Tag Archives: Mark Webber

Pit Stop – Webber bows out- By Lewis Brearley

Mark Webber’s gesture of taking off his helmet after the Brazilian grand prix was a perfect summary of his reputation in his sport.

He stated the intention of the gesture was to show to human side to his sport. And of all the Formula One drivers of recent times, Webber has always seemed one of the most human; honest, direct and charming. Always putting the individual over the corporate, while also remaining popular and likeable.

Ever since his debut at his home grand prix in 2002, Webber has stuck to these values and the respect for his talent from his peers has only increased as his career has progressed.

His career began with a three race contract for perennial strugglers Minardi. With minimal backing and without a sparkling junior career, Webber’s prospects for a future in Formula One weren’t strong. So it’s arguable that his extraordinary fifth place finish in his debut race, helped by a heap of good fortune with at least eight faster cars retiring early, was the sole reason Webber lasted more than a season in the sport.

Yet, however fortuitous Webber got in that debut race, for the rest of his career he had to work for every single thing he achieved. From qualifying third at the 2003 Hungarian grand prix for the poor Jaguar team, getting his first win after a drive through penalty at the Nurburgring in 2009; to finishing third in the drivers’ championship three times – 2010, 2011 and 2013.

For his first seven seasons, Webber toiled in the midfield for Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull. Occasionally, his unique blend of hard graft and raw talent allowed him to shine. Times such as the 2006 Monaco grand prix where a probable podium finish was snatched away by a mechanical failure. Or the 2007 Japanese grand prix at the sodden Fuji racetrack, when another likely podium slipped away when a young rookie in another midfield car smashed into him.

It was unknown to everyone at the time, but this rookie would end up becoming an integral part of the Webber story, for it was Sebastian Vettel.

From 2009-2013 Webber had five seasons in a car capable of regularly winning races. And for those five seasons he was partnered in the Red Bull team by Vettel.

In 2009 and 2010 Webber and Vettel were quite even over the course of the seasons with Vettel taking eight wins to Webber’s six. Vettel seemed faster but was prone to crashes and rookie mistakes.

The record from 2011 onwards is less kind to Webber, as Vettel began to dominate the whole sport by utilising the unique aerodynamics of the Red Bull much more effectively, with the win ratio for 2011-2013 ending up as 28 for Vettel and only three for Webber.

This makes the first conclusion of Webber’s career as a good but not great driver. Yet, if Vettel really is as good as some claim, then Webber must go down as one of the best “B-level” drivers along with Rubens Barrichello, Gerhard Berger and Riccardo Patrese. And that’s something that a poor kid from the middle of New South Wales should be very, very proud of.

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Pit Stop – F1 and Moto GP last Weekend – By Lewis Brearley

Last weekend was one of those rare ones where both Formula One and MotoGP races happened. And at Suzuka and Sepang, the respective championships became a practical foregone conclusion.

In Formula One, Sebastian Vettel took a fifth successive victory – the first time such a streak has happened since Schumacher did it twice in 2004 – meaning his only remaining rival needs to win all four remaining races to even have a chance of stealing it away from him.

Meanwhile over in MotoGP, Marc Marquez took an easy second position finish behind his team mate, which gave him a 43 point lead with three races remaining.

If you only watch motorsport for a close and nail-biting championship battle then this probably leaves you disappointed. However, if you wish to see excellence from people mastering their sports then the 2013 championships are still absorbing stuff.

It has long been the nature of motorsport that some years provide closer championships than others. If you still feel like tuning out of either or even both of the championships, think again because there are many reasons to stick around.

The Japanese grand prix saw Romain Grosjean exorcise himself from the horrors of his previous season with a stunning drive to third place. While last year he ambled straight into Mark Webber at the first turn, this time round he led Webber for the duration of the first stint and was by far and away the best non-Red Bull performer, with Fernando Alonso a 36 seconds further back.

Over in Malaysia, Dani Pedrosa put his long win drought to an end and triumphed over Marquez. Even if Marc was taking it slightly easy with a championship in mind, it was still a great win for Pedrosa, who had looked demoralised in the face of his rookie sensation team mate for much of the season.

One fully reliable gauge of measuring excellence is when someone makes it seem a predictability. Marc Marquez finishing second is a disappointment to some. Many put Vettel’s Japanese victory down to his machine, his RB9 and team preference. They say Red Bull sabotaged Webber to hand their favoured son victory with the hope of sealing another title.

