Mark Webber has admitted that the entire Red Bull Racing team were 'absolutely sh***ing themselves' that they would not finish the Chinese Grand Prix – just 24 hours before he followed team-mate Sebastian Vettel home in a peerless one-two display of supremacy.
Having qualified first and third in Shanghai, the Red Bulls profited from Fernando Alonso's early pit-stop under the initial safety car to lead the field away when the racing finally got underway properly on lap eight, with – a few aberrations aside – the gap between them remaining fairly static at around three seconds from thereon in.
That margin was increased, however, when Webber rejoined in traffic from his first pit visit whereas Vettel did not, and following the second safety car period 18 laps in the Australian found himself separated from the sister RB5 by the Brawn GP of Formula 1 World Championship leader Jenson Button.
A gritty display, however, saw Webber take the fight to his British rival, passing him once when Button went straight on at turn one, and having to do so again – all the way around the outside of turn seven, what he described as 'one of the best moves of my career' – following a mistake of his own. After shaking off the attentions of his pursuer for good, the New South Wales native was able to begin to chase down the race leader – but by then Vettel's advantage was just too great.
Nonetheless, the runner-up laurels marked the 32-year-old's finest result to-date in 124 starts in the top flight, and proved to his detractors that the badly broken right leg he sustained in a mountain biking accident in Tasmania last November is not holding him back at all. Oh, and there was the small matter that after the driveshaft woes that had plagued both cars the previous day, he had been far from convinced of seeing the chequered flag at all.
“You have no idea what the guys went through last night,” he remarked afterwards. “We were absolutely sh***ing ourselves that the cars wouldn't finish the race, because every time we ran yesterday they stopped. It was incredible to get the cars home and to get maximum points – and to get on the podium so early in the season.
“This comes after the near-misses in Australia for Sebastian and for myself in Malaysia, and we absolutely deserved it. It wasn't on attrition, it wasn't down to other people's misfortune – it was because today as a team we delivered. It's a great day for the team in Milton Keynes – well done and thank you to them, and also to everyone in Austria.”
Webber admitted that the weather conditions – treacherous from start to finish – had been 'right on the edge', but he never put a foot wrong in all of the spray and standing water, and was clearly pleased with his second place, even if the top step of the rostrum would have been nicer. Never far away from Vettel's pace throughout, his day will surely come.
“It was a challenging race at times!” reflected the man from Queanbeyan. “It was pretty tough, and it was hard to follow the cars at the beginning due to the spray, but then further into the race it started to settle a bit. I think it was right on the limit in terms of the aquaplaning, though. We saw in Fuji too [in 2007] that it's not easy – if the rain had been any heavier, I think it would have been touch-and-go.