Mark Webber’s top ten F1 races

Top Ten

Mark Webber’s path to success in Formula One was not an easy one.

His early years saw some impressive giant-killing feats and occasional qualifying heroics – and an awful lot of treading water in cars that were uncompetitive, unreliable, or both.

That remained the case even after his 2007 move to Red Bull. But the team hit the big time in 2009 and Webber’s long-overdue first win finally arrived.

That glorious day at the Nurburgring was unquestionably one of the high points of Webber’s 215-race F1 career. As he prepares to move his racing career to the World Endurance Championship, here are ten of his best moments as a grand prix driver.

2002 Australian Grand Prix

Ralf Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, Melbourne, 2002Webber made his Grand Prix debut for Minardi on home turf in the 2002 season opener at Albert Park. Expectations were low: the Italian minnows had mustered only a solitary point (for sixth place) in their previous six campaigns. But what followed that weekend was to be truly extraordinary.

A huge first-lap pile up decimated the field and Webber found himself in a remarkable fifth place at the mid-point of the race, with no apparent threats to his position from behind. The pressure on the rookie driver to cling to a precious points finish for the tiny team was huge.

But a series of misfortunes threatened to spoil the party for Webber and the Australian fans. A pit stop delay cost him 25 seconds and then a broken differential and gearbox troubles left him vulnerable.

The closing laps were David versus Goliath stuff as Mika Salo, driving for Toyota’s new and hugely expensive Formula One team, arrived on Webber’s tail. Salo was clearly the quicker of the two, but spun in his attempts to pass, leaving Webber unchallenged in fifth and sending the local fans into delirium.

Webber’s efforts single-handedly earned Minardi ninth in the constructors’ championship that year. They failed to add to their points haul, but Toyota and Arrows could only equal them with a pair of sixth place finishes, leaving Minardi on top.

But for Webber the achievement became something of a monkey on his back. It took him over three years to better the result, and a whole decade before he managed a higher finish in his home grand prix.

2003 Hungarian Grand Prix

Mark Webber, Jaguar, Hungaroring, 2003Though Webber did not score again for Minardi, his performances were enough to earn him a move up the grid to Jaguar the following season, and it was with the British outfit that his talents truly came to the fore.

The pick of Webber’s Jaguar outings came at the Hungaroring in 2003. He qualified third – equalling his best grid position to date – and made good use of starting on the clean side of the track to take second at the start.

The Hungaroring had been redesigned that year in a bid to improve overtaking opportunities, but the difficulty the likes of Kimi Raikkonen had trying to pass Webber indicated the efforts had been in vain.

Only Ralf Schumacher managed to break the Jaguar driver’s defences, and a few others slipped past through the refuelling pit stops.

But Webber still retained a sixth place at the chequered flag which was better than the R4 chassis warranted – and not the first time he had achieved it, either.

2006 Monaco Grand Prix

Mark Webber, Williams, Monte-Carloe, 2006After two years with Jaguar, it was clear that Webber was ready for a move to a top team. His 2005 move to Williams seemed a match made in heaven – the pairing of this no-nonsense team with a gritty Australian charger had worked brilliantly in their Alan Jones days.

Webber had turned down an offer from Renault to partner Fernando Alonso and it soon became clear how big a mistake this had been. Renault won the constructors’ championships in 2005 and 2006 while Alonso did the business in the drivers’ championship. Williams were slipping into a long decline: they lost their BMW engine supply at the end of 2005 and Webber was seldom even in contention for podiums.

A rare highlight was the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix. Webber sensationally qualified on the front row – aided by Michael Schumacher’s infamous escapade at Rascasse – and spent much of the race in a battle for the lead with Alonso and Raikkonen until his Cosworth engine expired.

At the end of the season, the Williams-Webber partnership that had promised so much came to an end. Webber made a return of sorts to Jaguar – the Milton Keynes-based team having since been bought by Red Bull. It was a momentous decision for Webber’s career and unlike the Renault snub it proved to be the correct one.

2007 European Grand Prix

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Nurburgring, 2007Given their current dominance of Grand Prix racing, it is easy to forget that when Webber joined Red Bull in 2007, the team was an unremarkable midfield squad which had managed just three podiums in its first four seasons.

Webber’s first of many visits to the rostrum for the Austrian team, at the 2007 European Grand Prix, was one of only three points finishes he managed all season.

Sixth on the grid matched his best effort in qualifying so far that year, and Webber kept his footing during an early race downpour which caught out several of his rivals. Following another late shower he resisted pressure from Alexander Wurz to finish a fine third.

