Mark Webber had a lot of reasons to thank his tyres after a tough Singapore Grand Prix, but also admitted that he should have given his Red Bull
Racing more credit when they suggested he pit for fresh rubber on lap four of 61.
With the safety car already on track following Vitantonio Liuzzi's early demise, the Australian followed the instruction to pit for the harder 'prime' Bridgestone, but confesses that he questioned the decision to stop at the point in one of the most physical rounds of the championship, knowing not only that it would drop him behind slower cars yet to stop, but could also leave him vulnerable to attack later in the race.
Webber returned from the fray in eleventh position, and quickly picked off Timo Glock, Kamui Kobayashi
and Michael Schumacher even as his team told him that he was gunning for third-placed Lewis Hamilton. The points leader, however, admits that he was initially doubtful whether he would get the right conditions to close the gap sufficiently to overhaul his nearest championship rival.
"I questioned the team to start with, and they said 'it is the right thing, let's have a go'," he revealed, "We pitted and I thought 'oh, this is going to be a long stint on the primes'. We came back out and, when we queued up on the safety car, I thought 'okay, that's not too bad'. We were in a reasonable position. I passed a few guys and then I got to Rubens [Barrichello], who was driving very well. I couldn't clear him and, to be honest, I was surprised that I was even going to get as far as Lewis.
"I asked the team what the gap was to Jenson [Button] in front of Robert [Kubica]. I knew I would clear both Rubens and Robert because I could see them, but I couldn't see Jenson and I couldn't see Robert's pit-board to see how far Jenson was ahead of him, so I needed to get confirmation from the team. Then they said 'it's Lewis'...
"I was surprised I didn't lose as many positions [as I thought I might], so that was good. When I came back out, I had to clear a few guys. First of all, I followed Kobayashi, just for a few laps, and I thought 'my God, if he drives like that for two hours, it's going to be interesting' - he was really on the limit and missing all the walls and jumping kerbs.
"Michael was very good, fair, and I had a good battle with him. Rubens was driving well and clean - the Williams
was not too bad in certain sections of the lap, so that made it difficult to get the move done on him. I thought 'God, I'm losing so much time behind these guys, the leaders will be pulling away for sure', but I saw a little bit on the big screen that Fernando [Alonso] had a bit of a gap and then it was Seb [Vettel] and then I saw Lewis on his own, so I thought 'yeah, that's probably the maximum I'm going to get'.
In the end, McLaren's own strategy helped play into Webber's hands, as both Hamilton and Button began losing time to the Australian before they stopped, and eventually rejoined behind the Red Bull. After a second safety car period allowed Hamilton to close back in, Webber survived a collision with the Briton as he tried to muscle back into third place, although damage to his right front wheel - the true extent of which wasn't revealed until after he had headed to the podium ceremony - caused a severe vibration that ensured Button remained a potential threat until the chequered flag.
"It turned into an incredibly strategic race for us, and the team did a great job keeping me informed, but, [after the collision], I had a pretty decent vibration in the front end of the car, [and was] very worried if the car would get home," the Australian admitted, "They were completely finished after 58 laps, there wasn't much left of them. It was just enough to keep the gap [to Button] nice."