F1: Home hopes sink in the mud as Mark Webber wins British Grand Prix

MARK Webber, who lives just 27 miles from Silverstone, was the man left taking the acclaim of a sell-out British Grand Prix crowd on a day when hope for the home heroes sank in the mud.

Australian Webber has long resided in Buckinghamshire, deciding to stay close to Red Bull’s factory base in Milton Keynes. In contrast, British trio Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta all reside in Monaco but, appreciably, the overwhelming support among the 125,500 fans was for the Brits, with grandstands adorned with flags and banners, and McLaren’s rocket red caps strongly in evidence.

Although Hamilton led for a while, there was little for the fans to cheer, with Di Resta retiring after two laps, while the McLaren duo finished eighth and 10th. So if there was going to be a popular winner then Webber was it, and on lap 48 he made the most important move of the 52-lap race by passing Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso for the lead he converted into the ninth victory of his career.

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On top of the podium, and with thousands of fans having made their way on to the circuit to watch the celebrations – with Sebastian Vettel third – Webber was about as happy as could be. “This is a very, very special victory for the team, just down the road, a local team, so thanks to all the guys,” said Webber. “It’s incredible for them, so I’m very proud today. It has been incredible. They have had to put up with some horrendous weather, but we’ve had a beautiful dry British Grand Prix.”

That remark drew loud cheers, and rightly so given that rain had caused chaos the previous few days, turning grassed car parks into quagmires, and with horrendous traffic jams. Remarkably, there were blue skies and sunshine at times during the race, although the weather played one last cruel hand with a 20-minute downpour about 90 minutes after the race just as the fans would have been attempting to escape the circuit.

Webber now trails Alonso by 13 points, and with two wins to his name – the same as the Spaniard – he has proven he is firmly in the world title fight.

The 35-year-old added: “We will enjoy this result, really soak it up. That’s what’s important.

“You have to remember how hard we work for these results.”

Alonso has consistency on his side as he remains the only man to finish every race in the points this season. “I’m still leading, which is the main target for us, obviously,” said Alonso. “I lost seven points to Mark, but we gained some extra points on the rest of the field”

Vettel has fallen 29 points adrift, with Hamilton 37 down, while Button is adrift, 79 off the pace, after picking up seven in the past six races. Hamilton feared unless McLaren picked up the pace soon his title hopes will be crushed as he said: “We are still in the fight. “But unless we find something it’s going to be hard to stay in that fight.

Button at least clambered into the points after starting 16th, thanks mainly to a mistake made by Force India’s 
Nico Hulkenberg on the penultimate lap.

But on a woeful day for McLaren they have now dropped to fourth in the constructors’ championship.

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They lie behind Ferrari, for whom Felipe Massa was fourth for his best result since October 2010, and Lotus, whose Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were fifth and sixth.