Australian Mark Webber won the showcase Monaco Grand Prix for champions Red Bull on Sunday as Formula One celebrated an unprecedented six different winners from six races. By Alan Baldwin
Germany’s Nico Rosberg finished second for Mercedes, 0.6 seconds behind, while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was third and a further 0.3 adrift to go three points clear at the top of the overall standings.
Webber led a nail-bitingly close race, with the top three separated by less than a second at the finish, from pole position to chequered flag as a threatened deluge held off despite darkening skies and drizzle in the closing laps.
The heavens then opened once Webber had accepted the trophy from Prince Albert, sprayed the champagne and hugged Red Bull designer Adrian Newey.
After parking up at the end of a race, watched by Hollywood names like Will Smith and Antonio Banderas as well as Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, he had stood on his car and punched the air in triumph.
It was Webber’s first win since Brazil at the end of last season, the eighth of his career and Red Bull’s third in a row around the treacherous metal-fenced streets and crowded harbourside of the millionaires’ playground.
“It’s a tough nut to crack this race, but we did it again. I had both hands on it today and I wasn’t going to let go,” said the man who also won in 2010 and took the first podium of his career in the principality in 2005.
Talk had swept the paddock ahead of the race about a possible protest by rival teams questioning the legality of his Red Bull’s floor, but in the end nothing materialised.
Two hours after the finish, and long after Webber had back-flipped into his team’s harbourside pool, the results were declared official.
“It’s an amazing day for the team, myself and really happy to have won here again,” said Webber, who told reporters he did not accept victory was in the bag until the very last corner of the last lap.
“It’s Monaco. You never get ahead of yourself here because you get bitten in the arse,” he added.
The top five were split by just 4.1 seconds, running nose-to-tail through the hairpin, with Webber’s team mate and double world champion Sebastian Vettel fourth ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
Alonso has 76 points with Vettel and Webber both on 73.
A real downpour would have shaken up proceedings and without it there was precious little overtaking or incident with 15 of the 24 starters finishing what was for most a one-stop race.
“We’ve had a great three years here. Mark drove flawlessly. The weather was a real concern, but he did a great job to do what he needed to do,” said Newey, whose team are the first to win two races this year.
Vettel, last year’s winner, had moved up from ninth place at the start by completing 46 laps on his first set of tyres.
Hamilton dropped from third on the grid to finish fifth, losing his two places in the pits thanks to a stop that was six tenths of a second slower than those of Vettel and Alonso.
“The target was to try to finish in front of Sebastian and Lewis as they are with us in the championship,” said Alonso. “We took Hamilton at the stop with a perfect time and a perfect stop again, so well done to the team.”
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa finished sixth, a big relief for the under-pressure Brazilian who had scored just two points from the first five races.
Britain’s Paul Di Resta and Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg were seventh and eighth respectively with Kimi Raikkonen ninth for Lotus and Bruno Senna, nephew of the late triple champion Ayrton, taking a point for Williams.
In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull have 146 points to McLaren’s 108.
Frenchman Romain Grosjean was the big loser at the start, lining up in fourth place for Lotus but crashing out at the first corner with a broken suspension after tangling with the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
That incident brought out the safety car for two laps.
Schumacher, who had set the fastest time in Saturday’s qualifying but was denied a first pole since 2006 due to a five place grid penalty carried over from Spain, retired in the pits after 64 laps.
McLaren’s Jenson Button, the 2009 winner, also retired eight laps from the end after a collision and a puncture.
Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, heroic winner of the previous race in Spain, crashed out on the opening lap after starting in last place for Williams thanks to two separate penalties. DM
Photo: Red Bull’s F1 Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia drives to win the Monaco F1 Grand Prix May 27, 2012. REUTERS/Olivier Anrigo
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