Webber looks more like the real deal
Tue, 18 May 2010
MONACO — Mark Webber woke up as Formula One leader yesterday with the world recognising the Australian's title credentials after he won the showcase Monaco Grand Prix. Any grand prix victory is an achievement in itself, winning two in a row, in the space of eight days and at such radically different circuits as Barcelona and Monte Carlo, is even more significant. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, standing in soaking clothes after being thrown in a harbourside swimming pool by his celebrating employees, told Webber's partner Ann Neal that he wanted whatever she was feeding the 33-year-old for breakfast.
"His confidence is very high, he's driving extremely well and he's very relaxed," the Briton said. "His performances in Barcelona and Monaco have been exemplary." Webber, the archetypal plain-talking Aussie, has always been a popular figure in the closely-knit travelling circus that is Formula One while also considered less of a contender than team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The German, 10 years younger than Webber, arrived in the Austrian-owned team and a reputation as champion-in-waiting.
It is not entirely inconceivable that Webber, something of a journeyman in the estimation of some, could make Vettel wait a bit longer. He is certainly a title contender now. "What you are seeing is real," said his previous team boss Frank Williams. "I can honestly say I'm delighted. He's worked very hard and he's as straight as they come. Sunday's win was Webber's fourth in Formula One, all with Red Bull in the last two seasons and catapulted the Australian into the championship lead after six of the 19 races, ahead of Vettel on race wins but level on points.
He was the first Australian to win in Monaco since Jack Brabham in 1959, his country's first overall leader since Alan Jones in 1981. Both former champions have predicted great things for Webber but it is only since his breakthrough win at the Nuerburgring last July that he has really begun to deliver. "He was always very quick and he was always very committed," Williams co-owner Patrick Head said. Head, who has worked with some great champions, agreed that Webber could maintain a title challenge.
Webber started last season still feeling the effects of a broken leg and reported for duty this year with a contract up for renewal and media reports suggesting departed Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen could be lined up to replace him. Since then he has started three races on pole and has helped Red Bull to two one-two finishes, including Monaco. "I think Mark is a great driver, he's clearly got his act together and head in gear," McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, the 2008 world champion, said.
McLaren's world champion Jenson Button was happy to congratulate him. "I know how it feels to win here, it's a very special feeling and he's obviously a very talented driver as everyone is at the front," he said. — Reuters
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