Along with Lewis Hamilton’s drive to victory Mark Webber’s superb charge through the field from 18th was the highlight of the Chinese Grand Prix. After a disastrous qualifying session and an awful first stint this race looked like a total bust for the Aussie. Starting on the prime tyres, Webber made almost no ground in the opening laps, making a few places up in the early running but then slipping back behind the likes of Perez and Barrichello. His car was well off the pace of team-mate Vettel, and even making it up to the points-paying positions was looking doubtful.
But he began to make up ground as he switched to the softer tyre, clawing his way in to the top ten as the race reached middle distance. The comeback was on. Webber is a fierce competitor, and a man who seems to perform best when faced with adversity. With everything seeming to fall against him he was starting to display extreme pace as the race progressed.
And in the final phase of the grand prix he was quite simply mega. With newer tyres than his rivals he carved through the field with mesmerizing ease, a pass on Michael Schumacher on lap 49 really signaling the beginning of his charge. From there he dispatched Alonso and Massa before passing Rosberg for fourth on lap 54 of 56. Then, on the penultimate lap of the race he passed Jenson Button for the final podium spot, completing a remarkable comeback. Given another lap or so he’d have passed him team-mate too. Oh, and he didn’t have KERS to help him through any of this.
“To still see P17 on board after 15 laps [was hard],” Webber said afterwards, “[but] then I felt comfortable with car, and I had a few sets of tyres left after qualifying – so maybe the best bet is not to take part in qualifying and go from there!”
Webber then made something of a faux pas in the post-race press conference, seeming on the verge of saying he was pleased his team-mate hadn’t won. “It was good that someone finally…” said Webber, before checking himself and backtracking with “of course Seb is in the same team, but he’s been on a phenomenal run and we’re all here together fighting for victories.” We fully understand why Mark’s pleased Seb didn’t win, but Christian Horner may not see things the same way.
Not that he’ll be too worried about that right now. Today, Webber deserves to revel in what was a great performance, and plot a course of action that will see him beat his team-mate next time. After all, no one can then complain if he says he’s glad someone beat Seb.