Why after 12 years F1 is ‘off my radar’ for Webber

Comment

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Bahrain, 2013Mark Webber’s impending departure to the World Endurance Championship, announced earlier today, will deprive Formula One of a no-nonsense racer’s racer.

He leaves behind many great memories of his 12 years in F1: that fairytale fifth place for Minardi on his debut, the giant-killing qualifying performances for Jaguar, and the maiden win scored despite taking a drive-through penalty are just a few of them.

But Webber will also be missed because of the refreshing frankness with which he addressed the sport. Not for him the mealy-mouthed kowtowing to corporate sensitivities practised by his peers.

Webber possesses both the perspective to see beyond the Formula One bubble and the courage to give voice to his views. While his contemporaries mumble their “for sures” and try not to upset anyone, he gives his own views plain and unvarnished.

One of those days when Webber stood tall was when he told the watching world “there should be no real celebrations today” following the dismal spectacle of F1 returning to Bahrain in 2012. “We can leave. We saw the size of the crowd today,” he said after the race concluded in front of a meagre audience in a country in a state of near martial law

Nor did he hold back his views on the kind of rubbish which passes for a 21st century Grand Prix circuit. He memorably derided Valencia’s woeful excuse for a racing track as being like driving in a supermarket car park – this was before his infamous aerial acrobatics at the circuit in 2010.

The Vettel rivalry

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2011One year earlier he’d been fortunate to make the start of the season after breaking a leg in a gruelling bike race of his own devising. He was clearly still in pain as he started the new season with a new team mate – Sebastian Vettel. The pair has crossed paths two years earlier when Vettel clumsily drove into Webber behind the Safety Car in Japan.

Webber recovered from his cycling injury to score his first F1 victory in Germany that year, though it came after Vettel had given Red Bull their maiden race win. In 2010 Webber narrowly lost the championship to his team final round. Already there were signs of friction between the two drivers and Red Bull management.

During practice at Silverstone an upgraded front wing was taken from Webber’s car and put on Vettel’s, who was leading the points at the time. The pair clashed on the first lap and Webber won, telling his team it was “not bad for a number two driver”. Webber’s victory in Hungary came after

Heading to the Japanese Grand Prix Webber was leading the championship by 11 points. But he suffered another bike crash, this time injuring his shoulder. He kept quiet about the injury: even his team didn’t find out about it until after the season had ended.

If his 2010 title loss to Vettel was a disappointing close-run thing, his 2011 defeat was utterly crushing. Webber simply couldn’t extract the best from the RB7, which derived much of its performance advantage from its powerful exhaust-blown diffuser. He was closer in 2012 when EBDs were banned, but again the title went to Vettel.

By now the antipathy between the pair was unmistakeable. Ordered to hold station behind his team mate at Silverstone in 2011 Webber refused, hounding Vettel around every corner of the track. He gave his team mate a hard time in the 2012 season finale as well.

This hostility was aggravated by Helmut Marko, the Red Bull motorsport director whose stewardship of the young driver programme brought Vettel to the team. Marko seldom passed up an opportunity to get in a dig at his favourite driver’s team mate.

Most preposterous was Marko’s attempt to lay the blame for a 2010 collision between the pair of them at Istanbul – which was plainly Vettel’s fault – at Webber’s feet, after it cost Red Bull a one-two finish.

Last January Marko laid into Webber again in Red Bull’s in-house magazine: “As soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb?s rising form, it seems to me that Mark?s form somehow flattens out.”

The relationship between the two drivers hit a new low at the second race of the new season. This time it was Vettel’s turn to receive a ‘hold station’ order while following his team mate. He paid as much attention to it as Webber had at Silverstone 19 months previously – but the crucial difference was Vettel succeeded in getting past and took the win.

That left a furious Webber thinking more deeply about his future. “I’ll catch some waves in Australia on my board and I think this will be good medicine for me,” he said at the time. “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.”

“F1 wasn’t on my radar”

Porsche LMP1 test, Weissach, 2013Webber says the events of Malaysia did not lead to his decision to quit F1. “I?ve had a personal plan and I?ve stuck to it,” he told his official website today. “This is the next chapter.”

“Formula One as a category wasn?t on my radar for 2014,” he added. Perhaps he is being diplomatic by not laying the blame for his departure at the feet of Vettel (or Marko). But it would be no surprise to discover Webber has tired more of F1 than he has of his team mate.

Webber has never disguised his dislike of the gimmicky nature of modern F1, not least the fragile tyres, which he has often struggled to squeeze as much life from as his team mate can.

