Why Mark Webber’s next move may be from Casey Stoner’s playbook

2013 F1 season

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013Any armchair psychologist could read the state of Mark Webber’s mind as he turned his back on the F1 paddock and headed for the Australian surf after the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend.

He and Sebastian Vettel have had disputes before, but Vettel openly defying an order from the team to pass Webber and win the race marked a new low in their relationship.

“It’s three weeks to the next race, we?re fortunate we have three weeks,” said Webber afterwards. “I?ll catch some waves in Australia on my board and I think this will be good medicine for me.

“I had a lot of thoughts going through my mind in the last 15 laps of the Grand Prix so whether the medicine is enough, we?ll see.”

Of course the events of the race have soured his relationship with Red Bull. But there’s more than that on his mind at the moment.

“No drivers are really on the limit today”

Webber has been one of the more outspoken critics of the current generation of “designed to degrade” tyres. He struggled with them when they were introduced in 2011, and though he has adjusted his style to suit he does not believe they are right for Formula One.

I spoke to Webber several times during pre-season testing as he sampled the 2013-specification Pirelli, which degrade even faster previous versions, for the first time. In every interview he gave a dig at the Italian company’s product, however slight, was seldom far from his lips.

And in the press conference after the Malaysian Grand Prix, when his invective would naturally have been targetted at his team mate, Webber’s criticism was directed at least as much at the tyres:

“The thing is I think it?s quite good for the neutral, good for the fans and good for probably new people that are following Formula One, but the old ?ǣ let?s say people who have more of a grasp of the sport and more education of where the sport was ?ǣ it?s still a little bit hit and miss.

“With what we had, probably not much of an idea that?s how the race would go for us today. I was surprised that other people were not with us, completely, people won?t believe that but that?s the case, and also I think, for the junior categories they need to get the tyres and things better for young drivers to learn how to push the cars to the limit and drive absolutely on the edge.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013“You watch Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer play each other and it?s playing with the lines, it?s playing with precision for a five set match and we all enjoy watching that but at the moment we?re driving at eight and a half tenths, eight tenths, conserving our pace and some more situations like this will probably happen in the future because there?s a lot of ambiguity in who?s (on the) pace and who?s quick.

“Seb feels he?s strong only in the middle of the race then I could respond. The racing is completely around nursing and trying to make the tyres survive and they?re not conducive to driving a car on the limit. You don?t see us really pushing on the limit. Obviously Seb and I had a push in the middle in our last stint but generally no drivers are really on the limit today.”

Webber and Stoner

Webber’s words reminded me of what his fellow Australian Casey Stoner said when he announced his retirement from Moto GP last year. Aged 26 at the time and already a two-times champion on two wheels, Stoner’s retirement was motivated by a litany of grievances including changes in the sport’s regulations which introduced a slower class of bikes:

“After so many years of doing this sport which I love, and which myself and my family made so many sacrifices for, after so many years of trying to get to where we have gotten to at this point, this sport has changed a lot and it has changed to the point where I am not enjoying it.

“I don’t have the passion for it and so at this time it’s better if I retire now.

“There are a lot of things that have disappointed me, and also a lot of things I have loved about this sport, but unfortunately the balance has gone in the wrong direction.”

These were Stoner’s words as he announced his retirement last year. After the humiliation of Malaysia, and with the current generation of tyres sapping his passion for the sport, it’s not hard to imagine Webber saying something similar in the near future.

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123 comments on Why Mark Webber’s next move may be from Casey Stoner’s playbook

  1. Maciek (@maciek) said on 28th March 2013, 13:01

    Schumacher said the same thing last year, didn’t he, about F1 no longer being about driving on the edge? It does remind me that last year through the first half of the season Pirelli seemed to have got it spot on: the tyres were degrading quickly, but not ridiculously so. Now, maybe someone can clarify my memory, but I seem to remember at some point, maybe late summer, Ecclestone held a meeting with Pirelli and Red Bull and after that the tyres became more predictable. Now I don’t want to be inventing things out of thin air – anyone else remember things happening that way last year?

    • Traverse (@) said on 28th March 2013, 14:37

      Schumacher said the same thing last year, didn’t he, about F1 no longer being about driving on the edge

      Schumi’s right. A driver wins a GP by driving on the edge, taking risks and entertaining the fans, and as a result will probably be penalised for it. The world’s gone mad!

      It’s not just F1. If a footballer as much shoulder checks another it’s a straight red card. It won’t be long before boxers are penalised for punching each other.

  2. Spawinte (@spawinte) said on 28th March 2013, 13:36

    Wow people are getting really tetchy over this article. Anyway I thought Gobmut Mouthko said they had shaken hands and sorted it out?

