Webber rides his luck as he noses toward title

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Red Bull Formula One driver Mark Webber of Australia celebrates with his trophy on the podium after the Singapore F1 Grand Prix on Sunday. Webber finished third behind Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso of Spain, who won the race. Vivek Prakash / Reuters

SINGAPORE - Superlative driving skills, superior strategies and a top-notch reliable car are not all it takes to win the Formula One drivers' championship.

A large slice of luck generally comes into play, and Australia's Mark Webber may just be able to sleep a little easier after his third place in Sunday's dramatic Singapore Grand Prix stretched his lead at the top of the standings to 11 points.

Not only did Webber's pre-race closest rival Lewis Hamilton fail to finish Sunday night's race after a collision between the two, but it later transpired Webber had only survived a similar fate by the merest of whiskers.

"He was very, very lucky. It was just 5mm from slipping off," Bridgestone's director of motorsport tire development Hirohide Hamashima said of Webber's tire following the collision with Hamilton.

"If it had slipped off then the pressure would probably have gone down. So Mark was lucky there, but also with the track too.

"If there were very high-speed left hand corners here, then the tire would have moved a little bit more and then it would have been finished."

Hamashima said he had never seen a tire stay inflated like that before. "Over 25 laps is incredible," he told Autosport.

The Bridgestone expert's opinion was validated by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who admitted his man had been fortunate.

"Mark has ridden his luck because looking at the state of that front right tire it is pretty much off the rim," Horner said. "I have never seen anything like it."

Webber agreed fortune had smiled on him.

"The tires at the end... there was nothing left of them," he said.

Of the collision, Webber said: "Lewis was fractionally ahead, but he's still got to try and make the corner himself. I think he made similar contact to what he made with Felipe in Monza.

"It can happen. I thought my race was over because straight away I had a very big vibration at the front. We managed to dodge a bullet and keep going."

Webber leads the championship with four races to go on 202 points, ahead of Sunday's race winner, Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, on 191.

McLaren's Hamilton lies third on 182, ahead of Webber's Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel one point back and Britain's other McLaren driver and reigning champion Jenson Button on 177.

"(The title battle) is going to ebb and flow a bit more," Webber said. "We know it's a sensational championship for everyone to be watching. All the teams are very even.

"There's a few world champions driving for the other teams and Seb and I haven't won a title yet, so we are very hungry as well. We're all in the game."

The Formula One circuit moves to Suzuka next followed by South Korea, Brazil and the finale in Abu Dhabi in November.