However these conspiracy theorists forget the many obvious flaws in their theory. Such as Christian Horner’s televised quote about liking to see Webber take a win before his career ends. Such as the fact Red Bull weren’t sure which strategy was best even as the race began. Or the fact Webber was unable to look after his tyres as well as Vettel during the first stint, which led to worse tyre degradation. They forget Webber’s lap times on his last set of fresh rubber put him on course to race Vettel in the last few laps until Vettel overtook Grosjean as soon as he was able to, while Webber didn’t and hence couldn’t catch his team mate.

It’s true that the Red Bull RB9 is the best racing car in the world. What isn’t true though, is that Sebastian Vettel doesn’t deserve his forthcoming fourth world championship. As glib as it may be to write, he is one of the greats.

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Pit Stop – The Future Webber – By Lewis Brearley

Mark Webber is one of the more direct and honest drivers in the Formula One paddock. In many media appearances he has shown no aversion in expressing how difficult his relationship is with his team-mate and his deep dislike of the current style of Formula One racing. Hence, when he speaks people tend to listen.

His latest quotes that the Formula One grid is lacking in quality when compared with the year he debuted in the sport – 2001 – are easy to disagree with. While it’s easy to understand why he holds such a view, having been held up by many unyielding Caterhams and Marussias in the past few years including the scary incident which left him hurtling up in to the air at Valencia 2010, it’s most definitely a rose-tinted viewpoint.

Most of the 2013 grid have proved perfectly adept, even highly talented. The five world champions at the front of the grid are some of the sport’s finest ever competitors and the midfield contains some very fine talent.

One thing that is clear though, is that there are fewer journeymen racers now than there were in 2001. Competition for seats is much tougher and any mediocre talent is quickly disposed of in favour of a highly promising rookie or unfortunately, a money-backed youngster.

Yet the number of such drivers who are only present for their accompanying sponsors is much lower than many commentators have led you to believe. Max Chilton, Giedo van der Garde and Esteban Gutierrez are the only three who have been fast tracked for the cash. Other well-backed drivers, such as Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado have proved to be up to the standard needed and just happen to have bounds of talent alongside the money.

Whether the 22 of 2013 would beat the 22 of 2001 is forever to remain unclear but what can be known is who, from the current crop, has been outstanding and who looks like being remembered as just another footnote in F1’s history.

Nico Hulkenberg’s decision to move to Sauber has certainly been proved to be an error. From leading last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the hugely respected young German is now scrapping for points, only seven of which are now his. In the longer term, Sauber, together with their newly acquired Russian backers do have the potential to improve on this year’s poor performance, but if

Hulkenberg gets lucky he won’t be around to see such improvements.He is on the short list for promotion to one of the top teams. The confirmed exit of Mark Webber and the likely sacking of Felipe Massa if he doesn’t raise his game leaves room for two more additions to the championship teams. The only major obstacles standing in his way are Paul di Resta and Jules Bianchi, the other two youngsters who look more eligible for a top class seat.

Hulkenberg appears to be the favourite for the possible vacant Ferrari seat, having trumped di Resta in their year as team mates at Force India; and being more experienced than the very raw Bianchi.

This is all conjecture, however and the truth will reveal itself as the second half of the season goes along. What is fact though is who has been disappointing this season.

Esteban Gutierrez stands out the most. Before the season even began many claimed that he looked unready for the step up, including his own team. He still stands pointless ten races in and needs to make a big leap if he is not to be unceremoniously booted out at the end of the season.

Formula One has never been more ruthless and in this age of minimal testing, youngsters have never had less time or more pressure to adapt to the class. The cream nearly always ends up rising to the top though.

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Pit Stop – Webber Is Off – By Lewis Brearley

Despite firmly denying rumours that he could join Porsche’s new Le Mans effort for 2014, Mark Webber has announced that he will indeed do so.

He will leave Red Bull at the end of the season to return to the sportscar series where his top level racing career began.

Anyone who has ever frequented YouTube racing videos will surely have seen the astonishing incident where Peter Dumbreck’s Mercedes CLR takes off, flips and lands in the surrounding forest from the 1999 Le Mans race. At the practice session before the race Webber himself suffered the same incident as Mercedes encountered bizarre stability issues at high-speed, causing them to pull out of the event.

These dangerous events, in which fortunately no lives were lost, caused Webber to state that he would never return to the dangers of Le Mans. But fifteen years later Webber will return to the new, full factory funded, works Porsche team who themselves are returning to the endurance circuit after a long absence.

Porsche are the most successful team in Le Mans history, with 16 victories, most of them coming from the manufacturer’s dominance of the Group C period in the 1980s, when their 956 took four successive victories.

