F1: Webber finally books place at F1 top table
Schumacher demoted to 12th after incident with Alonso
FROM house of ill-repute to the House of Grimaldi. Mark Webber's graduation from racing rank-and-file to genuine Formula One force was emphatically completed last night as he dined with Albert II at the Prince's Palace overlooking the famous circuit where two hours earlier he had joined his name to those of Juan Manuel Fangio, Ayrton Senna and his own countryman, Jack Brabham, in winning the Monaco Grand Prix.
Afterwards Webber recalled how he had had to share a room with his partner Anne, his father Alan, and a few others above an old brothel when he won here in Formula 3000 nine years ago. The Aussie from Queanbeyan in New South Wales hadn't been able to sleep all night, he told us, because his "old man can really cut some wood; he can snore like hell."
Webber then joined what seemed like the entire Red Bull team in the pool on their floating paddock home before leaping, still fully-clothed, into Monaco's harbour.
To judge from the effluence deposited there during the previous four nights of yacht-going revelry that might have been his first wrong move of the day.
Then again, he did manage to pick up a €2,200 fine for speeding in the pit-lane before the race had even started. Webber really was on fire from the word go this weekend.
The Australian's victory was the highlight of an absorbing Monaco Grand Prix that saw three safety cars, some spectacular crashes and more than its fair share of controversy.
Jenson Button's championship hopes were dented by an engine burnout after just three laps -- the result of one McLaren mechanic's failure to remove a cooling cover before sending the Englishman out to the grid -- while Michael Schumacher was demoted from sixth to 12th following a lengthy stewards' inquiry into the final lap incident that saw him overtake Fernando Alonso's Ferrari.
The presence of Damon Hill, Schumacher's old adversary, on the stewards' panel gave the episode a delicious twist. Perhaps that is why Mercedes are appealing the decision.
The day had begun in far less breathless fashion. The sun shone, the yachts bobbed and the celebrities flashed their pearly white teeth. Mick Jagger commanded the most attention, but he was in good company alongside actor Michael Douglas, rappers Dr Dre and Pharrell Williams, and Monte Carlo regular Naomi Campbell.
Webber's victory was never in much doubt from the moment he reached Sainte Devote in the lead.
Monaco's sinewy street circuit offers famously little in the way of overtaking opportunities and Sebastian Vettel's dive up the inside of Renault's Robert Kubica to claim second place proved decisive.
The other thing Monaco is famous for is safety cars and we had one before the first lap was out; Nico Hulkenberg's Williams slamming into the left-hand wall of the tunnel.
That gave Alonso, who had started from the pit-lane following his crash on Saturday, the chance to make his one compulsory stop and catch back up with the field.
The Spaniard not only overtook a fair number of backmarkers -- no mean feat even with a much quicker car -- he also made his new tyres last the next 77 laps to claim a potentially valuable sixth place following Schumacher's demotion.
Two other safety cars, one for a high-speed crash by Williams' second driver Rubens Barrichello and the other for a spectacularly ill-judged move by Lotus' Jarno Trulli that saw him almost decapitate Hispania Racing's Karun Chandhok, were the fillers in the otherwise standard procession. And that was it.
Button, who had had a couple of hours to calm down, said he felt sorry for the mechanic who forgot to remove the aforementioned "bung."
His team principal Martin Whitmarsh added that the person culpable was "devastated" and gave no suggestion that heads would roll.
The day, though, belonged to Webber. "The greatest of my life," he agreed before dashing off for his date with the prince. "It's not a back-to-back race and I think the ash cloud will cause a lot of people to stay here as well.
"I'm predicting some very bad headaches in the morning."
The first Australian since Brabham in 1959 to win the Monaco Grand Prix, and now level with Vettel at the top of the championship.
No longer the dark horse, Webber must now be considered a serious contender for the world crown. (© Telegraph, London)