It was his second visit to an F1 podium. But his return to the Nurburgring two years later would bring even better things.

2007 Japanese Grand Prix

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Fuji, 2007After six years of underachievement and misfortune, it finally seemed that things were going Webber’s way as the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix at a sodden Fuji entered its final stages.

Running second behind the Safety Car, the Red Bull driver was aware that the only man standing between him and a long awaited maiden Grand Prix victory, Lewis Hamilton, was closing on the world championship crown and would be unlikely to risk that if he came under attack.

Unfortunately, we’ll never know how that battle may have turned out. On lap 46 of 67, a young German rookie driving for Toro Rosso – Sebastian Vettel, of course – drove into the back of Webber’s RB3, destroying the rear of the car and with it any hopes of a famous win.

“It’s kids isn’t it?” Webber famously lamented on live television minutes later, “they’re doing a good job then they fuck it all up”. Although this was initially interpreted as a comment about Vettel, Webber recently indicated Hamilton was at least as much a focus of his fury.

2009 German Grand Prix

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Nurburgring, 2009It took almost two years before Webber was presented with another opportunity to win. In ther meantime, Red Bull had been transformed from run-of-the-mill midfielders to the class of the field, and for the first time Webber had a car with which he could challenge for wins.

Unfortunately for Webber, his fellow custodian of Adrian Newey’s rocketships was the soon-to-be quadruple world champion, Vettel. He had given Red Bull their first victory just three races into the season and was quickly developing into their star driver.

But the 2009 German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring was to be Webber’s day. Starting from pole position for the first time, he overcame a drive through penalty for a first lap misdemeanour to claim a comfortable win in his 130th race start.

2010 Spanish Grand Prix

Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Barcelona, 2010Though it’s undeniable Vettel had the beating of Webber in each of the five seasons they spent together at Red Bull, the 2010 season saw Webber give his team mate a serious run for his money.

The 2010 season was clearly Webber’s best. His fortunes changed for the better: while Vettel was vexed by a defective chassis Webber made hay and built the foundations of a serious championship challenge early in the year.

His season – and probably his entire F1 career – peaked with back-to-back, lights-to-flag wins in Spain and Monaco. At the Circuit de Catalunya, Webber crossed the line 24 seconds clear of his nearest challenger to truly stamp his authority on the 2010 season.

2010 Monaco Grand Prix

Start, Monte-Carlo, 2010 Monaco Grand PrixOne week later at the Monaco Grand Prix, Webber was again peerless. He comfortably out-qualified Vettel to take pole position, and survived a tumultuous, Safety Car-disrupted race to top the podium once again.

The win also elevated Webber to the top of the point tables for the first time in his career, and he remained in the running for the title until the final round.

Perhaps as memorable as the race itself were the images of Red Bull’s celebrations atop their lavish floating motorhome. But two weeks later Red Bull’s delerium was replaced by animosity when the pair collided on-track, forcing the team to confront the peculiar challenges of having two drivers competing for the same championship.

2011 Chinese Grand Prix

Rubens Barrichello, Narian Karthikeyan, Mark Webber, Shanghai, 2011The transformation of F1 racing brought about by the introduction of DRS and Pirelli tyres for the 2011 season had a disastrous effect on Webber’s performances. Having been quite evenly matched with Vettel in their first two years together at Red Bull, between 2011 and 2013 Webber managed a trio of victories to his team mate’s 29.

But on his day the Australian remained capable of memorable performances, as he ably demonstrated at Shanghai in 2011.

Newey’s refusal to compromise Red Bull’s peerless aerodynamics with too many compromises to a Kinetic Energy Recovery System has caused his drivers many headaches. On this occasion a defective KERS kept Webber from progressing beyond Q1 on Saturday.

Despite a sluggish start – another trait of Webber’s latter years – he rocketed up the order after the first round of pit stops, making a series of overtakes en route to an unexpected third place finish.

Even then, Webber was unimpressed. He admitted after the race his progression through the field had been eased by the fresh tyres he had available to him after his premature qualifying exit, and claimed to derive little satisfaction from the DRS assisted moves he made on his competitors. It hinted at the disillusionment which would ultimately play a role in his decision to quit F1 two years later.

2012 British Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Silverstone, 2012Though success in Australia usually eluded him, Webber had a brilliant record in his adopted home Great Britain, taking five podiums and two wins at Silverstone.

While his first victory on the Northamptonshire circuit in 2010 owed a lot to Vettel’s first-lap puncture, two years later Webber took a fine victory at the track, catching and passing race leader Alonso with less than three laps to go after a race long chase.

