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Webber’s peerless pace spectacular

There couldn’t be two bigger contrasts in the respective race weekends of Mark Webber and Karun Chandhok. Yet, both claimed it was among the best of their careers, says Steve Slater.

india Updated: May 18, 2010 00:08 IST
Steve Slater

There couldn’t be two bigger contrasts in the respective race weekends of Mark Webber and Karun Chandhok. Yet, both claimed it was among the best of their careers. As in Barcelona, Mark Webber’s drive to victory began with his qualifying lap on Saturday.

It was sublime, prompting team-mate Vettel to comment that there was nothing wrong with his own qualifying lap, except that Mark was faster!

Come the race, a flawless start ensured Webber kept his pole position advantage. Meanwhile, Vettel bundled the gutsy Robert Kubica back to third on the run into Saint Devote corner and that — as far as any change in the top-three order — was that.

Or was it? Although Webber had a race pace superiority equivalent to his qualifying, there was always the expectation that safety cars would play a part.

We didn’t have to wait long. Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg was pitched into the barriers in the Monaco tunnel on the opening lap after a front wing support failure.

Williams will be worried that mechanical failures caused crashes for both their drivers. Just before half distance, Rubens Barrichello played a terrifying game of pinball with the barriers when a suspension component failed on his car.

Thankfully the strength of modern Formula One cars ensured that neither driver was hurt. But on both occasions, plus another when a loose manhole cover brought out the safety car, Mark Webber’s hard-earned advantage was lost as the rest of the field was allowed to close up behind him.

Webber though was undaunted. Each time he was released from behind the safety car he extended his advantage once again.

It was an exhibition of peerless pace that was truly spectacular. In fact Webber’s biggest scare of the day almost came just three laps from the chequered flag, when tail-enders Karun Chandhok and Jarno Trulli clashed just as he was coming up to lap them.

“I saw Jarno doing a lunge down at Rascasse and thought ‘what the heck is going on here?’ They interlocked wheels and I hoped I would have some room to go,” said Webber. “I worried if Karun was okay because it all looked like it was around his head.”

For Chandhok ironically, the clash with Trulli’s Lotus marked an end to his best race of the season so far. Disappointment after qualifying was changed to a mood of optimism when a faulty differential was diagnosed and the Hispania Racing car proved capable of battling with its fellow ‘newbie’ team rivals.