  3. Eric Morman (@lethalnz) said on 28th March 2013, 13:38

    “Webber Red Bull” moaning about tires, personally all i see is they are having to change tires early and this brings them out behind slower cars on a different strategy which they dont seam to be able to pass which in turn makes them vulnerable.
    yes the diehard F1 think its wrong but the new watchers are seeing and experiencing lead changes/midfield fights with top drivers jostling with less experienced drivers and some teams that haven’t had the chance to prove there worth, but the tires have changed this.
    give it chance and lets see how it pans out we could end up 10 drivers winning a race before the championship is decided.

  4. Dan (@esquilax) said on 28th March 2013, 13:46

    All this talk about tyres is getting too much, isn’t it? But is it partly our fault? Isn’t it because of the fans complaints of boring races that these tyres and DRS etc. have come into the sport? Anyway….

    Bernie always talks about “the show”, so they are aware that they should entertain the fans, but I say give them proper racing tyres, let them race and the drivers will provide the show.

    One of my favourite seasons was the first full one I watched: 1999. But looking back on it now, there were many, many races where little happened after the first lap. Not that that’s a good thing, but if a season like that were repeated now internet forums would crash with people logging on to vent their frustrations about what they had to endure. People nowadays demand action every race, even a good scrap for the lead isn’t enough for some. As a young lad back then I was content to watch anyway, knowing that as the season went on the tension at each race would build and the season finales were always good. Actually, maybe the problem is that I’m getting old and I’m just harder to please now….

    I hope they can find tyre rules that will find a balance, but I had few complaints about last season, this year it’s become a bit of a joke. Or maybe the teams will figure the tyres out soon and that will help, but I feel that will be more difficult this season…

  5. ECWDanSelby (@ecwdanselby) said on 28th March 2013, 14:05

    Here’s one for you:

    What about Lotus for Mark if he decided to switch teams and not retire?

  6. DaveW (@dmw) said on 28th March 2013, 14:33

    I have to agree with Webber and its not because I am old like him and spend my time drinking warm milk and watching 80s GPs from my VHS collection. It’s one thing to slow down the cars by making harder tires, smaller wings, whatever. It’s another to make it so that the pace becomse so far removed from the actual capabilty of car (and driver) that its a bit of a farce. Its exactly as if the cars had a very strict fuel limitation. I want a “show” too but I also one day want to see a real straight fight among Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, OK, webber, at the end of a race for the win. I don’t care if it doesnt result in passing. The Hamiton Vettel battle at Austin last year was a real throw-back, a proper straight fight, but it was quite the exception last year. The new tires seem bent on eradicating that kind of event in favor of more random melee.

  7. Tifoso1989 (@tifoso1989) said on 28th March 2013, 15:36

    Good point raised by Mark about the tyres, The pirellis are tyres with so much longitudinal grip and less lateral grip so with drivers like Mark that doesn’t brake later but tend to have much more speed at the exit of the corners, this can be a disadvantage for them because they have to adapt their driving styles to extract the maximum of the tyres which is the case of top drivers but i think it is a bit unfair because it is not the case of all the drivers

  8. “The thing is I think it’s quite good for the neutral, good for the fans and good for probably new people that are following Formula One, but the old – let’s say people who have more of a grasp of the sport and more education of where the sport was – it’s still a little bit hit and miss.”

    I think Webber’s behavior in this whole team orders kerfuffle has been embarrassingly hypocritical and childish, but I’m on the same page with respect to the farcical tyres of F1 at present.

    Keith, if you had a chance to talk to Mark, I wish you’d asked him about Brazil last year. It continues to amaze me that – to the best of my knowledge – nobody has ever asked him what he was doing there.

  9. yes the diehard F1 think its wrong but the new watchers are seeing and experiencing lead changes/midfield fights with top drivers jostling with less experienced drivers and some teams that haven’t had the chance to prove there worth, but the tires have changed this.

    If Voldemort had not broken team orders on Sunday, the latter half of the Sepang GP would have consisted of the front four drivers cruising around in circles with no attempt whatsoever at even pretending to race or get past one another. The same was true to an extent in Melbourne, where the lions share of the passing occurred via pit stops, not drivers passing one another on the track. The net effect of this years tyres seems to have been to reduce overtaking, not promote it.

    Some of the on-track overtaking which has taken place has been an embarrassment to the sport, such as Sutil bolting on a fresh set of boots in Australia – and then being helpless as other drivers passed him. I think people are cutting off their nose to spite their face in defending these tyres just because Red Bull have criticized them.

    Perhaps that’s clever reverse psychology on RB’s part? They probably know that if they praised the tyres everyone else would clamor to get rid of them.

