It has been 28 years since they played "Advance Australia Fair" after a grand prix, and at one stage yesterday it seemed that yet again they would end up playing somebody else's national anthem. But Mark Webber had other ideas – 130 races into his career, he finally delivered in style.
Webber can come across as a bit too serious in press conferences, but the broad smile mingled with relief yesterday when his anthem was over. "The thing that really matters to me is that it wasn't handed to me," he said. "I had to fight for it."
He did indeed. These things matter to a proud racer, and Webber's triumph did not come by default.
At the start he ran side by side to the first corner with Rubens Barrichello, and at one stage they touched. Then he caught the right rear tyre on Lewis Hamilton's fast-starting McLaren, pushing the world champion wide and condemning him to an early pit stop to replace a punctured tyre and a last-place finish.
It took the stewards nine laps to deliberate on the Barrichello incident. Then they handed Webber a drive-through penalty. Once again, it seemed his chance of winning had been snatched away.
If there was anything that might have smacked of luck, it was that Hamilton, his team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and Ferrari's Felipe Massa had all burst through to high places after using their Kers energy storage systems. Thus, as Webber gave initial chase to the fleet Barrichello, Kovalainen held up Massa, Button, who had to fight like mad to regain places on the opening lap, and his own Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel. By the time Barrichello was ready for his first of three refuelling stops on lap 14, Webber was able to follow him in for his penalty and still keep the lead.
"I knew my start was not absolutely fantastic," he admitted. "I thought the penalty was a little bit harsh, but maybe they wanted to spice things up a bit. That sort of thing is definitely not my style, but I lost [sight of] Rubens for a while. The way the mirrors are set up for aerodynamic purposes, it's difficult to see and when we touched I shit myself! So when they told me, I had a fair idea what it was for. I couldn't believe it was for touching one of the McLarens. Then I came pretty close to speeding in the pit lane too because I was quite frustrated... Fortunately, my engineer kept me calm."
When Webber made his second stop, five laps later, he dropped momentarily down to eighth, but was back in the lead by lap 33 when all of the main first pit stops had been made, and he controlled things easily from there. "I was thinking to myself, 'Now I know how Seb felt at Silverstone, being able to control a grand prix'. It's very tough to overtake because these cars are so even. You need free air, and good qualifying, and that's where we got the job done this weekend."
Barrichello lost time in his second stop with a refuelling rig problem, and later, like Button, struggled to warm his tyres. Both were on three-stop strategies and, though they were second and third with 10 laps left, their final pit calls dropped them behind Vettel and Massa. The elder Brazilian was not amused by his team's thinking in switching from two to three stops.
"I'm terribly upset with the way things have gone today," he told BBC TV, "because it was a very good show of how to lose a race. I did everything I had to do. I had to go first into the first corner, and that's what I did. Then they made me lose the race, basically. If we keep going on like this, then we'll end up losing both championships, and that would be terrible."
Barrichello said he would probably have finished fourth had his pit crew not been forced to switch to his reserve fuel rig at that second stop. "To be honest, I wish I could just get on a plane and go home now," he continued. "I don't want to talk to anyone in the team, because it would be a lot of blah, blah, blah... And I don't want to hear that."
While Button retained his championship lead, albeit down to 21 points with eight races remaining, Barrichello dropped to fourth place in the rankings behind Vettel and Webber.
The German, winner of the Chinese and British races season, was the first to congratulate his team-mate. "Mark was unbeatable and totally deserved to win," he said. "I had quite a bad start, all the Kers cars around me, so it was quite difficult starting fourth and going into the first corner eighth. Then I struggled on the soft tyre in the first stint. There was no way then to pass Massa, who always used his special button when I was quite close. But our strategy brought us back to second. I'd be lying to you if I said I'm pleased with that, but Mark did a better job yesterday and he deserved to win today."
It was a sentiment echoed all through the paddock, as Webber became the first Aussie to win a grand prix since former champion Alan Jones triumphed for Williams in Las Vegas back in 1981.
"This is very important for me," Webber said. "Not many Australians get to Formula One, and very few have been successful. Now I'm able to say I've won a grand prix fair and square. That's a real message to the Australian people. We're a proud sporting nation, and we've done well on two wheels with Mick [Doohan] and now Casey [Stoner], and I'm very proud to represent my country as best I can."
On the slowing down lap, as he whooped and hollered, his race engineer told him: "Mark Webber, you are a grand prix winner. Well done! Brilliant drive!"
Those words said it all.
German Grand Prix: Results and standings
*Finishing places at the Nürburgring
1 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1hr 36min 43.310sec
2 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:36:52.562
3 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 1:36:59.216
4 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams 1:37:04.409
5 J Button (GB) Brawn GP 1:37:06.919
6 R Barrichello (Br) Brawn GP 1:37:07.798
7 F Alonso (Sp) Renault 1:37:08.166
8 H Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:37:41.402
9 T Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:37:44.710
10 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:37:45.210
11 G Fisichella (It) Force India 1:37:45.637
12 K Nakajima (Japan) Williams 1:37:46.187
13 N Piquet Jr (Br) Renault 1:37:51.638
14 R Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:37:52.865
15 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:37:55.210
16 S Buemi (Swit) Toro Rosso 1:38:13.510
17 J Trulli (It) Toyota 1:38:14.210
18 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren at 1 lap
19 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 34 laps completed; 20 S Bourdais (Fr) Scuderia Toro Rosso 18 laps completed.
1 Button 68pts
2 Vettel 47
3 Webber 45.5
4 Barrichello 44
5 Massa 22
6 Trulli 21.5
7 Rosberg 20.5
8 Glock 13
9 Alonso 13
10 Raikkonen 10
11 Hamilton 9; 12 Heidfeld 6; 13 Kovalainen 5; 14 Buemi 3; 15 Kubica 2; 16 Bourdais 2; 17 Fisichella 0; 18 Sutil 0; 19 Piquet 0; 20 Nakajima 0.
1 Brawn GP 112pts
2 Red Bull 92.5
3 Toyota 34.5
4 Ferrari 32
5 Williams 20.5
6 McLaren 14; 7 Renault 13; 8 BMW Sauber 8; 9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 5; 10 Force India 0.
Next race: 26 July: Hungarian GP (Budapest)Reuse content