Mark Webber insisted that Michael Schumacher should be given due credit for posting the fastest time in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix, but admitted that he was happy to be inheriting top spot from the penalised German.
Schumacher had begun the weekend by, perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, saying that he had banished the Spanish GP accident that brought about the punishment from his mind, and was focused on setting the fastest time in qualifying and then winning from sixth on the grid. Although few would have considered the 43-year old veteran a threat for pole, even after Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg
paced FP3, he duly came through with the very last lap of Saturday afternoon to confirm the first part of his prediction.
Webber, meanwhile, could have been forgiven for thinking that he was already on pole as he posted the fastest time on his last lap, also passing under the chequered flag, but was happy to remark on Schumacher's achievement during the post-session press conference.
"First of all, I think it's Michael's day," he insisted, "Michael did a good lap, fair play to him, but it's nice to move up a position.
"Actually, after qualifying, I thought I had the penalty because my engineer said 'well done, great lap, de-de-de, penalty' and I thought 'sh*t, what for? I've done nothing.' I was slightly relieved to hear it wasn't me....."
Having won the Monaco race from pole two years ago, and previously taken his first F1 podium there, Webber knows the benefit of starting from the front row, and was excited to know that he'd be moving back up to pole come raceday.
"It was very, very close - Q3 was tight between the first few rows," he reflected, "Obviously, there were some different tyre strategies going on, with different people getting through different parts of qualifying with different sets of tyres but, in the end, it was a good little battle.
"Quali went quite smooth for me. It's the first time of the weekend where you put everything on the line – within reason – so it started to feel pretty good for me and I knew it was aiming for the first few rows, for sure. And then it became very, very tight between us and I thought 'okay, well, after the first run in Q3, it wasn't too bad a lap, I thought, we can still go for pole on the last run'. It was a pretty good lap, I'm pretty happy with it. [It's a] very, very good position to be starting [from] tomorrow and we have a very, very good car, the guys have done a good job and, on Sunday, the car is generally pretty good, I'm so looking forward to tomorrow."
The pole came as something of a surprise to the Red Bull
team, particularly with world champion Sebastian Vettel
struggling throughout and, for the second race running, opting not to post a time in Q3. Webber, too, doubted that he could challenge when asked earlier in the weekend, but praised the RBR operation for turning his car around.
"We certainly pulled the balance together a lot more," he revealed, "Obviously, there are no real fast corners here, but there are a few where you need to be able to keep the car in the line, especially into Casino, but also through the Swimming Pool. You need to have a very good rhythm and pace through there, which we didn't really have on Thursday, so the car, between low and high speed, wasn't great. We really, really pulled that together.
"Also, I think the track helped as well, the rubber on the circuit helped pull it together. The driver always brakes a little bit later on Saturday, so that helps a bit as well. Altogether, the guys have done a great job and I think we got the maximum, actually, from what we could do today."