The battle between them, Audi and Toyota in the LMP1 class looks set to be enthralling. The sportscar racing scene is at one of the highest levels of quality ever seen, with six former F1 drivers currently driving for Audi and Toyota alongside great drivers such as Tom Kristensen, Benoit Treluyer and Stephane Sarrazin.

Webber has always loved pushing himself to his very limit and challenging himself against the very best drivers in the world. Sportscar racing has much less focus on the tyre management which has been the bane of Webber’s life recently. He believes racing should be flat out and that everybody should be pushing as fast as possible and in Le Mans this is certainly the case.

It is this aspect, rather than the unease within the Red Bull team between himself, management and his team-mate and built up by the media, that is likely to have led to this decision to switch disciplines.

Webber’s decision precedes one of his favourite events, the British grand prix. British fans, more than 100000 of whom will be travelling to the Silverstone circuit over the weekend, haven’t had much home success to cheer for in recent years. Lewis Hamilton’s supreme wet-weather victory in 2008 was the last British win.

With Jenson Button aiming for a points finish, the chances of home success this year depend mainly on whether Hamilton’s Mercedes team have sorted the tyre degradation issues which have plagued their season. At the last track resembling Silverstone, Barcelona, Mercedes struggled with horrific wear and this weekend will be a clear indicator of how far the team have progressed.

The team are confident, as are the fans; but whether or not Hamilton can challenge Vettel, Webber and Alonso will be a mystery until a hopefully sunny Sunday.

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Pit Stop – Team Orders – By Lewis Brearley

It’s the paradox of Formula One. Each car is driven by one person, all aiming for the big prize – the driver’s world champion. Yet they are employed and are responsible for the success of a team spending millions of pounds a year to compete.

Finding the right balance between these two aims has caused problems all the way through the history of F1. In fact, with the extreme determination and hunger for success inherent within an F1 driver, it’s surprising that so few teams currently have issues.

A quick analysis of the current intra-team relationships shows how many teams are managing the situation successfully, while at the same time a couple are having to deal with slight tensions.

The highest profile relationship is the one between the world champion himself and his team mate. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber fell out when they clashed while battling for the lead at the 2010 Turkish grand prix. There’s been a number of other incidents since such as Silverstone 2011 when Webber attacked Vettel for the lead despite being told not to, and most recently the furore at the Malaysian grand prix this year, but despite all this somehow the relationship has managed to remain professional.

Vettel may not have turned up for Webber’s 200th grand prix celebration but the team-mates reportedly still share data and work together behind the scenes.

McLaren may have a brand new driver pairing but already there have been tensions between the two. The events of the Bahrain grand prix, where Sergio Perez hit Jenson Button during an aggressive battle, strained relations between the two.

Button, as the veteran with 12 seasons of experience surely expected to have the upper hand over his young team mate. I’m sure he will be worried about being outperformed by Perez despite his and the team’s claim that everything is harmonious.

Ferrari is famous for having a very different team structure which often leads to fallouts but at the moment is working quite effectively. Having a clearly defined number one, Fernando Alonso, supported by Felipe Massa in 2012 almost converted a mediocre car into a world championship. It surely takes a weaker character alongside a very strong leader to make this work in any form, indeed it’s hard to imagine this style of management working at any other team.

Mercedes is the second team with a brand new line up for 2013. Lewis Hamilton, widely acknowledged as one of the top four drivers on the grid, hasn’t yet got a complete upper hand over Nico Rosberg. While the qualifying record is 3-1 to Hamilton, the gap has been closer than Hamilton’s fans claimed it would be.

The pair have been friends since karting in their childhood and this strength of friendship looks like it might just support the competitive rivalry between the two.

There’s nothing the media and fans love more than a big team mate fallout, however unfortunately for everyone, the likelihood of more happening isn’t as large as some predict.

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Pit Stop – Was Vettel Right? – By Lewis Brearley

Your reaction to the team orders incidents at last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix depends on what your attitude to racing is.

If you prefer your sportsmen to prioritise winning at all costs and expect them to do their utmost to achieve the very best they can then you probably supported Sebastian Vettel’s decision to pursue his own desires while ignoring his employers.

If, on the other hand, you want gentlemanly conduct and honesty from your sportsmen, then you have probably lost a little bit of respect for the triple world champion.

These two camps of opinion will never combine to agree with each other and if anything, this season looks set to provide plenty of firewood to keep each camp’s argument burning.

Formula One seasons don’t normally heat up until the European section of the season, however this year’s has already burst into life at the second round.

