Reflections on Mark Webber’s Formula 1 career

Mark Webber ended his fabulous Formula 1 career in Brazil last weekend. The Australian finished second on the podium, his 42nd podium finish of his 215 race career.

Mark Webber ended his fabulous Formula 1 career in Brazil last weekend. The Australian finished second on the podium, his 42nd podium finish of his 215 race career.

Webber, 37, has suffered many lows in Formula 1 over the years but there is no doubt that he is a superb driver still at the top of his game despite his age, and he certainly comes across in the media as a very nice guy.

Webber was born in New South Wales and began his career in karting at the age of 14, after being mainly involved with motorcycles (his father Alan is a motorcycle dealer).

In 1997 Webber moved to Europe and was signed by Alan Docking Racing to progress in his career to Formula Three.  Despite financial troubles, and an estimated £50,000 investment in him from Australian rugby union player David Campese, Webber managed a fourth place finish in his first season.

He then made his Formula 1 debut at his home grand prix of Melbourne in 2002 with Minardi, owned by fellow Australian Paul Stoddt who he was introduced to by BBC Sport presenter Eddie Jordan. Scoring Minardi’s only 2 points of the season secured Webber the title of Autosport’s Rookie of the Year. He then acquired a contract with Jaguar and two years later moved to Williams.

Webber’s career really took off when in 2007 he moved to Red Bull. By 2009 he had won his first race. Until then the 37 year old had had one of the highest number of starts without a race win and has subsequently been named one of the most unlucky Formula 1 drivers in history.

The pole position

An accident before the 2009 season left Webber facing testing with steel rods in his legs. At the German Grand Prix Webber became the first Australian in 19 years, after Alan Jones in 1980, to take a pole position.

2010 was a pivotal season for Webber in terms of his career. He attained five pole positions and won four Grand Prix’s, including the elusive Monaco and Silverstone races. He finished on the podium in second and third another six times. 2010 brought a new teammate in the form of Sebastian Vettel and if it wasn’t for the German Webber would most likely be a world champion by now.

A challenge from Sebastian Vettel

At the European Grand Prix Webber had a spectacular crash with Heikki Kovalainen that resulted in his Red Bull flipping upside down. He was left with only minor injuries but due to the retirement, and another later retirement in Korea, he finished the championship title in third and was unable to challenge Vettel.

Both 2011 and 2012 followed suit with Webber having up and down seasons. Vettel proved too strong a driver for the Australian to take on. In 2011 he won only one Grand Prix in Brazil, the final race of the season. Webber won at both Monaco and Britain once more in 2012, making him the first Australian to ever win twice in Monaco.

In early 2013 Webber revealed that he was to leave Formula 1 at the end of the year and move to Porsche to compete in their  FIA World Endurance Championship, which includes the Le Mans 24 hour race.

Did Webber make his mark on F1?

It was another poor season for Webber, hoping to ‘make his mark’ on the sport before he left. Retirements plagued him and the team order debacle of Multi-21 left him frustrated at the team’s clear favouring of Vettel over him. Webber finished the season with his head held high, ‘proud’ of his achievements. Despite not attaining a win he did finish on the podium eight times.

As the 2013 season came to a close Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso hugged Webber goodbye. It seems that that says it all—Webber is not only a fantastic driver but one that is loved by fans and drivers alike and he will be sorely missed by many. Despite his lack of luck in Formula 1 he has thrived under difficult circumstances and we wish him all the luck in his future at Porsche.

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Image: ph-stop