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. 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.

  2. 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!!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

    Stoner actually won something, Webber hasn’t.

  6. 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!

  7. 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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