It was Webber’s second win in four races, following his second win on the streets of Monaco two months earlier, consolidating his position above Vettel in the championship and bringing him within 13 points of championship leader Alonso.

But if Webber briefly entertained thoughts of challenging for the championship he was to be disappointed once more. Vettel overcame his mid-season struggles and went on to clinch the title, while Webber only finished in front of his team mate once more in his remaining season-and-a-half before retirement.

Despite his drop-off in performance in recent years, Webber’s departure from F1 last weekend was anything but ignominious. While he wasn’t, by his own admission, a consistent match for the likes of Vettel and Alonso, Webber established himself not only as a top driver but a uniquely popular character, in both the paddock and the grandstands.

Over to you

Which was your favourite of Mark Webber’s F1 performances? Are there any other drives from his pre-F1 days that deserve a mention? Have your say in the comments below.

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31 comments on Mark Webber’s top ten F1 races

  1. WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 2nd December 2013, 10:15

    What about the 2012 Monaco GP? Unlike in 2010, he didn’t have the fastest car in 2012 at Monaco, because the Mercedes was super fast that weekend, so whilst Vettel found at the back end of the top ten in an attempt to save tyres because he disliked the balance so much, Webber did a good enough lap to him on pole, although it was slower than Schumacher’s lap. On Sunday, Webber drove the perfect race without putting a single tyre wrong, despite having the faster car of Nico Rosberg only yards from his rear wing. For me, Webber’s two most recent wins are his best.

  2. Dawib (@dawib) said on 2nd December 2013, 10:27

    2010 British grand prix was “not bad for a no. 2 driver”.
    Altough that weekend was mainly politics, I rank that as one of Mark’s best weekends.

  3. Sam (@) said on 2nd December 2013, 10:47

    His recent appearance in Top Gear is one of my personal best moments.

  4. Sumedh said on 2nd December 2013, 10:50

    Pretty spot-on list.

    I would add the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix instead of the 2012 British Grand Prix though. The laps by Webber after the safety car in Hungary 2010 were epic. He had a dose of luck due to the Vettel penalty. But he was still driving brilliantly!

    The 2012 British Grand Prix on the other hand was not so special. Alonso was driving a much slower car and Webber should have dispensed off Alonso much earlier than just 3 laps before the end of the race.

    • Feuerdrache (@xenomorph91) said on 2nd December 2013, 12:08

      The Ferrari was by all means not “much slower“ when his team mate Felipe Massa could challenge for the top 4 and only finished about 8s behind Alonso. In Britian and Germany, Alonso had a car capable of fighting of victory – just slightly inferior.. if at all – and he made good use of it. But stop exaggerating and try to make it look like a Marussia.

      For Webber it was a well deserved victory on that day because he beat his team mate during the complete weekend. And I say that as a Vettel supporter!

      • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 2nd December 2013, 12:24

        @xenomorph91 – I think you are overlooking the origin of Ferrari’s mid-season speed in 2012. The Mugello test was pivotal for Ferrari, and yes, they did bring laptime to the car, but they mainly found performance through tyre management. That allowed them to hold their own in dry races, whilst Alonso got the job done in the wet qualifying sessions. However, it was no means a “fast car”, in fact it was probably the fourth fastest out there. However the plain fast RB8 and MP4-27 gained in strength as degradation diminished as a factor over the season, as the strength of the E20 and F2012 waned.

        Yes, it was a strong race for Webber because he beat Vettel, but it must be remembered that Vettel was really struggling with the early specs of RB8 due to its occasionally twitchy rear end. Vettel’s style, especially in qualifying, asks a lot of the rear end, and with a car not completely stable at the rear he rather floundered. So whilst it was good that Webber beat Vettel, Vettel was something of a lame duck at the time.

        • Sam (@) said on 2nd December 2013, 12:58

          I agree that the RB8 spec car early in the season was a better car for Webber, just as the RB7 and RB9 were total Vettel-minded cars.

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 2nd December 2013, 12:08

      Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Truly brilliant performance, and reminded me of when Schumacher had to do 25 qualifying laps to stay ahead on the exact same track. Yet another tenacious and gutsy drive that just about any driver would want on their CV.

  5. Toro Stevo (@toro-stevo) said on 2nd December 2013, 11:11

    With the exception of Monaco 2012, all of the most memorable races for Webber for me occur with non-Pirelli tyres, fitting given he never really adapted to Pirelli. Australia 2002 still sits up there, just about any of his races at Monaco even when his car went kaput, with 2010 Monaco the overall highlight. Up until midway through 2010 it seemed he really could win the championship – just a pity Newey had to keep developing that EBD.

