Mark Webber- driven to succeed
Former F1 driver Mark Webber of Australia turned 39 yesterday. We take a look back at his successful Formula One career.
A fine racing driver with outstanding fitness and some commendable records at the highest level, Webber is a determined and passionate racer who competes with his heart on his sleeve and his mind fully in gear to support his great talent.
Although he no longer features in Formula One, he spent a memorable 11 competitive seasons in the format, and decided to retire at the end of the FIA Championship season of 2013.
But, there cannot be any spot of disappointment where Webber is concerned. Even though he hung up his Formula One racing shoes, he made the important decision to remain in the competitive arena of racing by moving to the significantly competitive domain of the World Endurance Championship.
At present, he competes with the eminent Porsche team as a works driver for what is his second successive year with the world record breaking team in the popular WEC.
A driver who has forever remained committed to the team's cause and held important roles in changing the declining fortunes of his race teams, as evident from his short but important Williams stint at F1 (2005-06) and the remarkable 7 straight seasons that followed his departure from Williams for Red Bull , Webber has left an important and valuable footprint in the world of Formula One.
Today, he is regarded as a highly adaptable racing driver and a competitive racer who, until the final race of his F1 career, remained as hungry and determined to win as he was when he first arrived in F1.
A promising F1 stint
Webber’s Formula One journey began way back in 2002. It came to an end with the conclusion of the final race of the ever competitive and thrilling 2013 season at Interlagos circuit at Brazil. At his final race, where he was expected to be emotional as he drew the curtains on an accomplished racing career, Webber stayed stoic to take a podium spot, finishing the race in second.
11 years in the world of Formula One is a long time, and during his memorable stay, Webber rarely disappointed.
Formula One can be a cruel and excruciatingly mean place to be at. Rivalries are forged every day and new battles emerge in the team garage before coming to the forefront on the race track, but Webber's silent and determined approach to focus on the race alone earned him respect from the F1 fraternity.
Not a world champion but truly a champion driver
It is not just surprising for Australian fans but for fans of motorsport worldwide that a talented and hardworking driver such as Webber never won a World Championship. In the utterly competitive world of Formula One, which can easily be distressing for those who forget to look beyond mind games and stress, Webber's cool and determined approach to motor racing was a refreshing break from the overtly competitive and irrational displays of aggression shown by his contemporaries.
He may not have had the sterling speed of Senna, the fiery determination of Alonso, the laidback exuberance of Kimi or the single-minded hunger one has come to associate with Vettel, but Webber was one of the toughest opponents you could face and is regarded as a highly capable driver.
There are hardly any racing drivers out there who wish to spend a great deal of time understanding the intricacies of car development, something Webber did all throughout his impressive career. In a formidable alliance with Adrian Newey of Red Bull, Webber worked just as hard from the stand-point of giving the man behind the Austrian outfit regular inputs from a driver's perspective.
Webber was quick on the tracks and patient and involved in the pit garage, and became an eternal favorite and dear friend of his race engineers who miss this giant of the game as much as the fans do.
Moving up the F1 ranks
Webber broke out on the competitive F1 scene with the Minardi team in the 2002 season. His debut season was anything but impressive and offered only a faint glimpse of what the man possessed. He left Minardi and went to the Jaguar F1 racing team where he spent 2003 and 2004. He could only manage a 6th place best finish during the 2 years he spent with the outfit, where he only manage to score 24 points.
Now a little impatient and burning with an incessant desire to break free, Webber longed to find his feet amidst a potent platform that could at least give him a real reason to feel happy about his decision to make it to Formula One. Next, Webber joined the BMW powered Williams in 2005 and 2006. But, even the highly anticipated switch to Williams did little to impress the Australian and still held his talent largely within the confines of a mediocre show.
Now at the end of a 5-year period in Formula One, always his first love, he still had hardly shown others what he was capable of. The ever-determined Aussie was beginning to get a little worried, and was waiting to exhale. At the same time, one has got to celebrate and regard his patience that enabled Mark to persist despite early heartbreaks in his promising career. Patience, after all has been his great virtue that has enabled Mark triumph and both persevere in the face of overwhelming odds.
Heartbroken and a little jaded with unimpressive stints with Minardi, Jaguar Racing and BMW Williams, but never short of hope, Marks' most important break was to come in his forthcoming years at F1. He would soon join the multiple championship winning Red Bull Team. This would be the place where Mark's talent would take its undeniable and hitherto, unrecognized height.