No sport thrives on controversy like F1, and in that case, this year’s Malaysian grand prix is unlikely to be forgotten any time soon.

When Vettel made his decision to keep his KERS in overtake mode and to pass Mark Webber with a highly risky overtaking manoeuvre he revealed his true attitude hidden deep beneath the famously smiling exterior.

In ignoring his boss and in his willingness to try such a risky pass, Vettel proved that he truly believes the Red Bull F1 operation is his own, personal winning machine.

While his supporters would say that this is only the sort of winning attitude shared by his great rival, Fernando Alonso, who happens to be venerated despite his own belief that he should be treated as his team’s number one driver, this isn’t the point.

Alonso has never ignored an order in his time at Ferrari, and Vettel’s actions show blatant disregard for the team’s bosses and executives, without whom he wouldn’t have become the triple world champion he is today. A blatant disregard for every single engineer and designer back at their Milton Keynes factory who are paid with money not from Vettel’s, but Red Bull’s wallet.

A sharp contrast to this was provided by Nico Rosberg’s decision to follow his boss, Ross Brawn’s, orders despite his clear anger at the situation. This revealed that Brawn is the man in charge of the Mercedes race team and also that his drivers are respectful of this.

Vettel’s post-race apologies and downtrodden demeanour show a sorry racing driver who may have let the red mist of his young mind cloud his sense of perspective. He claims he isn’t happy with his 27th grand prix victory and that if the same situation arises again, he wouldn’t repeat his act of treachery.

Whether this is true or not, time will tell. But one thing is certain, when that time comes, there won’t be a Formula One fan not on the edge of their seat.

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Vettel Admits he was Wrong

Sebastian Vettel won the Malaysian Grand Prix in controversy this morning after he was told by team officials to stay behind teammate Mark Webber.

Vettel disobeyed the orders and took Webber, which lead to a hostile environment after the race between the pair.

In an interview after the race with Sky Sports, Vettel said: “I should have behaved today. I made a big mistake. It’s not a victory I am proud of. It should have been Mark’s.”

Webber was very angry telling Martin Brundle he believed Vettel was clear team number one: “After the last stop the team told me the race was over and we turned the engines down to go to the end.

“I want to race as well, but the team made the decision which we usually do before the race and say that is how it is going to be and look after the tyres and the car and get to the end.

“But Seb made his own decision today and will have protection as usual and that is the way it goes.”

The tension emanated onto the podium as well, with team boss Christain Horner claiming Vettel had been “silly” to react in the way he did.

Elsewhere, there was also controversy as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg agreed to stay behind teammate Lewis Hamilton, so the Brit could finish third. He later admitted: “I can’t say it’s the best feeling being up here today. If I’m honest I really feel Nico should be standing here.”

Hamilton had a good afternoon but did provide the comical moment when he drove into the McLaren pit box instead of his own.

You can catch more reach during the week in out Pit Stop feature as Red Bull look to sort out this mess. One must wonder whether Webber will use his “wings” to fly away from the team.

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Finnish Raikkonen starts on fire

The 2013 F1 season started with a surprise as Kimi Raikkonen claimed victory in Melbourne, Australia.

The Finnish driver tore up the record books as he came from seventh on the grid to take victory, his second since his return to F1 last year.

The Lotus driver managed to make his tyres last longer, doing only two stops, as he beat Fernando Alonso and triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, on a long day for F1.

With yesterday wiping out qualifying sessions two and three, this morning saw Vettel take pole from teammate Mark Webber.

With Lewis Hamilton taking third in his apparent inferior Mercedes it appeared normality would be restored with a comfortable win for Vettel.

But F1 has built a reputation in recent seasons to offer unpredictability and that it did.

A total of eight drivers, including the returning Force India driver Adrian Sutil, led the Grand Prix during the course of 58 laps.

Vettel took the lead but as Webber fell back, it was the Ferrari combo of Alonso and Felipe Massa that offered the greatest threat, with Raikkonen and Hamilton behind.

The tyres have become a talking point again and multiple racers came in early, with the three stop strategy an obvious choice.

Yet the Lotus under Raikkonen looked easy on their tyres and although he came in with the Ferrari’s his tyres were not shredded.

As the leading three moved away, Raikkonen’s careful driving was coming to the fore; he was on a two stopper.

The 2007 champion was able to keep his tyres and times consistent and although was at times not the fastest on the track, never more than half a second off the pace.

Behind him, Alonso got ahead of Vettel at the stops but it was Hamilton who, also on two stops, looked dangerous before his late unscheduled third stop put him back in fifth.

