It was a day of great highs and lows today as Sebastian Vettel recorded his seventh grand prix victory in Valencia while his Australian team-mate spectacularly crashed out just eight laps into the race.
There will be two images from the European Grand Prix which stick in the collective Red Bull mind: Sebastian’s second win of 2010 and Mark Webber’s car flying through the air after crashing into the back of Lotus’ Heikki Kovalainen. The headline writers are going to have a field day. Red Bull does indeed give its athletes wings.
But as Christian Horner said afterwards: “The most important thing today is that Mark Webber is safe and OK. After a very nasty accident, he’s fine.” Indeed the victory celebrations will be tempered by the memory of the heart-stopping moment when Mark’s RB6 flew upwards, landed upside down and bounced back upright before hurtling towards the tyre barrier. Luckily and miraculously Webber got out without any major injury.
Sebastian’s fiercest opponent this afternoon was Lewis Hamilton. His Mclaren had sped up the inside of Mark off the grid with Alonso right behind him and then pushed Seb out wide, touching his RB6. But Seb managed to pull away and his only other threat was, coincidently, when the Safety Car came out after Mark’s crash diminishing his lead.
But Vettel was simply pleased to be back on the top of the podium. And pleased that his team-mate was not hurt. “It’s good to be back winning and on a circuit where we didn’t expect to be that strong,” he said afterwards. “But we were quick enough at all times to pull away, find the gap and guide the car home, but it wasn’t as easy as expected. Most important of all is that Mark had quite a big shunt but he’s fine - it shows that the cars get safer but still there is a lot of risk so it’s good he’s OK.”
Webber had had a tough race even before the crash. He had seen both Hamilton and Alonso take him off the line and had dropped to ninth by the end of the first lap. Deciding to take an early pit stop, he emerged behind Kovalainen’s Lotus, who was taking more precautious approach to cornering: “I was going a lot faster than Heikki and then a long, long way before the braking point he braked - about 80m before - and at that point I’m a passenger,” said Mark. “The car, thank God, was very safe. It was my Monte Carlo and Barcelona winning chassis and one which has secured a lot of pole positions, so the chassis has been good to me, and it has been good to me today as it saved me from some injures.”
Elsewhere Lewis Hamilton caught himself a drive-through penalty for over-taking the Safety Car, Kobayashi waited until lap 53 (of a 57 lap race) to pit from third place, and nine drivers were given a five-second penalty for breaching the Safety Car rules. This was no dull street procession.
Sebastian had even more reason to smile after the post-race press conference as he was desperate to know how Germany were getting on against England in the World Cup quarter-finals. He was not disappointed …
And congratulations to our chief mechanic Kenny Handklammer (he was the guy on the podium with Mark in Barcelona) as this win was his 50th career race victory. Nice work, Kenny, may there be many, many more.
The last word however goes to Mark Webber. If ever you wanted the definition of Aussie grit, you just had to hear his reaction to the crash: “I remain incredibly positive, we go on,” he said. “It’s half way through the Championship. Bloody hell, let’s get on with it.”