Mike Stevens | Jul 27, 2009

AUSTRALIAN MARK WEBBER has closed the gap on series leader Jenson Button after finishing third at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest overnight.

Starting from third on the grid, Webber avoided an opening corner scrap between eventual winner Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, to make a solid getaway and sit in second place behind pole sitter Fernando Alonso.

However, Webber soon found himself under attack from a KERS-inspired Hamilton four laps later, who launched himself past the Red Bull star at turn two to lay the foundations for a stunning victory. The fast but unlucky Alonso was forced to retire following a crucial error at his first pit-stop.

The aerodynamic aid and lugnut on the Spaniard’s front right wheel were not properly fastened. On his out lap, the hub flew off first, followed by the wheel a few corners later - putting an end to his afternoon.

With British youngster Henry Surtees losing his life as a result of a stray tyre only a week ago, race stewards punished Renault for its incompetence, banning the team from participating at the European Grand Prix next month. However, the ruling is under appeal.

Webber meanwhile was subjected to increasing pressure from Raikkonen, although the Finn was unable to pass him on track and had to capitalise on a poor stop from Red Bull to jump into second place.

That stop relegated Webber behind the slower Toyota of Timo Glock, who was still to pit, knocking him out of contention for race victory.

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However, the former Williams driver was able to showcase his car’s outright pace in the latter stages of the race, setting the fastest lap, to prove his car is still the pick of the F1 grid.

Webber though admitted he was surprised by the result, with many predicting Red Bull would secure its fourth one-two finish of the season.

“I think we expected to be a little bit quicker after our running on Friday but to be honest we knew these guys would be around us,” he said.

“It was a pretty difficult venue for us and we knew that we didn't have the advantage maybe that we had in the last few events. All in all for me I am still pretty happy to get the result we did.”

Although Webber’s third place finish was below his team’s expectations, it propels him into championship contention after teammate Sebastian Vettel was forced to retire with a front-suspension issue and Button struggled to seventh place.

Button’s lead over Webber, who usurped Vettel in second spot in the title race, has been reduced to 18.5 points with seven races remaining.

But Webber said he will not ask the team to support him in the driver’s race unilaterally, despite holding a 4.5 point advantage over Vettel.

“I think it is still a bit early. I think we can still fight the Brawns with Sebastian (Vettel) and I. We know there was a bit of a blip for them in the last three races and we hope that continues and we can continue to take points out of them together,” he said.

“We have got these guys up here as well. It is mixing things up a bit more. “

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