Mark Webber has transformed himself from a 'nearly man' to a 'really man' in becoming only the third Australian ever to win in the top flight by storming to a dominant triumph in the 2009 German Grand Prix at the N?rburgring - half a century on from Sir Jack Brabham's famous Monaco Grand Prix glory that first put his country on the F1 map.

Not only did the Red Bull Racing star have to overcome a drive-through penalty for contact off the starting grid, but he thoroughly trounced every one of his rivals, home hero team-mate Sebastian Vettel included - comfortably defeating the man many had tipped to delight his partisan supporters with a second successive victory. The third Red Bull one-two of the season, it was the first with Webber in front - and having broken his leg last November, the New South Wales native has now also broken his grand prix duck.

Almost ten seconds ahead of Vettel at the chequered flag, the gap could feasibly have been upwards of half a minute, and up on the podium afterwards the proud strains of the Australian National Anthem rang out for the first time in almost three decades, since Alan Jones last stood atop the rostrum in Las Vegas in 1981. This time the dice rolled in Webber's favour, and the result marked unquestionably one of the most popular outcomes in recent memory. The world's fastest rollercoaster had been built at the N?rburgring ahead of this year's race, and the man from Queanbeyan has certainly been on his own rollercoaster ride over the last nine months - but now he has made the grade in his own right. Mark Webber - an F1 winner at last.

With the pressure on the pole-sitter, Webber made a reasonable getaway when the starting lights went out, but that of Rubens Barrichello alongside him on the grid was better, and as the pair headed down into turn one for the first time the Australian moved across a touch aggressively on his Brazilian rival and the pair fleetingly touched. Their squabble, though, did not take into account Lewis Hamilton, and the KERS-equipped McLaren-Mercedes was able to drive past both on the outside line.

Unfortunately for the reigning F1 World Champion, such was his speed that he was unable to slow down in time for the first corner, and as he went wide he picked up a puncture, which would drop him right to the very back of the field - and left his podium hopes in tatters.

Former GP2 Series sparring partner Nelsinho Piquet was also in the wars on the opening lap - going briefly off-piste in much the same way as Renault team-mate Fernando Alonso had endured an embarrassing spin on the rolling-up lap. Behind the leading duo, though, the second fast-starting McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen had slotted into third, and the Finn would go on to frustrate the attentions of Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and Vettel behind him throughout the early laps.

Four seconds adrift of the top two at the end of the opening lap alone, Button was the first to make a move, scything his way artfully past Massa into turn one at the beginning of lap two, but with Kovalainen making no mistakes, the world championship leader would go no further for quite some time. The situation, too, was threatening to play into the hands of the Ferraris of Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, both heavily-fuelled and both right in attendance with the earlier-stopping cars in front.

As Webber continued to track Barrichello's progress without seeming willing to try any kind of move, the former's one saving grace appeared to be the fact that the Brawn GP would be pitting a handful of laps earlier - but then the whole complexion of the grand prix changed in one fell swoop, as it was revealed that Webber was being awarded a drive-through penalty for his questionable sideswipe against Barrichello at the start.

Button was the first man to blink from fourth place at the end of lap 13, with both Brawn drivers complaining of tyre-graining issues and the British star sticking to his original three-stop plan. Webber served his drive-through on the same lap as Barrichello came in for his own first pit visit, but whilst the former would rejoin the fray ahead of the Kovalainen train, the latter did not - re-emerging right in the midst of the third-placed battle, behind Kovalainen and Massa and narrowly ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen.

Barrichello swiftly tried to make up ground in attacking Massa as Kovalainen pitted, regaining the track down in 15th and very nearly coming together with the Toyota of Timo Glock shortly afterwards. Despite similarly suffering from tyre-wear issues, Webber in the lead was able to continue inching away from the second-placed Massa-Barrichello duel at the rate of over a second a lap as his own first stop neared. The pressure was on - and the race for the win far from over.

Webber was in on lap 19, and remained on a two-stop strategy, emerging crucially just ahead of Button and just eleven seconds shy of the lead - whilst S?bastien Bourdais for Red Bull 'junior' outfit Scuderia Toro Rosso became the race's first retirement, somewhat summing up a desultory campaign at the highest level and perhaps bringing down the final curtain on the record-breaking multiple former Champ Car king's brief F1 career.

Vettel, for his part, jumped Kovalainen in his own first pit visit, as Robert Kubica in the BMW-Sauber frustrated the efforts of Webber and Button behind to find a way by. The latter in particular was looking extremely racy as Webber grappled around for grip on the harder-compound Bridgestone rubber, and suffered in the turbulent air - arguably the key bugbear of the Adrian Newey-designed RB5.

Raikkonen was the first of the two Ferraris to pit on lap 24 - to the clear frustration of Brawn and Barrichello - as Webber lapped two seconds quicker than Barrichello, still being held up by Massa to the tune of as much as two seconds a lap. Getting the harder tyre phase out of the way, the New South Wales native was closing the gap inexorably, and had the deficit down to barely five seconds when Massa finally pitted at the end of lap 25, losing track position to Vettel in the process. The question for Barrichello and Brawn was - had the damage already been done?

That incredibly promoted the long-running Adrian Sutil in the Force India to second place scarcely a second shy of the lead, with countryman Nico Rosberg in the Williams third and Webber and Button back up to fourth and fifth. All of a sudden the pressure had switched - and now, with an extra pit-stop to make, Barrichello needed to prove his mettle with a vengeance.

