sutil was driving superbly in the first stint – tagging on behind the Ferraris and then running as high as second thanks to staying out until lap 27 before pitting. But as he rejoined, Adrian made contact with Kimi at the first corner that destroyed his front wing, forcing another stop. In the end after a promising start, finishing in P15 was not want he wanted.
The day, however, belonged to Webber as Advance Australia Fair played at the end of a Grand Prix for the first time since Alan Jones won in Las Vegas back in 1981. It was superb victory in the most trying circumstances, and Webber thoroughly deserved his maiden success.
Button still leads the world championship with 68 points, but now Vettel is second with 47, Webber third with 45.5 and Barrichello drops to fourth on 44.
Race results from the Nurburgring, 60 laps:
1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1h36:43.310
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault +9.252
3. Massa Ferrari +15.906
4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +21.099
5. Button Brawn-Mercedes +23.609
6. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes +24.468
7. Alonso Renault +24.888
8. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes +58.692
9. Glock Toyota +1:01.457
10. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +1:01.925
11. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes +1:02.327
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1:02.876
13. Piquet Renault +1:08.328
14. Kubica BMW Sauber +1:09.555
15. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +1:11.941
16. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1:30.225
17. Trulli Toyota +1:30.970
18. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
Fastest lap: Alonso, 1:33.365
Raikkonen Ferrari 35 laps
Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 19 laps
World Championship standings, round 9:
1. Button 68
2. Vettel 47
3. Webber 45.5
4. Barrichello 44
5. Massa 22
6. Trulli 21.5
7. Rosberg 20.5
8. Glock 13
9. Alonso 13
10. Raikkonen 10
11. Hamilton 9
12. Heidfeld 6
13. Kovalainen 5
14. Buemi 3
15. Kubica 2
16. Bourdais 2
1. Brawn-Mercedes 112
2. Red Bull-Renault 92.5
3. Toyota 34.5
4. Ferrari 32
5. Williams-Toyota 20.5
6. McLaren-Mercedes 14
7. Renault 13
8. BMW Sauber 8
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 5
Next race: Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring. July 24-26