  10. Alexandre (@vzx7qf) said on 28th March 2013, 18:38

    Where is the problem if he leaves? RedBull have the best driver of the last decade. ANTÓNIO FÉLIX DA COSTA.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th March 2013, 19:10

      @vzx7qf A bold statement, considering he’s driven 0 F1 GP’s. Webber is a proven race winner, the other isn’t even a rookie.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 28th March 2013, 20:24

      You are wrong, they have the best package in Beitske Visser now :-) I am sure Bernie would approve!

    • Alexandre (@vzx7qf) said on 28th March 2013, 23:20

      @andrewtanner You are right, but I would say Webber is a proven 2nd driver, simply like that. Felix da costa is a winner with a lot of talent and charism, the one that spectators want to see. I’m not sure if You know but he has been elected the driver of the year (uk) in front of drivers like Alonso, Vettel, Raikkonen, Maldonado….and, surprise, with more than 50% of the votes. He is the men that we (spectators) want to see Racing in F1, for sure he wasn’t crying at the end of the races, he simply fight for victory that is what i want to see in any race! Next Year F1 will gain if he is in webber’s car. I’m a Racing fan and i would appreciate it a lot.

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 29th March 2013, 17:07

        @vzx7qf That’s all well and good but you don’t get to F1 without showing promise, which most drivers have to do. Until he’s in an F1 seat, previous records and accolades aren’t good enough. It’s a different beast altogether.

  11. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 28th March 2013, 18:48

    I find it hard to sympathise with Webber, he seems to be in a minority. I appreciate it may not be to his liking but we’re having good races.

  12. In F1, the limiting factor is either the car, or the tyres. If you make tyres that can go race distance while being pushed to the limit for the full distance, then we’d just end up seeing the most aerodynamically efficient cars winning. Its a lose-lose situation really.

    But even if drivers could push to the limit for full race distance, we’d still get situations where the team would tell the drivers to back off to save gearboxes/engines, etc. We’ll never see a situation were drivers push to their and the cars limits from lights to flag.

    Also, found it a bit odd that Mark brought up tennis, a single person sport, where the limiting factor is the human body, and how far it can bed pushed at the limit for. In F1, the place we see drivers giving their all, is in Qualifying, this is were we see who can ring every thousenth out of it, regardless of how good or bad the tyres have been. The race then is where we typically, and historically, see where drivers can use their brains in finding out when and where to push and back off. A mixture of both a marathon, and moments of sprinting.

  13. Rob Wilson (@rob-wilson) said on 28th March 2013, 19:57

    As much as I respect Mark as a driver and completely understand his views I have to say, I would love to see a headline of “Webber announces his retirement with immediate effect.”Not only would it be a MASSIVE story for F1, but for sport in general it would put red bull in a situation of absolute despair! They would have to find an immediate replacement – Buemi? Maybe they would look to the toro Rosso boys for an early promotion? All I know is it would be really exciting!

    Having said all that there is another part of me that wants Mark to continue, more determined than ever and starts to beat Sebastian not only on the track but psychologically as well, would be awesome.

    Of course the more likely scenario to come from all of this is the least gripping – The announcement that Webber will retire at the end of the season, something which he might have done anyway, all this calamity aside.

  14. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 28th March 2013, 20:11

    I am with you Mark ,but surely you weren’t at 8/10ths when Vettel passed you ,that sort of pace is reserved for the competitive part of the event. I must admit that I turned it off before the heinous act of betrayal but was able to view it every half hour on BBC 24 along with the Lewis /Nico love in .WHEN IS THIS GOING TO END PIRELLI ?

  15. CanOBeans (@canobeans) said on 28th March 2013, 21:26

    I think there are two issues here:

    1. Lack of Leadership – Horner can’t manage those two drivers. He lets them flout the orders, Seb was tupid enough to pass when ordered/asked not to, and Horner did not have the strength of leadership to demand he give the place back, due to 4 years of being lead by Vettel and not vice versa.
    Mark is not innocent here either, his attempts to push Seb when asked to back off have shown a similar level of disregard for Horner’s control. Only difference is Mark pushed to a point, Seb went over the line.
    2. Lack of trust – How long will it take Mark to trust Seb and in extension Horner to do the right thing by him? What if the same situation rears its head in China or soon after, will Mark trust what is being told to him will happen.

    Personally I see the current type of cars suiting Seb’s driving style over Mark, as many have stated. The longer 2010 wore on and the more planted the RB6 was, Seb became better late in the season. 2011 and 2012 were cars suited to Seb.
    People seem to forget Mark used to qualify a Jaguar in the top 5 regularly in the one lap shoot out in a car that was not very good.

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