His choice of words when talking about his decision to leave F1 today was striking. “Formula One is seen as the pinnacle”, he said, – implying that other motor sports might be considered equally challenging.

If any form of motor racing can make that claim at present the World Endurance Championship must rank among them. The cars may be slightly slower than F1 machines over a single lap but they have to cover over ten times the distance.

The engine rules – particularly the use of modern hybrid technology – are more ambitious than F1’s. But what Webber will probably appreciate most is freedom from driving every lap obsessing over tyre degradation.

Webber craves a purer form of racing than F1 can offer at the moment. And he has no qualms about returning to a series in which he survived two huge crashes when driving for Mercedes: “Le Mans in 1999, those cars were very… I think the regulations were quite dangerous,” he said today.

“Look, motor racing is dangerous, I accept that, we all know that. Motor racing is dangerous. Le Mans is a classic race. The cars are not slow there now but I?m not a guy who wants to wrap myself in cotton wool either.”

But Webber is a true racer and even as he prepares to take his leave of Formula One he admits there are parts of it he will miss:

“The drug on the grid, when the guys walk away from the car, that’s the best legal drug you can get. I’m ready to go racing, that’s brilliant.

“But like I say you’ve got to be real with yourself and know there’s a day where you need to go on to the next chapter and that’s what I’m very excited by. You can’t kid yourself and say it’s going to go on forever.”

Comment


Browse all comment articles

Advert | Go Ad-free

62 comments on Why after 12 years F1 is ‘off my radar’ for Webber

  1. It’s a great shame to see a true racer in Mark Webber leave the sport.

  2. magon4 (@magon4) said on 27th June 2013, 22:35

    Liked you article, great as usual.
    But I wouldn’t give Vettel a 100% fault for Turkey, with Webber getting 0%. That is really not a fair assessment of the incident.

    • PhilEReid (@philereid) said on 27th June 2013, 22:43

      I think it’s a completely fair assessment.

    • matt90 (@matt90) said on 27th June 2013, 23:10

      It really is.

    • Hairs (@hairs) said on 28th June 2013, 0:04

      Vettel very clearly turned into Webber’s car. It couldn’t be clearer.

    • MagillaGorilla (@magillagorilla) said on 28th June 2013, 6:34

      @magon4 that is quite a fair thing to say, just like it would be fair to say that Lewis cost himself the WDC in 07 and 10. Vettel was still a very young driver at that time (still is in some respect) and was with a major team. Vettel always tries pulling moves to be at the top Monaco 2013, the move in Malaysia and years prior. That day Vettel was too eager, and ruined the chance for 25 points by Webber or himself and even worse could have helped RBR clinch the WCC sooner.

    • dennis (@dennis) said on 28th June 2013, 11:41

      It was Vettel’s fault. But if you leave 1,90m for a 1,80 car at over 200 kms you shouldn’t be surprised when there’s an accident. People say it was Vettel’s fault as well in Malaysia 2012, because he should have left more room for Karthikeyan. Maybe. Same goes for Webber in Turkey.

      • coefficient (@coefficient) said on 28th June 2013, 13:42

        Nonesense, Webber had chosen his defensive line and stuck to it. Coming from behind Vettel had the option to back out of the move or go round the outside but instead he made a stupid move. Cut and dry!

    • Nick (@nick101) said on 28th June 2013, 12:13

      But I wouldn’t give Vettel a 100% fault for Turkey, with Webber getting 0%. That is really not a fair assessment of the incident.

      Yeah, and I guess the next thing you’re going to tell us is that the Ferrari’s aren’t red!

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 28th June 2013, 12:29

      It was Vettel’s fault completely: he simply misjudged when he was cutting back across Webber to cover the line. Had he checked his mirrors the incident wouldn’t have happened and he may well have got the move done anyway.

      It was just a ‘rookie’ mistake though; I doubt he’d do anything similar again!

  3. Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 27th June 2013, 23:05

    “As soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb’s rising form, it seems to me that Mark’s form somehow flattens out.”

    That’s a pretty astute comment, one which reflects Mark’s and Seb’s different form over the course of the last several seasons. Webber’s points-per-race goes down in the last third of the season while Vettel’s spike sharply upwards. (Excepting 2011 when SV’s form was stellar from start to finish)

    That said, I do think Webber has been a much better driver than many people will admit. His qualifying in particular has always been excellent, something masked in the last few years by having SV as his teammate. I rate him as in the top four or five on the grid in terms of one lap pace, and ahead of Kimi in this respect.

    Some people seem to like his “Aussie Grit” personality but I regard it as a pose and Mark as a hypocrite. Honestly, you can’t very vocally champion your own right to ignore team orders and then turn around and cry about it when your teammate ignores them. I lost respect for hm as a person over that incident.

