F1: Mark Webber - Not bad for a Number 2 Driver
Mark Webber is one of the most popular and most humorous F1 drivers of the past decade. Even though he has not won an F1 championship (he has won the World Endurance Championship once though), he is loved and respected worldwide. He has 9 Grand Prix victories to his name and an additional 33 podiums (42 podiums overall). Even though he was treated as a clear number 2 to Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull, he beat him on several occasions and was favorite to the 2010 World Drivers' Championship in 2010. How did his 12-year career go on?
2002-2008: Impressive early years
Having started on a small, three-race contract at Minardi, he was on the podium at his debut race in Australia - which was also his home race. NOTE: He didn't finish in the Top 3, but it was so special, that Webber and Paul Stoddart of Minardi were given a special podium appearance. And poured Michael Schumacher's champagne bottle. This was because he held on to 5th place from Mika Salo, even though he did not have the top gear in his Minardi.
In 2003, he performed brilliantly at Jaguar, winning Autocar Magazine's 2003 Driver of the Year. He also claimed third place on the grid before a chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix where he crashed heavily, forcing huge confusion about the race result. 2004 wasn't much of a stunning year, as he had a lot of DNFs, but showed his talent with exciting battles and great laps in qualifying, which earned him a seat at Williams for 2005.
Everyone felt Webber would win the championship with Williams - who was pretty strong until 2004 - and compared Webber to Alan Jones. But, sadly, there was only one podium throughout the year. That came in Monaco, and Webber's first ever podium (second if you count his debut race) and that wasn't so happy, as he felt he deserved the second place over Nick Heidfeld, his teammate. Although he qualified in the Top 5 several times, he finished just 10th in the WDC due to crashes and mechanical failures.
With 11 DNFs in 18 races in 2006, it was a terrible season for Webber, with almost no highlights and this gave him just 14th place in the championship. It might have been better if he'd finished the Monaco Grand Prix, his only chance of a podium.
In 2007 and 2008, he performed well with Red Bull, getting a podium in 2007 at the European Grand Prix. But in Fuji, in a ridiculously wet race, Webber was smacked from the back by his future bestie, Sebastian Vettel, under SC conditions when he was in 2nd place. That surely was the best hope he had for a win then.
2009-2013: Great results, but not treated fairly
When Red Bull produced a great car for 2009 alongside Brawn GP, the wins and podiums started coming. Webber got his first ever victory (a lot later than people expected) at the Nurburgring in 2009, after a dramatic race where he also suffered a drive-through penalty.
In 2010 started a sort of enmity between Webber and his future World Champion teammate Vettel when Red Bull gave Mark's updated front wing to Seb after the German damaged his at the British Grand Prix. When Mark won the race the next day, he said what made me write the title of this article.
"Not bad for a Number 2 driver. Cheers."
He lost the championship at the end, where he struggled for form after leading it most of the season. In Turkey, Seb hit him in a misjudged move when they were side by side and Webber was leading the race, the crash made him fall back to third place.
Since the start of the 2011 season, when the Pirelli tires were on the cars, Webber lost all his form and challenged Vettel rarely. In spite of this, he won the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2011 and the Monaco GP in 2012 and performed a great backflip into the swimming pool there. In 2011 there was also a quite epic move at Eau Rouge on Fernando Alonso. Or is that Raidillon actually?
The 2012 British Grand Prix was great for him, where he overtook Fernando Alonso for the lead in a well-timed move around the outside of Brooklands. There were also a lot of other controversies with Vettel. The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix was the limit, with Seb not listening to the team and attacking Mark. The team had instructed both drivers to finish the race in the positions they were (Webber leading and Vettel in P2). As Webber "turned off" his engine, Vettel attacked him and overtook the Australian for the win. Webber showed his emotions against Vettel saying he "made his own decisions and will have protection as usual". That probably sparked his retirement too. Sadly.
After retirement from F1, he's won the WEC in 2015, he has appeared as a hilarious Top Gear Star In A Reasonably Priced Car and most importantly, beat Seb by 0.9 seconds around the Top Gear test track. Now, he comes on the Channel 4 F1 analysis programmes, featuring alongside his former Red Bull teammate, David Coulthard. As he has the experience, he does give vital points for the viewers to think about the situations that occur every race weekend.
In his episode of F1's Beyond The Grid podcast, he talked about his duels with Sebastian Vettel, and also said something no one really thought of. He feels that Fernando Alonso is better than anyone he has ever raced against, and that includes Michael Schumacher, when it comes to delivering consistent performances on Sundays. He is a really knowledgeable person, and he has also had a spectacular Formula 1 career. Mind you, his sense of humor is an absolute gem.Published 21 Sep 2018, 18:47 IST