Monday, November 29, 1999

Webber wins in Monaco to take F1 lead

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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," the champagne-soaked Webber told reporters before plunging into the harbour.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 his triumphant team mate, 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 75.SCHUMACHER PUNISHEDThe Spaniard was embroiled in a last corner controversy, with Michael Schumacher squeezing past to take sixth place for Mercedes only metres from the scene of one his most infamous manoeuvres in 2006.The stewards, who included the German's old rival Damon Hill, handed the 41-year-old a 20-second penalty that demoted Schumacher to 12th place and lifted Alonso back to sixth. Mercedes were appealing the decision.Button, who has also won twice this year, slipped to fourth place with 70 points and blamed a team error."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.Ferrari'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 said 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 dealt with a succession of slow backmarkers and moved further up as rivals made their pitstops.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 tossed his expensive steering wheel out of the Williams cockpit and into the path of Indian Karun Chandhok, whose HRT collected it before then depositing it in the tunnel where team mate Bruno Senna ran over it again.Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg moved up to seventh after Schumacher's penalty, pending the appeal, with fellow-German Adrian Sutil eighth for Force India and Italian team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi ninth.Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi collected the final point for Toro Rosso.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 Chandhok collided at the tight and slow Rascasse corner.(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Alison Wildey/Kevin Fylan; To query or comment on this story email
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