    • celeste (@celeste) said on 27th June 2013, 23:21

      I agree with this comment. And now expect a flow of comment “explainning” how Webber disregard of team orders is different from Vettel “disregard” of team orders.

      Anyway, it isn´t a surprise that he is leaving, I just have wish that Mark would have had a little more sensibility with the team that have giving him a race winner car for the last 5 years. A phone call to your boss just an hour before the announcemed was highly rude IMHO. Same as it was in 2010 to hide his shoulder injury and then publishe the “news” in a book with ven warning his contractor of what was comming.

      Having said that I do agree that Mark is a good race driver, and his form is somehow disguised because of Vettel amazing record. Before Vettel he was the qualy king.

      Now, good luck to Mark.

    • Guilherme (@guilherme) said on 27th June 2013, 23:32

      @jonsan

      Some people seem to like his “Aussie Grit” personality but I regard it as a pose and Mark as a hypocrite. Honestly, you can’t very vocally champion your own right to ignore team orders and then turn around and cry about it when your teammate ignores them. I lost respect for hm as a person over that incident.

      +1. I’m probably the only person who is not going to miss him at all…

      • Sebsfinger (@sebsfinger) said on 28th June 2013, 4:21

        I won’t miss him either…

        • MW (@) said on 28th June 2013, 8:59

          I won’t miss him because of the following:
          I don’t buy his half baked “one of the lads” Aussie honesty, he only leaks a very measured amount of personal sounding banter, but always judged to perfection to avoid legal ranglings.
          His straight-to-the-point “Aussie Grit” was delivered with all the sincerity of a 5 year old who realizies that acting cute gets him sweets. And I believe was nothing more than a manufactured marketing plan.
          I actually much rather hear the likes of Button or Vettel talking well within the bounderies and keeping themselves to themselves, that’s truely honest.
          I guess I’m a purist and besides the likes of Senna who did becaome tied up in political battles, always had a roaring hunger for racing and the sport at his core and this shone through.
          If you’re looking for an honest driver today I believe it’s Kimi, about the only way to be honest in the modern sport is to keep your comments to a minimum.

          • jimscreechy (@) said on 28th June 2013, 9:59

            about the only way to be honest in the modern sport is to keep your comments to a minimum.

            Is that a bit of a contradiction… or a lot of one?

    • Slr (@slr) said on 27th June 2013, 23:46

      I think any driver would have been hypocritical over the events which took place in Malaysia, every driver is selfish and every driver will do what it takes to win.

    • Jon Sandor (@jonsan) said on 28th June 2013, 0:05

      Just did some quick calculations and Webber was beaten into second on the grid by SV 14 times. That is, if SV were not in F1, Mark would have about 25 poles positions now, enough to be on the all time top ten pole winners list.

      Bonus data! Hamilton would have 40 pole positions today.

      • plushpile (@plushpile) said on 28th June 2013, 0:33

        That’s a bit simplistic to suggest that MW would have beaten the other guy in a Red Bull all of those times.

        That being said Mark was always considered somewhat of a Qualifying specialist prior to 2009 – which gives some indication of SebVet’s speed over one lap.

      • 5150 (@) said on 28th June 2013, 6:11

        If it wasn’t for Senna, Prost would have at least 20 more pole positions!

        Bonus data! If it wasn’t for Keke Rosberg having a son in F1, Hamilton would have 42 pole positions today!

    • Manule said on 28th June 2013, 8:20

      Spot on! Actually, much maligned Dr Helmut Marko has made a surprisingly good assessment of Webber’s performances. I’m not a big fan of HM myself, but this time he was on to something and it is unfortunate that his words were shrugged off as a dig at Webber just because it was Marko who said them. Webber, in his time, was not particularly courteous when talking about some of his teammates himself (Nico Rosberg for once), so in all honesty he shouldn’t have felt offended.

      Now, I will miss Mark Webber next year, for his particular personality rather than for his skills. Without his somewhat childish posturing and his willingness to create pointless hostility, Red Bull might be a blander place to watch next year. If Raikkonen joins them next year, I doubt we will have as many off-track activities as with Mark.

      • James Hosford (@hosford90) said on 28th June 2013, 12:59

        I think Helmut Marko’s assessment, while not mathematically incorrect, is slightly harsh, it’s a bit of a circumstantial misnomer.

        Vettel is always a lot stronger at the end of the year and a bit stronger at the start. Whereas it’s even mid-season.

