Williams men delighted with double podium
By the teams own admission, Williams suffered a relatively disappointing start to the 2005 season, battling with poor pace and mechanical misfortune during the first races of the year.
But with a very strong performance in Monaco the Grove-based team finds their fourth position in the constructors championship looking far more secure, after Nick Heidfeld and Mark Webber came home in second and third places respectively.
Once again, Webbers strong qualifying performance was obvious - and he managed to put his FW27 in third on the grid, with Heidfeld a further three spots behind in sixth . Again, though, the team suffered from disappointing starting performance, Webber dropping back down to fifth by the first corner after his car seemed to bog down on the line.
Both cars made their first stops after the safety car was deployed following Christijan Alberss spin at Mirabeau - and then pretty much faded into the background in what seemed to be a race between McLaren and Renault. But as it became apparent in the closing stages of the race that Alonsos Renault was fading fast with what seemed to be a serious lack of grip on worn rubber the strength of the teams position became apparent.
Heidfeld had passed Webber during the second round of pitstops - meaning that he was the first to find himself looking at the rear wing of the Spaniards Renault. After running close together for several laps Heidfeld saw - and took - his chance, running out of the tunnel towards the chicane, managing to pass Alonso with a firm, clean move.
The following lap it was Webbers turn to try - although the Australians frustration was clear with the very aggressive way he tried to chop in front of Alonso heading into the chicane, forcing the Spaniard across it (and putting two wheels over the kerb himself) - with Alonso emerging in front again. But with the Renaults lack of grip it was almost inevitable that Webber would prevail - which he eventually did the following lap after another messy move at the chicane.
Both Williams drivers scored their highest ever finishes. Heidfelds second place was not his first visit to the podium this year, he finished third in Malaysia and (while driving for Sauber) he also took a third place in Brazil in 2001.
Webbers third place was actually his first visit to the podium - despite his often impressive qualifying performance, this was the Aussies highest ever finish by a comfortable margin. Before now his best results were two fifth places in Australia, one this year for Williams and one for Minardi in 2002, the result that brought recognition to his talent for the first time.
With 35 points in the constructors championship, Williams are now 14 points clear of Ferrari, and eight points behind Toyota. The strong performance in Monaco will certainly have raised expectations for the rest of the season.