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.

2013 F1 season


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

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. “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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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 ?

  10. 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.

  11. DaveD (@daved) said on 28th March 2013, 22:47

    I have to say that I completely agree with Webber on the tires….sorry, tyres :-) I became interested in F1 because it was the best drivers in the world with the best tech/cars in the world pushing them to the limit. Watching them play guessing games about when the tires will go off and driving like a bunch of scared old ladies afraid their cars may break is disconcerting.

    DRS may have some artificial aspects to it, but at least it doesn’t make the drivers go around the course at a jog. vs. pushing the limits.

  12. Garns (@) said on 28th March 2013, 23:15

    Too much disrespect for the founder of this site lads in some previous posts lads- pull your head in!!’

    Mark has always said there some aspects of the sport he does not like- and they are becoming more evident!!
    I would have LOVED him join Alonso at the Prancing Horse this year, but now Massa has remembered how to drive (Win this year Phillpe!!!!!!) that will not happen.

    I have met Mark 3 x in the past 12 months- Melbourne, Japan, Melbourne- always a gent, but young Dan Riccardio STOKED to talk to an Aussie in Suzuka, “where have you been, how is Kyoto…………??” Had to tell him I was in Japan for F1 LOL!!!

    Point being Mark HAS become like Stoner- there are too many aspects of the sport he does not like- a driver needs to be able to push 100% until the end and the tyers NEED to allow that!! He also has a team-mate that while the talent of a generation NO-ONE can trust!! (POOR effort last week- Horner needs to show he is the boss!!!!!)

    I want to see Webber a WDC but have no delusions of grandger- but I would also like him leave the sport that made him happy (and a MUTLTI- millionaire) happy rather than ****** off!!

  13. I have to agree with Keith. This article is balanced and provides evidence for Keith’s viewpoint. Of course, the reader has a right to disagree with Keith’s viewpoint. The comparison of WEB’s career stage with that of Casey Stoner’s, using technical regulations as a bases is brilliant.

    Regardless of one’s perspective wrt this post by Keith, it has to be said that WEB’s F1 career is closer to the finish than it is to the beginning. When WEB does call time on his career, he might have options in Le Mans and even the Media. Just to drive an F1 car is the dream of so many children racing toy cars and Karts …. WEB has lived this dream and lived it well despite being short on luck. WEB’s very existence as an F1 driver for 10+ seasons is ample proof of his talent and motivation. Let us not belittle his achievements – he won rookie and man of the year award, and a few other F1 awards. He was the Director of the Grand Prix Drivers group …. an elected position. Participation counts … not everyone can be WDC……..

    What happened this past weekend has left the F1 community deeply divided. Peace.

  14. mark from toronto said on 29th March 2013, 4:32

    Watching cars lap the track at 10/10ths lap after lap with no change or drama etc also gets pretty boring fast. The ONLY driver who was exciting to watch at the limit was Mansell. Somehow the car looked like it was going at 11/10ths when he was on a charge. DAMN I miss his driving. It was spectacular visually.

  15. Sebsfinger (@sebsfinger) said on 29th March 2013, 4:56

    Stoner actually won something, Webber hasn’t.

  16. Garns (@) said on 2nd April 2013, 14:16

    @Sebsfinger – ??…….. At least we know what you were doing last weekend fella!!

    Yes Webber has not won the WDC………. but has won a few things in his career……….. but I hope not a finger from Seb (actually I think vice versa in Malaysia!).

    I am not ignorant or stupid enough to sit here and argue that Mark is an all -n-all out better driver than Seb. Buts he is a better racer, has more personality and 10 times the MAN Seb is!! We all cant race F1, but we can all be a real man….some dont.

    Seb for the first time last week saw the “bites the hand that feeds” argument- but didnt realise he was the PAID SALARY DRIVER BEING FEED!!. He thought he was the boss……Brabham, Ron Dennis, Sir Frank, Horner……..Seb……. thats how he thinks!

    The shock on his face when he realised Newey was havina’ go was great, when like a scared little boy when Mark walked in………. priceless!!

    Seb fans will jump on this post quick with a ” will be 6 time champ… blah blah…” ………..and he will. But I will take the character of the old bull in my corner in a pub fight any day of the week, and in a month of Sunday’s!! If I had Seb in my corner I suspect he would run out like a little school boy (BUT FAST!!) and ask for Marko!!

    Takin’ the p**s a bit of course, but point posted!

  17. ben piefke said on 20th April 2013, 23:32

    i agree with webber re tyres what is a race that stops and starts,sounds and looks like the old hare and the tourtice,surely tyres could be designed,to last a race,the fuel to last a race was the correct decission now lets get the tyres fixed and get back to proper racing where the ownus is on drivers not race engineers.moto gp is much more intertaining to watch with a non stop setup

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