There was drama and heartbreak for the luckless Sutil, however, for after emerging from his first pit visit on lap 27, he rejoined right between the two Ferraris, and in endeavouring to drive all the way around the outside of the young German into turn one, Raikkonen instead drove into the Force India - breaking the local hero's front wing and shattering Sutil's dreams of points as he found himself forced to pit again just a lap later. Lest we forget, it was also Raikkonen who unceremoniously removed Sutil from fifth place in last year's Monaco Grand Prix.

Rosberg too rejoined in-between the scarlet duo after his own first stop, whilst Webber was inexorably hunting down Barrichello as the S?o Paulista began to struggle once more for rear grip, and soon had the margin down to next-to-nothing at all. Button was again the first of the Brawns to pit for the second time to switch over to the harder rubber, rejoining the fray ahead of Kovalainen, for whom the pit-stops had not worked out nearly so well. Barrichello was in a lap later still to release Webber back into the lead.

Brawn then sagely elected to alter the strategy, moving Barrichello onto a two-stop strategy and meaning the most experienced driver in the field would need to complete the final 28 laps on the harder rubber - or so it seemed. Shortly afterwards, a radio communication revealed that there had been a fuel rig problem, and that the 37-year-old was still in fact on a three-stopper - meaning barring any issues for Webber, Barrichello's victory bolt was all-but shot.

Raikkonen then began to slow and soon toured into the pits to become retirement number two, promoting Giancarlo Fisichella into the points in the other Force India - with the Italian having earlier combatively fought his way past both Nick Heidfeld in the BMW and former team-mate Alonso in the Renault. Out front, though, Webber was in a class of his own, setting fastest lap after fastest lap and leaving fans' favourite Vettel very much in the shade. Following the Brawn pit-stops, though, the young German was up to second ahead of Massa, with Rosberg still very much in play in fourth ahead of Barrichello and Button.

As his second pit-stop approached, however, Webber's pace began to ease off a little, with both Vettel and Massa more than 20 seconds further down the track both lapping six tenths of a second quicker. Button in the Brawn was weaving from side-to-side in a desperate effort to get some heat into his tyres, as Webber came into pit with 17 laps left to run, and the Red Bull crew performed to perfection, releasing him again behind Vettel, but ahead of Massa. The German was in a lap later still, elevating his team-mate back into the lead, and it was another flawless stop, though one that meant Vettel would go to the end on the super-soft rubber, and Webber on the harder compound. And then the clouds closed in...

Rosberg was the next man to pit, promoting the close-running Brawns to second and third between the Red Bulls, with the clearly faster Button now requesting that the team ask Barrichello to move aside for him - or risk both being pipped by Massa. It was the Brazilian half of the Brawn pairing that pitted first with ten laps remaining, releasing Button into second and falling behind both Massa and Rosberg in the process. Button then set personal bests in his efforts to make up the difference, and when he re-emerged ahead again it was job done. Switch made - without even needing to switch them.

Still, though, the Brawns were only fifth and sixth, with a storming Alonso closing both of them down. Having hassled and ultimately got the better of Kovalainen for seventh, the Spaniard then produced a series of searing laps, 1.3 seconds quicker than the race leader and setting a fastest lap time extraordinarily half a second better than anyone else in the grand prix as he sensed an opportunity for some more points. Button, too, was pushing on, on the harder tyres to Barrichello's super-soft, as he focussed on chasing down Rosberg four seconds ahead for fourth.

Alonso's devastating pace was such that it had hauled him to within under a second of Barrichello with six laps to go, as further down the road Kovalainen was again holding off a baying pack, this time composed of Timo Glock in the Toyota, Heidfeld, the wayward Kazuki Nakajima in the second Williams and Fisichella, desperate to snatch the final point for Force India to make up for Sutil's crushing disappointment.

The pressure on Barrichello, indeed, drove him right onto the back of his team-mate once again, making it a three-way scrap over fifth as Button began to suffer from rear tyre degradation. The sister BGP 001 was soon experiencing the same problems, handing Alonso even more hope of a late bonus.

A mistake, however, never came, and the status quo would be preserved all the way to the end of the race, with Rosberg holding on for an excellent fourth for Williams, Button and Barrichello taking fifth and sixth, Alonso being forced to settle for seventh and Kovalainen fending off his pursuers for the final marker in eighth, leading Glock - from the pit-lane after his qualifying penalty - Heidfeld, Fisichella and Nakajima across the line, with the Japanese ace very nearly taking his Italian rival out into the last corner as he aimed a last-ditch move down the inside. The finishers were completed by Piquet, Kubica, the luckless Sutil, S?bastien Buemi in the sole surviving Toro Rosso, the troubled Jarno Trulli and the delayed Hamilton.

Up on the podium, though, and in reverse order, were Massa, Vettel and Webber. The Brazilian's third place marked a return to the rostrum for Ferrari for the first time in 2009 and possibly heralded a return to form for the Scuderia to-boot whilst Vettel strengthened his title chances in vaulting the disgruntled Barrichello into second place in the drivers' standings. All eyes, though, were focussed on the winner - a man who has waited more than 130 races to notch up his breakthrough triumph, and one who screamed in jubilation on the slowing-down lap and emotionally kissed his car's nose in elation afterwards in pace ferm?. The unluckiest driver in F1 Mark Webber may once have been - but now he is every inch a bona fide championship contender. Driver of the Day: Mark Webber (no explanation necessary...)

To see the race result in full, click here


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