Red Bull's Mark Webber

For the first time this season, I missed the race. Shame. Living in another time zone now makes Grands Prix less convenient for me to catch. I was hanging out with non-F1 watching friends on Sunday evening, so only found out about Mark Webber’s pole to flag victory on Monday morning.

Red Bull have evidently continued to prove they can convert qualifying success into race dominance. Webber’s win and Sebastian Vettel’s third points puts the Austrian-owned team within easy overtaking vicinity of McLaren’s 119 points.

McLaren would be more comfortably ahead of their present nearest rivals Ferrari if Lewis Hamilton hadn’t suffered a puncture in Barcelona while in second place and crashed out on the penultimate lap, handing a potential 18 points to his arch-rival and former teammate Fernando Alonso.

I have to feel for Hamilton; his gutsy and combative driving style often provides an entertaining spectacle, but so far in 2010 hasn’t got him as far as his smoothly calculating teammate Jenson Button, who narrowly clings to his drivers’ championship lead, with Alonso only three points behind.

Button himself had a dashboard and clutch problem in the pits, which put him behind the slower Mercedes of Michael Schumacher, who subsequently held him up. So both McLaren drivers had less than perfect races through no fault of their own. They still look like strong contenders.

The biggest surprise was Nico Rosberg’s dismal race, with a loose wheel in the pits and a brake fire contributing to his atypical 13th place finish. Have Mercedes decided to favour Schumacher at Rosberg’s expense? Felipe Massa continued to look like Alonso’s junior, his sixth place a good +1:05.767 behind the victor. His position at Ferrari is now subject to fresh scrutiny.

Vettel also had mechanical trouble, sustaining a brake failure with 12 laps to go and running off the track. It looked like his goose might have been cooked, but he resourcefully soldiered on for the podium.

All the same, despite the Red Bull’s superior speed in practice, Hamilton spent most of the race getting the best of Vettel. They had another tussle exiting the pit lane into the first corner, from which Vettel was forced into the run-off area. Hamilton snatched second and pulled away to a consistent lead before his unlucky tyre failure.

I think the competition between Hamilton and Vettel could shape up in future years to be epic. Long experience should make these hungry young talents into formidable championship winners.

But on Sunday Barcelona belonged to Mark Webber. He showed he can’t be ruled out of the running. Monaco this coming weekend is set to be a three-way fight between Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren, with the latter historically strong there. Bring it on.

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