Race - Webber makes it six winners from six races 27 May 2012
Red Bulls Mark Webber held his nerve throughout a nail-biting denouement to the Monaco Grand Prix, forging another little bit of motor racing history as for the first time ever a sixth different driver won the sixth race of the season.
But Mercedes Nico Rosberg, Ferraris Fernando Alonso and Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel were all nose to tail in his wheeltracks, covered by a 1.3s blanket after a desperate chase in which none of them could ever relax.
Webber took the lead at the start and held it from Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, but the McLaren driver lost third to Alonso during their sole pit stops. Vettel, meanwhile, had started on soft tyres in contrast to the super-softs on which the rest of the top 10 were obliged to start, since he hadnt set a time in Q3. Thus he ran a much longer first stint and was able to take the lead as Webber, Rosberg, Alonso and Hamilton made their stops.
The race then became a fight of Red Bull team mate against team mate as Vettel and Webber traded lap times. Vettel held on until the 46th lap, hoping that the forecast for heavy rain would come true so that he would then have been in the pound seats as he nursed a lead of around 17s.
But the rain held off and eventually Vettel had to come in for his set of super-softs. The stop dropped him to fourth, but crucially he got out fractions ahead of Hamilton, who had Ferraris Felipe Massa on his case throughout the race. At times in the closing stages the top six were within 3.1s of one another, but in the final couple of laps Hamilton and Massa faded.
It was tense stuff as the gaps opened and closed like a concertina around the tight little track, and very light rain for a short while at Mirabeau added to the challenge. It was driving of the highest calibre as none of them made any mistakes, and in the end Webber held on to win by 0.6s with Rosberg another 0.3s ahead of Alonso, who was another 0.6s back. It was fabulous stuff.
And it didnt end there as the nature of the track boxed people in and prevented much overtaking, as a beautifully-judged drive by Paul di Resta kept him ahead of Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg by just a second, with Lotuss Kimi Raikkonen only 1.4s further back. The Finn had a disappointing race for Lotus, and was hounded throughout by Bruno Senna who finished only 0.4s adrift to take the final point for Williams.
In the end, after a dramatic race of his own from the back of the grid, Saubers Sergio Perez grabbed 11th after Jean-Eric Vergne, an early pit stopper, was obliged to come in late for fresh rubber and thus lost the seventh he had earlier stolen from a struggling Michael Schumacher. Toro Rosso put their man on intermediate tyres just in case the rain came, but the gamble failed. It arrived 10 minutes after the chequered flag had fallen.
The Frenchman thus finished 12th, while Heikki Kovalainen gave Caterham a major boost with 13th place. The Finn had been in tough form all afternoon, holding off an off-form Jenson Button until the Briton spun his McLaren late in the race exiting the Swimming Pool and then soon retired. Kovalainen and Perez are under investigation for an incident in which the Finn kept the Mexican out wide in Ste Devote, obliging him to go into the escape road, but later Perez overtook him by cutting the chicane in a tit-for-tat move.
Behind them, Timo Glock was Marussias sole finisher in a race of high attrition, ahead of HRTs Narain Karthikeyan.
Schumacher had a brush with Romain Grosjean at the start which spun the fancied Frenchmans Lotus into immediate retirement, while further back Pastor Maldonado went from hero to zero by damaging his Williams front wing in the traffic and also quitting. Schumacher and Grosjean are under investigation for their incident.
Pedro de la Rosas HRT stopped, as did Kamui Kobayashis Sauber, then Caterhams Vitaly Petrov, who set a brief fastest lap after an early tyre stop, ended his day in the pits with electrical trouble. Schumacher lost seventh to Vergne late in the race, then stopped with tyre problems. Charles Pics Marussia failed him, and Toro Rossos Daniel Ricciardo also failed to go the distance.
A hugely exciting race leaves Alonso at the head of the world championship chase with 76 points, ahead of the Red Bull drivers on 73 apiece, Hamilton hangs on in fourth with 63, Rosberg comes up to fifth with 59, then Raikkonen is sixth on 51 and an unhappy Button drops to seventh on 45.
In the constructors stakes, Red Bull lead with 146 to McLarens 108, but Ferrari draw level with Lotus on 86 apiece, from Mercedes on 61 ahead of Williams on 44 and Sauber on 41.
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