F1’s Elder Statesman and flagship Australian is to bow out of F1 at the end of the 2013 season. Mark’s resilient and proud personality are very unique to the paddock, being one of the most truthful, and hardy, yet unlucky men in the sport. Webber, along with Raikkonen, has been my favourite driver in the sport ever since 2007 when he joined Red Bull, and he has come extremely close to the championship in recent years.
Webber’s F1 career started in 2002 with a plucky little team called Minardi. They were the darling of many fans, a complete minnows team, underfunded and uncompetitive for the most part. However, in his first ever race, in his and team owner Paul Stoddart’s home country, he score an incredible 5th place finish. This was remarkable for several reasons:
– It was Webber’s debut race
– His car had a differential problem very early in the race
– Points were only awarded to the top 6 finishers at this point
– He had to fend of former-Ferrari driver Mika Salo at the end of the race
However he held his nerve and finished about 5 seconds ahead of the Finn. The result was so amazing and well-loved by the F1 community, that people ushered Webber and Stoddart to the podium, where they were donated champagne to celebrate what is surely the team’s best ever result (despite three 4th-placed finishes in the early 90s)
|Advance Australia Fair!|
Webber’s time with Minardi was short, and after that cracking start, didn’t score a single point for the rest of the season. He moved on to Jaguar in 2003, and though the car was unreliable, he managed to score seven times. he stayed there for 2004, before the team was sold off to Red Bull. He jumped ship to Williams just as they were coming off the boil from their competitiveness in the early 2000s. The 2005 season was his best at the time, scoring highly with team mate Nick Heidfeld, and getting his first podium, at Monaco. Many speculated he’d be successful at Williams, including Technical Director Sam Michael who thought he would win the World Championship. These predictions did not come to fruition, though.
2006 was a dreadful season; the car was uncompetitive and he only managed 7 points all season. This was due, mainly, to BMW’s switch to Sauber which left Williams with cheap and feeble Cosworth engines. He left at the end of the season to begin building up and advancing what would become the world-beating team of the moment, Red Bull Racing. He partnered David Coulthard for 2007 and 2008 in a very strong driver line-up. Webber was on course for a cracking second place finish in Japan 2007. The race was a washout and the Safety car led Hamilton, Webber and a very young Vettel around Fuji Speedway, but Seb was unsighted and whacked into Mark’s gearbox, taking them both out. The pairing of Webber and Coulthard managed a smattering of points and a podium each before DC retired in 2008.
2009 was Webber’s chance to lead the team with a fledgeling superstar to nurture, but it didn’t go quite that way and Vettel ended up overshadowing him, taking the team’s first two victories in China and Britain. Elation came at the Nurburgring in 2009 though, and Webber took his first ever victory. This Video depicts his sheer joy in a musical manner. He won again in Brazil 2009 and finished 4th in the championship.
|Webber’s form peaked in 2010, as did his grinning frequency|
2010 was probably his best crack at the Championship, where he challenged right ’til the end of the year. He took back-to-back wins in Spain and Monaco, then had that nasty business with Sebastian Vettel in Turkey. After that point of no return in their relationship (which only deteriorated afterwards) Webber had to battle his team as well as other competitors, and picked up two more wins, in Britain and Hungary. He had a spin in Korea that ended his race, and was the point where his Championship fell away, and he succumbed to the power of Vettel and Alonso, both of whom finished ahead of him in Abu Dhabi, and therefore the championship.
By contrast, the 2011 season was not a good one for Webber. Although his speed was not lacking, he had to watch his teammate notch up 11 victories before he could claim his only one of the season in Brazil. This re-affirmed the belief that there is a tendency towards Vettel in the Red Bull sumpremos. And you can’t blame them in part – Vettel had already managed two World Championships by the age of 25, the age that Webber started his first race. There is no language barrier either, between the Austrian Drinks company and the young German. Imagine the Salzburg-based team trying to decipher Mark’s gravelly Aussie tones. However, the team should take heed that not all alliances between Germany and Austria are successful. Ahem. Don’t mention the war, Basil…
2012 was the most unpredictable, perhaps ever. No single clear contender emerged out of the first seven races with the seven different winners. Webber was the sixth of those, winning in Monaco. He won again in Britain and along with Alonso, was the clear favourite for the title, but his second half of the season was disappointing, retiring in Italy due to huge flat spots on tyres, The US because of an alternator failure, and was taken out by Romain Grosjean in Abu Dhabi.
2013 looks to be much the same so far, outright speed and righteousness, but severe bad luck. He finished a decent sixth in Australia (he rarely finishes so highly at his home race) but was cruelly robbed of a victory in Malaysia when Vettel ignored team orders and passed him, and in China, after tangling with Daniel Ricciardo, one of his wheels fell off and he retired. The last two races in Monaco and Canada have been good though, with a podium in the principality and fourth in Montreal. How the rest of the season will go remains unknown. He is unlikely to take the drivers’ championship this year, but wouldn’t it be lovely is he could get one more win, to make it a nice round ten?
Whatever happens this year, we already know what he’s doing in 2014. He’ll be racing for Porsche’s LMP1 squad in the World Endurance Championships (WEC) and aiming towards participating in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sports cars in the world.”
|A prototype of the Porsche he’ll be racing next year|
Some people might see Endurance racing as a step down from F1 but the two are parallel in terms of prestige, F1 is just more well-known. He’s no stranger to closed-cockpits either, as he took part in Le Mans in 1998 and 1999 although his team’s car failed to finish.
I wish him all the best in his future endeavours. This brilliant bloke will be missed by the entire paddock without a doubt, and the fight over his seat will be a very interesting story this season.
Mark, me old Cobber, good luck in the future!