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Sunday, May 16, 2010

King of Monaco: Webber takes over F1 title lead - 17th May 2010

MARK WEBBER last night became the first Australian to win the Monaco Grand Prix since the great Jack Brabham 51 years ago.

He also claimed the formula one series lead from Jenson Button, who crashed out of the race early.

It is the first time an Australian has led the championship since Alan Jones in 1981.

The 33-year-old Australian led from his fourth pole to the finish and made light of four interruptions for the introduction of safety cars on his way to a second win after Spain last weekend.

He finished unchallenged ahead of Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel as the Red Bulls delivered their third successive one-two and fourth in six races this year, this time ahead of Pole Robert Kubica who was third for Renault.

Webber, who has been linked to a move to Ferrari next season, started on pole position and was never really challenged around the tight street circuit.

''To be up there achieving things that Jack Brabham achieved is special for me and difficult to take in just now,'' Webber said before starting formula one's most iconic race, which he led from start to finish.

''He is a legend in the Webber house and if it was not for Jack Brabham I would not be here now. My dad followed him closely and was a big fan - he always followed open-wheeled racing much more than what we call 'taxi-racing' at home. He has been an inspiration and a friend and he has done a lot for me.''

Webber, who last week won the Spanish Grand Prix in similar fashion, shot to the lead at the first turn in his Red Bull machine ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Spectators didn't have to wait long for drama, with Nico Hulkenberg (Williams) crashing at 270km/h in the tunnel on the first lap, bringing out the safety car.

Button was the next casualty, with his McLaren's engine overheating on lap three. The safety car departed the track on lap six and the racing resumed. ''I think it got a little bit hot on the way to the grid,'' Button told the BBC. ''We left a [air intake] bung in on the left-hand side of the car that obviously you're meant to take out on the way to the grid. That's cooked the engine.''

Webber, who could be Ferrari's potential replacement for the Brazilian Felipe Massa next season, set several fastest laps before narrowly avoiding disaster on lap 74 of 78 when two back-markers crashed in front of him. He went to the chequered flag just after the fourth safety car of the race left the track, with Vettel pipping Robert Kubica (Renault) for second place.

Vettel said: "I couldn't keep up with him today. He was gone too far away for me and I had to race to stay second this time."

Kubica added: "I tried to pass Sebastian, but I lost the place on the first lap and that was it."

Massa came home fourth for Ferrari ahead of the 2008 champion Briton Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren with seven-times champion German Michael Schumacher, 41, taking sixth for Mercedes after a controversial move behind the Safety Car to pass Spaniard Fernando Alonso on the final lap.

Schumacher was later penalised 20 seconds for the manoeuvre by stewards and relegated to 12th spot.

Schumacher's Mercedes team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg was promoted to seventh ahead of another German Adrian Sutil of Force India. Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi was ninth th in the second Force India.

Webber was almost drawn into a late drama when he came into the Rascasse hairpin to find Italian Jarno Trulli of Lotus colliding with Indian Karun Chandhok of the Hispania team in spectacular fashion.

"He flew in the air and I was just hoping there would be some room to go through on the inside and I would have some options," said Webber. "Thankfully I did."

Chandhok said: "Jarno Trulli has just apologised to me - there was absolutely no way he could get through there. It's a real shame because I was driving my best race of the year so far and I was on track to be the best of the new teams.

"His car just missed my head. I ducked down and it came over and hit the roll hoop."

Understandably, Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali took a dim view of Schumacher's passing of Alonso behind the safety car.

"That should be the rule -- you can't overtake on the final lap. Our understanding of the regulations is pretty clear, but let's just and see what the stewards say."

While Trulli's crash may have been spectacular, it was no more horrifying than the two that saw the two Williams men eliminated earlier when they crashed out - German rookie Hulkenberg in the tunnel and Brazilian veteran Rubens Barrichello at Massanet - in separate incidents.

Both were huge accidents that caused great damage to the cars, ripping off wheels and wings. "After my pit stop, the car was not together, the steering wheel felt numb," said Barrichello. "Something was not good until the crash. They are analysing what went on.."

For Webber, there was no immediate analysis pending. "I predict a few sore heads in the morning," he said. "You have to celebrate your wins and they don't come any better than this."

Meanwhile, Australia scored a rare double at Monaco, with 20-year-old Daniel Ricciardo claiming victory in the final support race.

Ricciardo, from Perth, earned his first win in the World Series by Renault with his debut drive at Monaco and has already been touted a formula one star of the future.

Driving for French Team Tech 1, Ricciardo never looked back after claiming pole position.

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