Mark Webber today took his first F1 win ever at the Nurburgring. He was fully deserving of the win, with his Red Bull again showing its pace and he himself recovering from a drive-through penalty to dominate his rivals.
Webber has had more than his fair share of bad luck through the years, not least at the start of this year, when he broke both his leg and his shoulder in an off-season cycling accident. It was therefore fitting that he should win a race in which the vagaries of the sport showed themselves often.
Off the start, Webber was swamped by his rivals and squeezed second-placed Rubens Barrichello rather hard against the pitwall. Although this sort of thing has been seen on countless occasions before, the stewards deemed it dangerous, and sentenced the Australian to a drive-through. Webber was unlucky to receive a punishment like that, which looked as though it would ruin his chances of the win yet again. But Webber drove fast and consistently for the remainder of the race, proving that he did not need the assistance of luck.
Sebastian Vettel was second-placed, also meriting his position. Vettel worked hard throughout the race, occasionally not best-placed, and will be happy that a Brawn did not win. He may be slightly perturbed at the confidence boost the win will have given his team-mate Webber, and the inter-team fight at Red Bull may be a feature of the coming races.
The man who looked like Webber’s main rival for much of the race, Rubens Barrichello, was unlucky himself. Firstly he was stuck behind Felipe Massa after his first stop, which lost him a fair bit of time, and then suffered a fuel rig issue that meant he had to pit again towards the end. Barrichello finished behind his team-mate Button, but in reality, the pace of their Brawns was no match for the Red Bulls. Barrichello’s strange outburst after the race – to the effect that Brawn’s strategy lost him the race – was a bit misguided, but he might have cause to feel aggrieved about finishing behind Button.
Button was first of the lucky in fifth. The Briton never really looked like threatening the front, but with severe tyre degradation needed Fernando Alonso to occupy a charging Barrichello immediately behind him at the end. Not to have a sterling race and yet emerge with points is exactly the sort of experience Button needs to be having, and perhaps a mark of a champion upcoming. But on the evidence of today, and the advantage those Red Bulls have, he definitely is going to have to fight for that honour.
A number of teams showed marked improvements. McLaren were headed for the front in the hands of Lewis Hamilton until a little nick from a Ferrari front wing gave the world champion a puncture. Heikki Kovalainen did well and the form bodes well for the team, whom many were backing for a surprise win if the rain had come down. Ferrari also turned up; Massa drove exceptionally well, being a thorn in the sides of the Brawns and the Red Bulls, and ending with a deserved third.
Speaking of luck, Adrian Sutil will be wondering if he is destined to take over Mark Webber’s ”unluckiest man in F1” moniker this evening. The Force India man was going brilliantly, converting his seventh on the grid to mid top ten running, before a misunderstanding at the pit exit with his nemesis Kimi Raikkonen forced him back into the pits. The incident was of the racing type, but Force India will be wondering whether they should paint their cars red in order to avoid the Ferraris when going well. It brought back unpleasant memories of last year when Raikkonen ran into Sutil just as he was destined for points in Monaco.
Fernando Alonso got Spain very excited towards the end, when a combination of the right tyres and floundering front runners made a sixth place a possibility. After the indignity of a spin on the warm-up lap the Spaniard charged up the field with characteristic chutzpah. A lot of points it wasn’t to be, but it will be heartening for all at Renault to see Alonso challenging the Brawns.
Another great performance came from Nico Rosberg, who ended up fourth. The Williams man had had a quiet race, but was fuelled long and made the most of his FW31’s latent pace. It is convenient that Rosberg should produce such a good drive, as he has signalled his intent to move teams very recently, and he will have impressed.
A man who looks on his way out is Sebastian Bourdais, however. Rumours circulated that the powers that be at the team had had enough of Bourdais’ regular failures to produce results, and had issued him with an ultimatum in Germany. His retirement might not have been the Frenchman’s fault, but his face and body language with the team afterwards suggested strongly that he is on his way out. The other driver with his neck on the line, Nelson Piquet Jr, was again a completely anonymous 13th.