Mark Webber has qualified on pole position three times in the 2011 Formula One season, but so far he has yet to win a race. This is a rather shocking record in F1, where pole position has been vital to race victories.
Interestingly, Webber has been consistently finishing third. The only other occasion where he did not finish third was Australian Grand Prix (fifth) and Turkish Grand Prix (second). What is more shocking is that he always gets overtaken at or by turn one!
The German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was the most recent race where Webber started the race on pole position but finished third.
So what happened to Webber in Germany? And was there a chance to still win the race after losing the lead to Hamilton in turn one, lap one?
Webber was right behind Hamilton in the entire first stint of the race, which clearly showed he could potentially be faster than Hamilton if he had clear air.
Webber successfully undercut Hamilton in the first pitstop and regained the lead. It looked like Webber could take off into distance from there, but unfortunately it was not the case.
One of the most important contributing factors to Webber’s third place finish at the German Grand Prix was the track temperature.
The track temperature remained low throughout the weekend, and there was not much improvement during the race – it was about 18 degrees.
This meant the track’s grip level did not improve and this was the reason for Webber’s lack of pace in the second half of the race.
Interestingly, the last time the grip level on the track failed to improve as the race went on was Chinese Grand Prix.
It was where Hamilton won his previous race.
By contrast, European Grand Prix in Valencia had one of the highest track temperatures. That was when McLaren struggled with their pace during the race.
Webber’s second shot to win the race came on Hamilton’s second pitstop out lap. Hamilton came out of the pit just in front of Webber. Webber’s tyres were up to temperature and it was the perfect opportunity to get ahead of Hamilton. Unfortunately Webber’s attempt was denied by Hamilton in turn two.
As the race was approaching the end, Webber’s inability to keep up with Alonso and Hamilton’s pace meant the window of opportunity for race win was closing rapidly.
Webber’s final shot came at the final pitstop, where he tried to use the differences on the tyres to overtake Alonso in the pitstop. It was a long shot but it was worth the try.
Being way ahead of the fourth placed Massa, Webber was able to take the gamble by staying out on the soft tyres longer than Hamilton and Alonso, who had moved onto the medium tyres – which was said to be about 1.5 second slower than the soft tyres.
After all, if Webber had pitted the same lap as Alonso for the medium tyres, there was no way he could have overtaken Alonso.
Although Webber was still setting fastest sector times in the soft tyres with around ten laps to go, the old soft tyres were not fast enough to catch up to Alonso and Hamilton’s brand new medium tyres.
Looking back at the race, after losing the lead in turn one, Webber still had a few opportunities to win the race, but certainly none of them were as good as maintaining the lead after turn one.