        That’s not Webber’s ‘inability to handle pressure’, it’s the circuits. Vettel is the king of the mickey mouse circuit. The end of season trends come because we have Singapore, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi in close proximity (Webber always does well in Brazil and ok in Japan, although yes Vettel does best him there, fair enough.)

        Not to just be an Aussie and claim Vettel isn’t clearly a step above Webber as a driver, he is, I think a great telling stat about Mark’s career which is a slight criticism of him but also the ultimate summary of the man and something I think he should actually be quite proud of, is that he’s never won a single Grand Prix on a Hermann Tilke circuit (excluding the new section of Silverstone.)

        Look at Vettel’s constant domination of those mickey mouse things. Then look at Webber’s wins.

        2x Monaco.
        2x Silverstone.
        2x Interlagos.
        Nurburgring, Spain, Hungary.

        Some of the ‘real man’ circuits and all old school (compared to Tilke). Catalunya’s the newest circuit he’s won on.

    • Max Jacobson (@vettel1) said on 28th June 2013, 12:34

      I’ve never really liked him either: his “different” media approach can yield some humorous interviews (“first-lap nutcase” springs to mind) but as a driver I don’t think he was ever going to be a world champion going up against Vettel. Also, at times he comes across as just a bit of a grumpy old man.

      Personally, I’ve always preferred the happier and more humorous drivers to the more brutish ones but nonetheless I wish him well in his new pastures: if there’s one thing I did like about him, it was his no-none sense approach in races in his defiance of team orders and lack of complacency!

      • bull mello (@bullmello) said on 28th June 2013, 16:41

        Well, Max @vettel1 , just what is the problem you have with grumpy old men, you young whippersnapper? (Just kidding, just kidding!)

        But, really, as an older, sometimes grumpy F1 fan I appreciate Webber’s style. While Kimi could be categorized as a young curmudgeon, Mark Webber has the appearance at times of an older, more grizzled curmudgeon.

        I’m always happy to hear any drive who does not sound like the cookie cutter corporate correct automaton. Nice to see some personality come through, even if it is a bit rough around the edges.

  4. Victor. (@victor) said on 27th June 2013, 23:12

    I’m gonna miss him big time. Sort of guy I’d like to have a pint with. Fair, frank and humble. Would love to see him kick Vettel’s bottom – if not over the whole year then at least at Interlagos :).

  5. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 27th June 2013, 23:29

    F1 will miss him a lot, as a driver and as a personality.

    Yes he wasn’t a champion. Yes, he was frustraitingly dissapointing at times… yes, he cannot make standing starts since 2010, but he was a fighter. A bright personality among the paddock, someone that (I feel) was closest to the fans than the rest of the drivers.

    I smile sometimes when he talks about racing, and other categories, and you know he knows what he’s talking about. When he talks about past heroes and their cars, he’s the sort of driver that you can relate. A motorsport fan, something the others apparently don’t like to show… appart from Lewis’ fanatism towards Ayrton.

    Somehow he struck me, and that’s why I’ve been following him for such a long time. 2014’s gonna be a tought season, it’s never good when your driver leaves and you watch the grid trying to work out who you’ll be rooting this time out.

  6. clay (@clay) said on 28th June 2013, 0:05

    As an Aussie it is obviously a sad but not unexpected day to see Webbo leave F1. From the Minardi days, through to when he raced for still my favourite ever F1 team in Jaguar (sad I know…) to finally having a race winning car at RBR, only to come up against Vettel. What Vettel did in Malaysia was wrong, regardless of the vitriol that came many weeks later about pure racing and all that rubbish, but saying that and again I hate to say it Marko was right with what he said earlier this year, that Vettel is simply a better F1 driver over a whole season.

    I wish Mark had gone to Ferrari for this season and maybe next year, but he has had a great career, outlined in an Autosport article today. To tell you a bit about him, not two weeks after losing the 2010 title he turned up at our tiny race track in Perth on a stinking hot day, 40 degrees plus, for a demo of an F1 car at a Motorsport festival. It would have been easy for him to cancel but he turned up, showed off for the crowd and we loved it.

    I remember screaming at the tv when Vettel ran up the back of him at Fuji in ’07, screaming with joy at his win at the Nurburgring in 2009, laughing at his run of two in a row in 2010 and again wanting to punch Vettel and Marko in the face in the wake of Turkey and the wing drama at Silverstone. Webbo should have gone to Renault in 05, could have gone to McLaren in 08 if not for Briatore, and really, really should have gone to Ferrari last year. But from all reports and my experience he is a great bloke who when he was on form was as quick or quicker than anyone. Best of luck in WEC, maybe not all Porsche drivers will now be *******…

  7. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 28th June 2013, 0:52

    F1 loses another unique character, which are becoming fewer in number as time goes by.

