His 2011 move on Fernando Alonso
into Eau Rouge has already entered F1 folklore, but Mark Webber
found the tables turned on him at the Italian Grand Prix.
The Australian had already been shuffled back to third place by the other Ferrari
at the start of the final European round of 2013, but Alonso was in no mood to play second fiddle to Felipe Massa
while Sebastian Vettel
was making good his escape at the front. Having despatched Nico Hulkenberg, the Spaniard wasted little time in closing on Webber, who was struggling on his tyres.
Knowing that time was of the essence, Alonso caught Webber at the Roggia chicane and, instead of waiting for a more opportune moment, lined the Australian up around the outside. As they did in Belgium last year, the pair gave each other racing room, but it was Alonso who came out on top.
“It's always a good battle racing Fernando, you have to be very accurate,” Webber reflected, “I think that I braked pretty deep into there, but so did Fernando. It was early in the race, we were still to get a feel for where everything is.
“Obviously, it's very easy to go straight there and not make the entry to the chicane. I was also mindful of the fact that I wanted to make the entry to the chicane but, when Fernando then got pretty much level on the outside of [turn] three, the chess match is over basically.”
Now in fourth place, Webber knuckled down to making the best of his strategy, and benefited when Red Bull
decided to stack him behind Vettel at their pit-stops. The move, allied to the Australian's pace on his in- and out-laps paid dividends as he emerged in front of Massa to claim a third place he would hold to the end of the race, despite carrying damage to the right-hand side of his front wing.
“You have to concede [the corner] and look to take the fight to another part of the race,” he confirmed, “The wing wasn't too bad - we've had quite a few little snags on the front wings this season but that seemed to be okay. I don't think we had the best balance in the first ten or 15 laps but, as the race went on towards the end, it might not have been too bad to help the stint, although I couldn't go anywhere against Felipe.
“I was really just trying to manage the pace on the rear tyres to when we were going to stop to try to pass him – and I was very, very happy with the in-lap. The whole thing went well in terms of pit-stop, exit, out-lap too., so we executed that as a team effort.”
Having been returned to a podium position, Webber began to reel Alonso back in, only to be told that he had to shortshift between second and third gears to manage a transmission problem.
“It was a good battle with Fernando on the other tyre,” the Australian, making his final European F1 appearance, grinned, “I tried everything but we had to nurse the gearbox a little bit. In the end, second was the maximum, we got third - but we pushed Fernando all the way.”