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GP Week : Issue 189
Mark Webber bid farewell to his european grand prix career in style by ticking off a previously elusive aspiration – a podium at Monza. The 37-year-old Australian had endured a miserable streak in the high plains of Lombardy throughout his F1 career by either finishing outside the top five or ending his race in retirement, but sought to rectify his record in the best possible way by qualifying on the front row on Saturday – just two-tenths behind teammate Sebastian Vettel. A good start from Webber saw him get the initial jump on Vettel, but the Australian lost ground during the second phase on the run to the first chicane, only to be passed by the consistently fast-starting Felipe Massa. Old demons appeared to reassert themselves as Fernando Alonso desperately poked the nose of his F138 down the inside at Variante della Roggia. Webber yielded – just – as the old sparing partners managed to squeeze both cars where only one usually manages to survive. The bout was another reminder of what we’ll miss seeing between these two drivers when Webber eventually turns his attention to the WEC. A slow middle sector from Webber prevented a serious attack on Massa, who had by that point allowed Alonso past, but a quick pit stop allowed him to clear the Brazilian in a move that was reminiscent of the 2009/10 era. Now on the hard compound, Webber was able to reel in Alonso in the hope of securing second in his final European grand prix. But it was not to be, thanks to a gearbox concern that limited him to short-shifting between second and third. The first few blue bars of Webber’s cockpit dash clearly showed his intention to push for a pass on Alonso, but bringing home a podium finish at one of the ‘traditional’ circuits was too great an opportunity to sacrifice for a man so enamoured with the history of the sport. “It’s a great place here and it’s very special to finish on the podium,” Webber said. “It’s not the circuit where I’ve had the best results in the past, so it’s a bit of a personal best for me in qualifying and the race. I felt better on the soft tyres today; I had a good battle with Fernando, fair play to him on that and then after wards I settled in to getting my head down and getting on with the race. We had to nurse the gearbox a bit at the end, but overall it was a good result.” Amidst the hoots and jeers for the cars without a scarlet splash, a special cheer was reserved for Webber as he made his Italian exit. Sometimes you just can’t sheathe those moments in silver ware alone. Webber's European valediction 29 GPWEEK.com // 29 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> ITALY