    I’ve been watching Webber race since his heroic debut in 2002. I think he’s a very, very good driver but not anywhere near a true great. I don’t usually agree with what Marko has to say, but I agree with the idea that on his day he’s unstoppable, and the other Sundays he’s merely ‘good’. A pity he’s never been able to marry consistency with his superb performances. Of all the good times and bad that he’s had over the years, I still think the one that possibly haunts him the most is running too far over the kerb and crashing in Korea 2010. If only he hadn’t binned it!
    Webber’s given us some great entertainment since joining Red Bull, and has unfortunately all too often been the moral and sporting compass of their team, unafraid to speak out when things weren’t correct or fair. Other times he has sounded a bit sore, but those instances are few. As for why he’s quitting now it’s impossible to put it down to just one factor as Keith has said. I think he’s seen where the sport is heading, knows what his position is in the team, and only has a few years left in F1 anyway. If he’s unhappy with those factors you can totally understand why he’s calling it a day. I’ll miss him on the grid next year, but I think he’s doing the right thing overall.

    • Timothy Katz (@timothykatz) said on 28th June 2013, 7:23

      Agreed. Webber is always refrshingly honest in his opinions; never one for the PR message. 12 years in the Pirhana Club and leaving of your own volition is a pretty good acheivement. WEC wins, F1 loses.
      Excellent article as well, Keith.

  8. schooner (@schooner) said on 28th June 2013, 1:27

    Webber won’t go down in history as one of the ‘greats’, but he certainly earned and deserved his place on the F1 grid. Achieving 9 wins as Vettel’s #2 at RBR is nothing to sneeze at either. I was totally pulling for him to win the 2010 championship, but it was not to be. So, he leaves the ‘category’ without that championship, but I’m not shedding any tears for the guy. Being courted by, and hired on as a main driver for Porsche in their upcoming full blown WEC program is not exactly a step down into the bush leagues. Pretty heady stuff, really. When he ultimately reaches the end of his motor racing career, I doubt he’ll be looking back with many regrets … or financial difficulties.

  9. Giuseppe (@giuseppe) said on 28th June 2013, 1:40

    I’m sure Vettel fan(boy)s will be glad to see him gone :))

  10. bull mello (@bullmello) said on 28th June 2013, 1:43

    I’m glad for Mark Webber being able to do what he wants to do, even if means no longer having him in F1. He has been one of my favorite drivers for a while now in ability, style and attitude. Webber does not like to be passed and races hard but fair in most of his wheel to wheel duels. His tell it like it is attitude is admirable in an age of so many typically sponsor correct oriented drivers. I would welcome more drivers like him in F1, but he really is one of a kind. I will miss him and I think the sport of F1 will too. Red Bull may miss him too, depending on who they might get to take his seat.

  11. Pennyroyal tea (@peartree) said on 28th June 2013, 3:42

    I’m looking forward to cheer for Porsche even if everything currently disgusts me in that company. I’m looking forward as well for a new book or a documentary not that I like gossip but I think fans would really appreciate a non censored version of what it was to drive for a team has a commercial aim and you are not part of it.

  12. MB (@muralibhats) said on 28th June 2013, 5:03

    So.. When will he come back to F1? ts a precedent lately. :D

  13. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 28th June 2013, 7:44

    As someone who is losing interest in F1 due to its reliance on gimmicks, I’m actually glad to see Webber freeing himself like this and going into an environment where he should thrive. His experience, commitment, enthusiasm, speed and, yes, Aussie grit will do him very well at Porsche next season. No standing starts or tyre degradation either.

    Losing Webber is F1’s loss and the WEC’s gain. I doubt I’m the only fan increasingly following him across.

  14. melkurion (@melkurion) said on 28th June 2013, 8:18

    Well, I for one will be rooting for Porsche next year at Le mans, Webber is a monaco GP winner, if he manages to take Le-mans as well, he will have completed 2 legs of the triple crown of motorsport….Rubens showed us indy is not out of the question for a former F1 winner…. It would be awesome if Webber at one point manages to complete the crown!

    • pSynrg (@psynrg) said on 28th June 2013, 9:01

      Rubens? Managed a very average 11th at the 500 and never finished better than 4th in the series. Not exactly inspirational and I hope Webber does better in whatever he has a go at.

  15. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 28th June 2013, 8:43

    I’m very happy for Mark. He has some unfinished business at Le Mans he wants to settle before retiring from motorsport altogether. And I really believe he’ll pull it off this time around.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.