  6. Webber alluded recently to how Frank had always promised him a good car, and then they turned out to be ‘a dud’. Imagine if Webber had Fisichella’s drive in 2005/2006!

    • Webber would be no match for Alonso.
      at most he would have won a few races.

      • Sam (@) said on 2nd December 2013, 12:56

        But you’ll never know for sure. Hell, sometimes he was a match for Alonso in a Jag and Williams, who knows what he could’ve done.

        • Deej92 (@deej92) said on 2nd December 2013, 19:32

          That’s true, but I would predict he wouldn’t mount a challenge to Alonso who was established at Renault. Webber wouldn’t have had the bottle that Alonso had for a title challenge.

    • KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 2nd December 2013, 14:18

      Then again, look what happened to Fisichella (and earlier to Trulli): once they challenged the team leader, they either had to go or were put back in their place. I suppose we might have gotten another “not bad for a number two driver” win had Webber gone to Renault.

      • DC (@dujedcv) said on 5th December 2013, 11:51

        Fisichella was one of the most promising young drivers in the late 90s (many people have thought that he would be a future champion), and then he suddenly slipped off the radar in the early 2000s and went on to become a definite number 2 driver.

  7. Trido (@trido) said on 2nd December 2013, 11:17

    Was it also during the weekend of the 2007 Japanese GP that he was really sick and throwing up in the car? That’s dedication for you.

  8. craig-o (@craig-o) said on 2nd December 2013, 11:21

    Hungary 2010. Reminiscent of a certain M. Schumacher at the same track.

  9. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 2nd December 2013, 11:24

    I’d have replaced 2011 China with 2010 Hungary.

    I remember those Jaguar days very well ! I vividly remember being absolutely shocked at hs qualy efforts at Brazil 2003 and Malaysia 2004 in that piece of green rubbish !

  10. LoudHoward (@loudhoward) said on 2nd December 2013, 11:33

    I think Austria 2003 was one of his most impressive races, he started from the pitlane, got the silliest 10 second stop and go penalty in the history of F1 when they aborted the start a couple of times, and then came back through to 7th, setting the 3rd fastest lap behind the Ferrari’s and coming from a mile back to beat Pizzonia. That was when I knew that on his day he could be special.

  11. hunocsi (@hunocsi) said on 2nd December 2013, 11:50

    I think the 2011 German GP could be included, he didn’t win the race, but the trio with Hamilton and Alonso alongside Webber had a great battle while their team mates weren’t in contention.

  12. Monish said on 2nd December 2013, 12:23

    Turkey 2010 and Malaysia 2013 could be included

  13. My favourite moment was Australia 2002, I don’t recall ever feeling the same exhilaration ever since. I was 9 yet I still remember the Salo mistake. From the start of 2003, it was clear that Mark Webber was already one of the top guys and I still believe that he was the top guy on the 1998-08 generation.

  14. spoutnik (@spoutnik) said on 2nd December 2013, 15:53

    Unfortunately, we’ll never know how that battle may have turned out. On lap 46 of 67, a young German rookie driving for Toro Rosso – Sebastian Vettel, of course – drove into the back of Webber’s RB3, destroying the rear of the car and with it any hopes of a famous win.

    hahaha didn’t know this was their “first” contact :)

  15. montreal95 (@montreal95) said on 2nd December 2013, 19:56

    Great list, with 1 statement I disagree with @keithcollantine and it’s this one: “While his first victory on the Northamptonshire circuit in 2010 owed a lot to Vettel’s first-lap puncture”. Really? And I thought it was Mark’s rare great start which meant he was ahead into Copse and that left Vettel vulnerable to a tap from Lewis’s front wing. There was not a hair’s difference in performance between them that weekend, so what makes you think Vettel would’ve got ahead even without the puncture?

    Anyway, another couple of races not on this list that I’d like to propose:First is bit controversial: Brazil 2003. Webber was P3 in qualy just 4/100 sec off pole, and in the race was constantly close to the front, also being the only one who managed to save a spin off the river at turn 3 which sent 7 drivers including Montoya and Schumacher into the wall. Off course he crashed it from 7th in the end which led to stoppage of the race after 54 laps(Alonso crashed straight after him) but only 8 cars were running at the finish and only 6 of those 8 didn’t have any kind of crash that day(Fisichella, Coulthard, Kimi, Frentzen, Trulli, Villeneuve) so despite that I think it was a great weekend from him

    The second is Austria 2003. Despite having to start from the pitlane and also suffering a drive-through during the race he still finished in 7th place setting the 3rd fastest race lap behind only the Ferraris in what was only the 7th-8th best car of the season

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