Mark Webber this evening is celebrating his new status as a Formula One Grand Prix winner. After a difficult race which saw some collisions and investigations, Webber’s pace proved too much for every single other driver in the pack and not even a drive-thru penalty could stop the Australian’s charge. All weekend Webber has been driving beautifully and the climax that came on lap sixty will be remembered for many years to come. This was the German Grand Prix.
Even before the cars had formed on the grid, the German Grand Prix showed it would be an enjoyable one as Fernando Alonso found himself pointing the wrong way and looking at the field coming towards him. The Spaniard was desperate to generate heat in his tyres but it seemed he got a little over-excited and squeezed the throttle pedal a bit to hard. Alonso was able to rejoin his position though for the start.
The start proved hectic, perhaps the most hectic for 2009 so far, as the KERS-enabled Ferraris and McLarens were able to make up some places on the long run down to the first corner. In fact, so much was the advantage that Lewis Hamilton found himself challenging for the lead going into the first corner.
If we look at the start from Mark Webber’s point of view, we can see why some of the stewards suddenly became interested in the Red Bull pilot. As the lights went out, Rubens Barrichello shot away and challenged Webber as the pair moved down the straight. Webber then darted over to the right and it looked as though he actually made contact with the Brawn. Webber would later say that he thought he had cleared Barrichello, and soon as he realised he was still there, he moved back over.
As Webber did clear Barrichello, Lewis Hamilton was charging his way forward and as the pair at the front were concentrating on themselves, Lewis Hamilton was able to pull along side the Red Bull and squeeze himself ahead. Unfortunately there was contact made between the rear-right tyre on the McLaren the front left end plate on the RB5’s front wing. Hamilton’s tyre deflated as he ran wide and the Briton’s race was over. Hamilton did continue, but toured around at the back, using the race as a test session of sorts.
So although the first lap was full of incident, the race eventually got underway and Webber maintained a gap behind Rubens Barrichello, staying just outside of the dirty air coming off the back of the Brawn. Knowing that Rubens was lighter and therefore would have to make an extra stop, or at worse, a much earlier stop, Webber just waited patiently behind, following the BGP 001 around the track.
The great starts from the KERS-enabled cars meant that Felipe Massa was slightly out of position for his pace and it didn’t take Jenson Button too long to repass the Brazilian, doing so at T1 on the second lap. However, although Massa may have been easy-pickings for the Brawn pilot, Heikki Kovalainen was proving a bit more of a match and Button struggled to find a way pass the McLaren.
Likewise, while Button was sitting behind one KERS-car, Sebastian Vettel was also doing much the same, finding it difficult to get ahead of Felipe Massa. The whole time Kovalainen was in P3, the leading duo of Barrichello and Webber continued to edge out a sizable lead, getting close to 20s prior to the first stop for Rubens. And having been informed at this time that Webber was given a drive-thru penalty for his move at the start, Red Bull opted to let Webber follow Barrichello into the pits, although as the Australian was serving a penalty, he just cruised by his garage and rejoined the track, his lead now diminished to nothing.
Further back, Giancarlo Fisichella was enjoying a great race, passing Nick Heidfeld before nabbing Fernando Alonso as well. Fellow Force India driver Adrian Sutil was also enjoying a fantastic race. Although Sutil lost out initially at the start, his heavy fuel load was beginning to pay dividends as those ahead pitted. By the time Sutil entered the pitlane, he was in a commendable P2.
After Mark Webber had completed his first stop of the afternoon, it was suddenly clear that his race wasn’t necessarily over. Although a drive-thru penalty would often mean that a race is finished for a driver, Webber found some real pace on his second set of tyres and he was only around 8 seconds behind leaders Barrichello and Massa. Slowly but surely, Webber made up the time and brought himself back into the race with some astonishing fastest laps.
When Barrichello pitted again at the mid-race point Webber was released and set about building a margin all over again. Fortunately for himself, Barrichello’s pitstop didn’t go to plan, although most initially thought it had, and that Rubens had been switched to a two stopper. Exiting the pits after what seemed like a long time with the fuel nozzle attached, Barrichello was on the harder compound and seemed to be ready for a long stint to the end.