A highly successful move to Red Bull
Webber's patient wait finally found a great positive in the form of the partnership he struck with Austrian outfit Red Bull, among the best all round teams in F1 right now. In 2007, his first ever year with the team, Webber secured a strategic move, becoming one of the team’s two primary drivers of the RB3, a car he drove alongside David Coulthard, another experienced Formula One star. The car, designed by Newey, was a huge improvement for Webber, who hitherto had only driven slow, under-powered cars in his racing career.
The Australian driver and the Austrian team would go on to strike a formidable association, one that would go on to compile an amazing streak of points.
In 2009, Webber, now driving a significantly improved Red Bull Renault, went on to secure his first ever win. This came after 130 race starts at the intensely competitive and grueling Nurburging circuit at the German Grand Prix. The world sat up at took notice of the driver who finally now had the pleasure to see himself at the top of the podium.
The previous year, he had driven a commanding race in intense rain at Monaco, where he finished in 4th after starting relatively low, in 9th.
It is likely that this impressive show in difficult conditions at Monte Carlo would surely have done Mark a world of good during the enduring race he conceded and later, triumphed at the German Grand Prix.
It is to be noted that Webber, who won 2 races and competed the entire season healing from a broken leg, in no way gave second-best. Physical injury did little to dissipate this Aussie's grit – which remains his nickname to this day.
2010-2013 at Red Bull
Purely statistically, Webber’s most famous and memorable performances came with the Horner-led outfit. It would also become his most successful outing ever in Formula One career – he bagged 9 wins in all, with the first two of these already in 2009.
The same year, he held the then world champion Jenson Button during the final lap of the Abu Dhabi race at the Yas Marina Circuit, to secure a stellar 2nd podium finish at the end.
The 2010 season was an astonishing one for the Australian, who was now partnering for the very first time a young German driver named Sebastian Vettel. The youngster, who would go on to become a four-time world champion, was eager to deliver regular and fiery successes like his German compatriot and idol Michael Schumacher.
The Red Bull Renaults would go on to score consistently in the world championship season, and this would become habitual in the upcoming years of their interesting alliance.
There were intense moments all through the season where despite being outqualified by Vettel in both qualifying and main race on multiple occasions, Webber went on to win 4 races, including those at Spain and Silverstone. He secured a total of 10 podium finishes and earned the respect of both fans and team.
2010, however, saw a low point of the Vettel-Webber alliance during the Turkish Grand Prix. Webber, who began that race in pole, was visibly criticized the most for a collision that was caused by both drivers. The damage slightly impeded his race as he pitted for damage control, but eventually secured an impressive 3rd finish at the race.
He could not repeat the great success of the previous season in 2012, but he went on to secure 10 podium finishes in 2011, bringing home vital points for Red Bull's continuous onslaught on its contemporaries- Ferrari and McLaren.
Problems with Vettel
Webber finally decided to give it his all in the 2013 F1 season, an important year which would also be his last. He finished 3rd at the end of the season with an all time high at Interlagos, driving back a fiery Red Bull to outpace his rivals.
On many occasions that year, he forged intense rivalries with Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus and with Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, holding back the duo at intense racing that came at Spain, Silverstone and Monaco.
Early in the season, Vettel, who had always been the preferred driver and the golden boy at Red Bull did something to earn the disdain of all who witness F1 as a team sport. The German defied team orders and went on to pass team-mate Webber at Malaysia to register an important but highly unlikely win.
Webber was displeased and despite showing his mood on the podium where he took 2nd spot, decided to remain silent at the aftermath of the controversial race. The incident was labelled ‘Multi-21’ Webber commented, "Multi-21, Seb. Multi-21," which is in reference to the team order issued, which specified that car no. 2 (Webber) was to finish the race in front of car no.1 (Vettel).
With this also came the end of a highly successful and impressive F1 career, of a driver who gave his level best in helping Infiniti Red Bull Renault hold 4 Constructor championships, playing an often undervalued but solid hand.
The move to the World Endurance Championship
At the moment the still-fit, still-racing Webber can be seen donning the race suit of the iconic Porsche team at the highly demanding World Endurance Championship, competing at the Le-Mans prototype 1 competition.
Webber, who turned 39 on August 27th, drives the Porsche 919 Hybrid and is currently featuring in his second successive season for the famous team that wishes to conquer the ultimate test of patience, grit and endurance.
He has already secured 2 fastest laps this season and is working hard to secure his first win for his team.
Aussie Grit remains a determined and solid character who refuses to rely on banter or mind games to upset or trump his contemporaries. In Mark Webber's world, performance and roaring speed matter the most.