Australian grabs first GP of season as Hamilton goes out late after taking second.
|Webber leads the field on the Monte Carlo street circuit [GALLO/GETTY]|
Mark Webber leapt into serious contention for this year’s drivers’ world championship when he drove to an imperious victory ahead of his precocious young team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the Monaco Grand Prix.
The 33-year-old Australian led from start to finish and made light of four interruptions for the introduction of the Safety Car on his way to a second comprehensive win in succession, having won equally impressively in Spain last weekend.
It was the fourth win of his career, his second this year and he became the first Australian victor on the famous Mediterranean street circuit, bathed in more glamour than sunshine this time, since Jack Brabham won in 1959, on his way to the world title.
Victory at the Monte Carlo circuit was also the Red Bull team’s third one-two triumph in succession and their fourth in six races this year, sufficient evidence to confirm with reasonable certainty that they have overcome their reliability problems – at least on slower circuits.
An ecstatic Webber praised his team after taking the chequered flag on Sunday.
Over the team radio, he said: “Unbelievable. Thank you. You deserve every bit of this. The car is fantastic.”
Vettel, the 22-year-old wunderkind whose sheer talent had seemed to rattle Webber earlier and last year, was unable to mount a challenge to his partner’s supremacy this time and came home a comfortable second, ahead of Pole Robert Kubica in a Renault.
All the top three drivers were powered by Renault engines.
Webber’s win lifted him to the top of the drivers standings on 78 points, level with Vettel as the season continued to unfold as a Red Bull in-house contest.
World champion Jenson Button lost any chance of retaining his lead in this year’s championship was forced out of the Monaco Grand Prix on the third lap.
The 30-year-old Briton – who led Spaniard Fernando Alonso by three points going into the race – came to a halt with what looked like engine trouble as smoke billowed out of his McLaren.
Brazilian Felipe 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 Fernando Alonso on the final lap.
Two-times champion Spaniard Alonso appeared to slide wide and Schumacher took his opportunity to push him down to seventh, after starting from the pit lane, in the second Ferrari.
Schumacher’s Mercedes teammate and compatriot Nico Rosberg was eighth ahead of another German Adrian Sutil of Force India.
Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi was 10th in the second Force India.