Mark Webber won his second F3000 race of the year in Monaco this afternoon, completing a clean sweep of pole position, race win and fastest lap around the Principality.

The Australian made the best start when the lights went out, and proceeded to repeat the feat after both the safety car periods that blighted the 45-lap event. In each case, championship leader Justin Wilson had nothing in reserve to keep with the Super Nova driver, and had to settle for second place and six vital points.

The story may have been different for Wilson had he not made it through the first corner. Although the entire field made it off the line unscathed, the inevitable bunching at Ste Devote caught third place starter Darren Manning off guard, and the Arden International driver ran into the back of Wilson's Nordic car with sufficient force to run it sideways. Remarkably, in addition to Wilson's car control getting him through the corner ahead of Manning - and still in second place - it was the latter who came off worst, losing his front wing under the rear of the Nordic entry, and slowly slipping down the order.

Manning's only saving grace was the annual traffic jam approaching the Grand Hotel hairpin. With Jaime Melo and Gabriele Varano both getting the corner wrong, and the rest of the tailenders piling up behind them, the safety car was called into action for the first time. This allowed Manning, now running at the bottom of the top ten, and several others caught up in the hairpin incident, to pit for repairs, before rejoining at the tail of the field.

It also erased Webber's early lead, for the Australian had made the most of the Wilson/Manning incident to open out almost a second over his pursuers.

He wasted little time in restoring the advantage as soon as the safety car withdrew at the end of lap four, pulling away from Wilson with a string of fastest laps over the next few tours. The Briton, in turn, eked out a gap over the two Frenchmen in his wake, with returnee Stephane Sarrazin doing his utmost to contain Sebastien Bourdais' DAMS car as the rest of the lead group bunched up behind.

With Varano, Andrea Piccini and Derek Hill all sidelined by the first lap scuffle at Grand Hotel, and several others in the pits for repairs, the order was not as may have been expected at somewhere difficult to overtake like Monaco. Even Gabriele Lancieri, who stalled on the dummy grid and had to start from the very back, was quickly up to 13th, and running with the likes of Antonio Pizzonia and the recovering Manning.

The Italian soon disappeared, however, joining David Saelens on the retirement list when he was crudely assaulted by Giorgio Pantano at the hairpin. The Astromega driver continued to highlight how tough the graduation to F3000 can be with another hit-and-miss performance and, sadly for Lancieri, it was more of the former as the Pantano recovered from being used as a brake in the Saelens retirement.

With Webber easing away from Wilson, Wilson doing likewise from both Sarrazin and Bourdais, and the French pairing leaving Ricardo Sperafico in the distance, the race distilled down to a series of two and three-car battles.

At the tail-end of the top six, Red Bull Jr team-mates Patrick Friesacher and Ricardo Mauricio swapped places under the watchful gaze of Tomas Enge, after the Brazilian had made the better getaway and led for the opening few laps. Sadly for Friesacher, his inexperience got the better of him again for, having made the break and pulled away from Mauricio and Enge, he overcooked it at Ste Devote and ran up the escape road. This cost him several positions, and left him in the middle of the group squabbling over a place in the top twelve.

While Mauricio and Enge continued to dog each other for the remainder of the race, behind them Mario Haberfeld and Bas Leinders were doing exactly the same. In this battle, the Belgian looked marginally the faster, and was able to recover to the tail of his rival each time his attempts to pass were rebuffed and caused him to drop away. Unfortunately, towards the end of the race, his recovery literally took him onto Haberfeld's tail - over it and into the Rascasse barriers.

Haberfeld continued on this occasion, only to collect the recovering Friesacher as the Austrian drew alongside entering Grand with three laps to run. Both were out on the spot.

Haberfeld's two incidents sandwiched that which brought out the second safety car, when Antonio Pizzonia lost it coming through Tabac and collected the barriers. Caught unawares for the second time, Manning also spun further along the road, clanging the Armco at the Swimming Pool. Both drivers were eliminated and, with debris across the road, prompted the organisers to bunch the field up once again.

Webber's nerve held for a third time when the Mercedes pace car pulled off, and calmly restored his erstwhile four-second gap over Wilson and the rest. As if to emphasise the strength of his package, the Australian also banged in a handful of fastest laps while those chasing him began to show signs of tyre wear as they slid through Massanet and Casino.

Late incidents for Joel Camathias, Pantano and Morelli, who all crashed out at Rascasse on separate occasions, were dealt with under yellow flags, allowing Webber to take the flag comfortably ahead of Wilson. The eight-tenths margin between them reflected the advantage the Super Nova driver had in hand, backing off on the final lap to savour an historic Monaco win.

Sarrazin took full advantage of Bourdais' tardiness in reacting to the second restart to cement a podium appearance on his return to the category, while Sperafico maintained his vigil despite running solo for much of the afternoon to open his F3000 account.

The ten points for winning doubled Webber's championship tally, adding to his similar - and only previous 2001 - score at Imola, and closed Wilson's series lead to eleven points. With Enge failing to overcome Mauricio for sixth, the Australian has moved back into second spot overall.

With his bad luck now hopefully behind him, Webber can set out to answer those who rubbished him earlier in the year. Winning at Monaco is no easy feat and, when it mattered, the Australian proved there were no flies on him.

Comments

Loading Comments...