Monday, 13 July 2009

Mark Webber completes a dream weekend in Germany by securing his first ever Formula One victory

He has waited a long time for this and although many people believed that he has the necessary talents, he never quite got to drive a race winning car. This year though, his Red Bull RB5 has been a Championship contending car from the beginning of the season, which is why everyone saw it only as a matter of time until Mark Webber finally gets that coveted first F1 victory. It is something that every newcomer to Formula 1 always dream of, and something that all successful Formula 1 drivers always cherish because no victory can ever be sweeter than the first. And it finally happened for this Australian born UK resident, after a wait of 8 years and a 130 Grands Prix. Mark Webber has, finally, won a Formula One race. It is also the first time in 28 years that the Australian national anthem has sounded on an F1 podium, making this a very memorable weekend for Australian motorsport fans.

When Webber took a sensational pole position on Saturday, his job seemed to have been about half done. The remaining part of the job would be to ensure that he got a clean start off the line, maintain his lead into the first corner and then build up a gap from then on. Although the weather forecast predicted a wet race for Sunday, the weather update on Sunday morning at the Nurburgring indicated that the race will most likely be a dry one.

Off the line, Mark Webber made a decent start but alongside him, Rubens Barrichello in the BrawnGP made an even better start which was also helped by the fact that Webber was running with quite a bit of more fuel onboard, making the Red Bull heavier than the Brawn. There was a lot of action happening going down to turn 1 on the opening lap. McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, starting from 5th, used his KERS power really well to overtake 3 cars straight away. Going into turn 1, Hamilton, Webber and Barrichello were three abreast and someone had to give way. Webber, being stuck in between with Barrichello on his inside and Hamilton on his outside, kind of drifted over towards the inside line before lightly hitting Hamilton's rear-right tyre. That incident punctured Hamilton's rear-right tyre but also caused irreparable damage to his car's diffuser and floor. He then made a pit stop straight way which put him all the way to the back of the field. The Briton was never able to recover from that and eventually ended up in last position, being the only car in the grid to have been lapped.

Out of turn 1 however, Barrichello took the lead with Webber close behind him. That was not necessarily bad for Webber as he was running much longer than Barrichello before his first pit stop. The two Ferraris also made an astonishing start and had already moved up several grid places. By now, Ferrari's Felipe Massa was in 3rd ahead of Button and Vettel, with Massa's team mate Raikkonen behind in 6th. Button's Brawn however, was clearly faster than the Ferrari and he soon overtook Massa. Thanks to the KERS though, Massa was able to fend off a charging Sebastian Vettel who was eager to make up some positions following a pretty ordinary qualifying for him on his home turf.

At this point, Race Control announced that the incidents involving car numbers 14 and 23 were being investigated, effectively meaning the incident between Webber and Barrichello coming into turn 1 on the opening lap. Although Webber slightly drifted off towards the inside line forcing Barrichello to weave as well, it did not look like the Australian was intending to push Barrichello off the track or anything. So it was a bit of a surprise to some people when Race Control announced that car number 14 - Mark Webber - will have a drive through penalty. A drive through penalty basically involves the car entering the pit lane at the pit lane speed limit, then driving along the pit lane without stopping for fuel or tyres and rejoining the race. In simple words, it costs quite a bit of time for the driver involved. So this was unlucky for Webber. However, his Red Bull team strategists played this brilliantly. As soon as race leader Barrichello made his first pit stop on lap 13, Webber also entered the pits with him to take the penalty. Ferrari's Felipe Massa then took the race lead at this stage, as Button who was ahead of him had already made his first pit stop and was now a few places behind Massa.

Mark Webber then made his first scheduled pit stop about 3 or 4 laps later. Following the stop, he rejoined the race in 6th position staying with his pre-planned two stop strategy as opposed to BrawnGP's three stop strategy. This is the time when Webber absolutely floored it. Barrichello soon took back the race lead as Massa and Vettel both pitted. However, Webber was on a long middle stint and with the BrawnGPs struggling for front end grip, he soon caught up with the race leader. That is exactly when Barrichello made his second pit stop handing over the race lead to Webber. By the time he made his second and last pit stop, he had built up a comfortable gap that helped him maintain his lead. From then on, it was a cruise to the finish line for the Australian.

Behind Webber, his team mate Sebastian Vettel finished in 2nd to complete yet another one-two victory for Red Bull Racing. Ferrari's Felipe Massa, starting with a very heavy fuel load, really drove out of his skin to bag his first podium of this season. It was a well deserved 3rd place for the Brazilian taking him to 5th on the Driver's Championship, which also helped his team Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro consolidate 4th place in the Constructor's Championship. His team mate Kimi Raikkonen was a bit unfortunate though, because following an incident with Force-India's Adrian Sutil, Raikkonen was forced to retire on lap 36 with an engine problem. The incident basically happened when Sutil came out of the pit lane and Raikkonen was charging down the start/finish straight. They went side by side into turn 1 and Sutil's front wing clipped the back of Raikkonen's F60, which put some debris into the Ferrari's radiator causing engine cooling problems. That also meant pretty much race over for Adrian Sutil, who until then, was running in the points and was looking good for Force-India's first ever points finish. Following this incident, he had to make an unscheduled pit stop to replace his front wing and that put him way back down the field.

It was not a real surprise that the two Brawn-Mercedes cars only managed to finish 5th and 6th, as they had been having problems with grip and tyre temperatures throughout the weekend. Although Barrichello started the race ahead of his team mate, a brilliant in-lap from Button just before his last pit stop enabled him to overtake Barrichello. So Driver's Championship leader Jenson Button finished in 5th with his team mate just behind him. Williams' Nico Rosberg, who started from 15th place, also had a brilliant drive on his home race to finish in 4th position. The German driver started with a heavy fuel load and used the turn 1 debacles on the opening lap well to his advantage. Double World Champion Fernando Alonso also drove the socks off his Renault R29 to finish in 7th place after starting from 12th. Apart from Kimi Raikkonen, the only other retirement of the race was Toro Rosso's Sebastian Bourdais, who it seems like, has just driven in his last Formula 1 race. There are strong rumours going round the paddock that Toro Rosso will be replacing him with Red Bull's reserve driver Jaime Alguersuari.

But the entire weekend belonged to one man only, and he is Red Bull's Australian driver Mark Webber. After he took the chequered flag on lap 60, he was very emotional when his team principal Christian Horner came on the team radio to congratulate him. He thoroughly deserves this victory based purely on merit, because he was quite simply the fastest man on the track throughout the weekend.

So from the Nurburgring in the Eifel Mountains in Germany, Formula One now heads off to the Hungaroring circuit in Budapest in two weeks' time for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Because it has been such an exciting race weekend, I have not talked about any of the political matters in the last couple of days and I am glad that I got to enjoy one of the most exciting races of the year without worrying about politics. However, a few problems still remain in Formula One off the track but hopefully, they will all be resolved within the next few days. Until next time everyone, drive safely!

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