Monday, November 29, 1999

Webber wins in Monaco to lead F1 championship

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Mark Webber swept to victory in the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday in a Red Bull one-two that catapulted the Australian to the top of the Formula One leaderboard.The first Australian winner in the Mediterranean principality since triple world champion Jack Brabham in 1959, Webber led from pole to finish for his second victory in a row and fourth of his career."Absolutely incredible, for sure this is the greatest day of my life today," Webber told reporters.The last Australian to lead the world championship was Alan Jones in 1981.In a race punctuated by crashes and four safety car periods, including the last three laps, Germany's Sebastian Vettel anchored Red Bull's second one-two in six races with Poland's Robert Kubica third for Renault.Vettel crossed the line just 0.4 seconds behind the triumphant Webber, with the field queuing up behind the safety car to the final corner as the Red Bull mechanics leant over the pitwall to clap them home.World champion Jenson Button, who won in Monaco last year and had led the standings before the showcase race of the season, retired on the third lap with smoke coming out of his McLaren's engine.Webber took over at the top with 78 points, the same number as Vettel who has just one win this year, with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso third with 73 after roaring from last to seventh in the race.Button, who has also won twice this year, slipped to fourth place with 70 points."We left a bung in on the left-hand side of the car that obviously you're meant to take out on the way to the grid. That's cooked the engine," the Briton told BBC television."It got very hot under the bonnet and I had to turn it off. I didn't want to leave oil on the race line. It would have been fine if we didn't have the safety car. That was what ended it," explained the 30-year-old.ALONSO THRILLSFerrari's Felipe Massa finished fourth with Britain's Lewis Hamilton fifth for McLaren after questioning his team's advice to save the brakes."We're only halfway through the race. What the hell? Do you want me to race these guys or look after the car?," the former Monaco winner and 2008 world champion asked angrily over the team radio.While Webber had clear air and never looked troubled, Alonso provided plenty of thrills as he carved his way back through the field from last place at the first corner.The Spaniard, a double winner in Monaco with Renault and McLaren, had started from the pit lane after wrecking his car in Saturday's final practice.He pitted at the end of the first lap for fresh tyres as the safety car was deployed while marshals dealt with debris left scattered across the track after Nico Hulkenberg crashed his Williams in the tunnel.Alonso then scythed repeatedly past the slow backmarkers as they exited the tunnel and moved further up as rivals then made their pitstops, before losing sixth place at the last corner to seven times champion Michael Schumacher.That incident was being investigated by stewards, one of whom was Schumacher's old rival and former world champion Damon Hill.The safety car was again in action after lap 31 when Brazilian Rubens Barrichello spun and ended up facing the wrong way on the uphill approach to Casino Square and 12 laps later when a loose drain cover was reported.Barrichello, clearly unhappy, tossed his steering wheel out of the Williams cockpit and into the path of a passing car, that ran over it.Schumacher, who might have dreamed of taking a record equalling sixth Monaco win in his comeback season with Mercedes at the age of 41, again beat team mate Nico Rosberg who was eighth.Germany's Adrian Sutil was ninth for Force India with Italian team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi collecting the final point.Only 12 of the 24 cars were still running at the finish, with the safety car again deployed on the 75th of the 78 laps when Italian Jarno Trulli and Indian Karun Chandhok collided at the tight and slow Rascasse corner.Lotus driver Trulli tried to go past the HRT on the inside and then rode up over it.(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Alison WildeyTo query or comment on this story email
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