Webber happy to take positives from home GP
19 March 2012
Mark Webber was once again denied the chance to celebrate with his fans from the Albert park podium, but the Australian was happy to have been able to score points at all after a fraught start to the F1 season-opener.
After a disappointing qualifying session for both Red Bull drivers - who shared row three after two seasons after being more used to having no-one in front of them - another poor getaway dropped Webber into the clutches of the rows behind, resulting in him being caught in a pincer movement as the field funnelled into turn one.
Assaulted from both sides by Nico Hulkenberg and Jean-Eric Vergne, the Australian somehow escaped with his RB8 intact, and then survived the chaos the resulted from Bruno Senna being spun across the circuit, before setting about trying to reclaim his lost positions.
"I had a poor start, so I need to see what happened there," the local favourite admitted, having suffered a string of similarly bad getaways in 2011, "Then I got sandwiched at turn one, and I didn't want the race to be over. I was able to keep going and then started to build from there.
"The car felt quite tricky on the options in the first stint and I wondered if I had some damage from the first corner, but then, when I got the primes, the race came alive for me."
The first corner delay left Webber ninth at the end of the opening lap, behind such fast starters as Fernando Alonso, Pastor Maldonado and Nico Rosberg, but, despite concerns over the health of his car, the Red Bull man kept himself in the hunt for a strong points finish.
Although the retirements of Michael Schumacher and Romain Grosjean only promoted him to seventh by one-third distance, the arrival of the safety car to cover the removal of Vitaly Petrov's Caterham at just the right time to work with RBR's pit strategy allowed Webber to vault into fourth position and close in on the McLaren of Lewis Hamilton. Despite being among the fastest cars when the field was released, however, the #2 machine remained in fourth to the flag.
"We had a bit of luck with the safety car and I was quicker than Lewis at the end, but it's a difficult track to overtake here," Webber lamented, despite having improved his best Melbourne finish by one over three previous fifth-place results.
“There are some positives to take out of today," he smiled, "Today was a strong showing for us, and it was a good day for Red Bull Racing given what we went to bed with last night. Qualifying was difficult for us, but the race pace was better, it was just that we didn't have track position. In Malaysia, [passing] would have been a different story, but this was a good comeback, a strong start.”
RBR team principal Christian Horner confirmed how keen Webber had been to finally end his Australian podium hoodoo, but praised his driver for his performance after the first corner mayhem.
"After getting caught up by Rosberg and Alonso, once he got into free air he really got his head down and, at that point, was the quickest car on the circuit," he reported.
"He went onto the prime tyre, doing the opposite to [team-mate] Sebastian [Vettel] as he had an additional new set available to him from yesterday. Again, the right call under the safety car put him out right behind Hamilton and you could see how desperate he was in the remaining ten laps. He tried everything to pass Lewis to be on the podium here in Australia but, unfortunately, he didn't quite make it.”