Alas, it later emerged that this was not the case. Brawn suffered a problem with the fuel rig and had to resport to using the backup. This delayed the pitstop considerably, and also meant that Barrichello was still on three-stopper. Despite the delay, he would still have to stop again. The Brazilian’s race just wasn’t going his way.
Once again, Sutil found himself too close to a Ferrari, as the German’s storming performance came to an early end after exiting to pits from his stop. Kimi Raikkonen was flying down the start/finish straight as Sutil rejoined the track, and Raikkonen went around the outside to pass. Unfortunately, Sutil simply ran into the side of the F60 as he moved beyond the apex. Another pitstop to rectify the damaged wing meant that Adrian has once again missed out on a great opportunity. Kimi stated it was a racing incident in his opinion, and Sutil was fairly philosophical about it afterwards.
Around lap forty, the race was Webber’s to lose as he had built a substantial margin to those behind him. Sebastian Vettel had overtaken the likes of Massa and Barrichello in the pitlane, and therefore was sitting happy in P2. In the final stop, Button managed to pump in a solid in-lap and emerged ahead of his team mate. It may have been all Button’s work, it may have been orchestrated. Either way, Barrichello would later show his frustration at the team for effectively losing him the race.
The final few laps saw Nico Rosberg come under pressure from the Brawns, only for the white cars to then fall away as their rear tyres grained. Also feeling the heat on the final few tours was Heikki Kovalainen, who sitting in the final points-paying position had a train of cars behind him all eager to improve. Kovalainen managed to stay ahead, although Kazuki Nakajima made a spirited move on Giancarlo Fisichella as the pair rounded the final corner. Positions remained though.
Red Bull scored their second one-two finish in succession, and it was the first time an Australian had won a grand prix since Alan Jones, 28 years ago. The RB5 is arguably performing better than the BGP 001 at the moment, although this race and Silverstone previously have been relatively cold, so the Brackley team may still yet make a comeback. Mark Webber was overjoyed and this victory is certainly a popular one.
The one-two means Red Bull have closed the gap in the constructor’s title down to 19.5 points. Although that is still a huge amount to recover, if Red Bull continue to score like have been recently, Brawn could find themselves in trouble. In the driver’s title, Jenson Button is now only 21 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel, and perhaps more interestingly, Mark Webber is now only 1.5 behind his team mate. Christian Horner is going to have a tough job if he is to put his eggs in one basket.
Rubens Barrichello is now fourth overall, although comfortably ahead of Felipe Massa who is on half his fellow countryman’s points. And speaking of Barrichello, this is what he had to say to BBC’s Lee McKenzie after the race, but before consulting with the team…
I’m terribly upset with the way things have gone today. Because it was a very good show of how to lose a race.
To be honest, I wish I could just get on a plane and go home now. I don’t want to talk to anyone in the team, because it would be a lot of bla, bla, bla, bla… And I don’t want to hear that. I’m just terribly upset. Rubens Barrichello.
Frank Williams said that if one of his drivers had said those words before even speaking with the team to see if their was any explanation (like a faulty fuel rig), he would have had a stern word with him. Eddie Jordan said pretty much the same, before Williams added that after his stern word, a repeat of the behaviour would not be tolerated. And considering Barrichello’s experience and wisdom, you can only presume that he is a very, very frustrated man.
So emotions are running high in Formula One at the moment. Brawn could be losing their grip on the titles, Red Bull are poised to take the challenge, and in fact, are taking the challenge. Force India have suddenly cropped up as a team with some half-decent pace, and Williams are steadily improving, Nico Rosberg having a great race from P15 to P4.
The day is all about Mark Webber, and the fact he can now call himself a grand prix winner. It may have been a long time in the making (130 races), but at last he has arrived. And now the circus will head to Hungary for the Hungarian Grand Prix in a fortnight before taking a month off. With everything that is going on in and around the sport at the moment, I think a break is needed. Before that though, we do need to see if Button can win at the track that gave him his maiden win, or if Red Bull really are now ahead on pace.