Mclaren will however want to put this race behind them as quick as possible with only Jenson Button’s ninth place consolation for an awful weekend.

But back to the winner who looked every bit a champion on today’s performance and will a lot of stopping as currently is a master of the tyres.

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Pit Stop – Top Ten Drivers in this Era – By Lewis Brearley

After 15 seasons of watching Formula One, there’s been countless memorable moments and races served up by some of the greatest drivers in the history of the sport.

Here’s my countdown of the top ten in the last 15 seasons.

10) Rubens Barrichello

Formula One’s most experienced driver spent half the decade as Michael Schumacher’s contractual number two.

He rarely got close to Schumacher and whenever he did was forced to concede his position to his team-mate, most notably at the infamous 2002 Austrian GP where the “switch” happened after the final corner.

However, the Brazilian could sometimes beat the great Schumacher and did the same when he partnered Jenson Button at Brawn, taking two wins in the 2009 season.

9) Mark Webber

Like Barrichello, Webber is most famous for being a number two to a German multiple world champion. But just like Barrichello, is able to beat the guy on his day.

Yet, Webber is more than that; he was a badly timed pitstop from winning the 2010 world championship and early in his career outperformed his midfield Jaguar regularly, especially in qualifying – a front row start at Hungary being the highlight.

8) Juan Pablo Montoya

The Colombian lasted less than six seasons in F1, yet made an indelible mark.

He started by overtaking Schumacher at only his third race and continued to fight him for the rest of his career. The man was fast, simple as that; five poles in a row in 2002 and a mega one minute victory with pole position and fastest lap at the 2003 German grand prix, testify to that.

It was his feisty, rebellious personality which made him leave the sport, mid-way through 2006.

7) Jenson Button

In 2008 Button was yesterday’s news, Lewis Hamilton was the new prodigy on his way to a world championship.

Button showed great promise in his first couple of seasons but was soon stuck in the quagmire of Honda F1.

Indeed, it was when his team became Brawn that Button exploded to front running status. However, it is since that championship that he has cemented his name as an all-time great rather a lucky world champion with some great drives for McLaren.

6) Lewis Hamilton

On pure speed, Hamilton probably is level with only Senna and Schumacher. However, grand prix driving involves so much more than that.

He seems to let his emotions affect his driving and just as importantly doesn’t take much interest in leading his team through a season.

That being said in 2012 he improved his consistency and with a new start at Mercedes next year, has the chance to impose himself as a leader of men.

5) Mika Hakkinen

The driver Schumacher claimed was his toughest rival, beat the German to two successive world championships before the turn of the century.

The best sign of the speed of the flying Finn is arguably found in the 1999 season when he set 11 pole positions in the first 13 races.

Oh, and the legendary overtake of Schumacher around a backmarker at Spa the same year.

4) Sebastian Vettel

Winning three world championships while at the same age Schumacher had not won any is quite a scary thought for statisticians. Indeed, every record is in Vettel’s sights and he is quite capable of taking them.

The German is improving every year, has already won 26 races and had 36 pole positions – behind only Senna and Schumacher – and has the might of the Red Bull operation headed by the genius Adrian Newey.
And as Monza 2011 proved, the boy can overtake.

3) Kimi Raikkonen

He says he knows what he’s doing and all the evidence supports that. He shook up F1 when he arrived at Sauber after just 23 career races and scored a point. A move to McLaren proved he could beat Coulthard with ease and the only thing that stopped him taking the 2003 championship was his McLaren’s dreadful reliability.

Chosen as Ferrari’s next man, he didn’t fit the latin atmosphere and was soon pushed out. Returned this year and proved he is indeed one of the greatest of the era.

2) Fernando Alonso

Second in wins in the era to only Schumacher, the Spaniard defeated the German in a titanic tussle for the 2006 title. This made him a double world champion but his career was about to dip.

Controversy at McLaren made him public enemy number one in Britain and he was forced into two seasons in a poor Renault.

However, just like the man he beat in 2006, his career looks set to be defined at Ferrari, where his leadership abilities and magnificent racecraft has earned him not only Italy’s, but the world’s respect.

1) Michael Schumacher

Whether he’s the greatest of all time can never be properly answered. It is much more certain that he is the greatest of this era, and not just because of his epic records.

Time and again, Schumacher overcame adversity with his true grit to win when he shouldn’t have done. He proved that he was better than all of the era’s great drivers, and at least on a par with Alonso, while ten years his senior.

It was the Schumacher era and he towered above it in a way never seen before or since.

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