Mark Webber: the driver debates

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Mark Webber is, to some, one of the most promising F1 drivers and would be winning races tomorrow if he was in a McLaren or Ferrari.

Others feel the hype doesn?t match reality, Webber has thrown away opportunities and never passes up an opportunity to whinge to the press.

Webber had an unusual route into Formula 1, spending time in sports car racing on the way. It included an appearance for Mercedes in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours where, famously, the cars suffered stability problems and Webber crashed twice when his took off without warning.

If Le Mans was a nightmare his arrival in F1 in 2002 was fairytale stuff. Webber scored two points on his debut for Minardi ?ǣ in the days when two points meant fifth place ?ǣ at the home race for himself and team owner Paul Stoddart.

The rest of the year followed more predictable lines for the back-of-the-grid team. At the end of the year he switched to Jaguar, where he made light work of team mate Antonio Pizzonia, the Brazilian being dropped from the team before the end of the season.

Webber is a qualifying specialist but rarely gets tarred with the same ??fast on Saturday, slow on Sunday? brush as, say, Jarno Trulli. Webber surprised the paddock by getting his Jaguar into the top three at Interlagos and the Hungaroring in 2003 and Sepang in 2004. His record this year versus Red Bull team mate David Coulthard is 7-1 to Webber?s advantage.

However the time he spent at Williams from 2005-6 ?ǣ against the advice of manager Flavio Briatore ?ǣ did little to enhance Webber?s reputation. Nick Heidfeld proved a tougher team mate than many expected in 2005. In 2006 his car was painfully unreliable, robbing Webber of potentially strong results at Monte-Carlo and Melbourne among others.

Misfortune continued to dog him on his ??return? to Red Bull (formerly Jaguar) in 2007 as he suffered the most race-ending mechanical failures of any driver on the grid for a second year in row. His frustration was plain for all to see at Fuji last year, when he was poised to take second place or perhaps better before being taken out by half-team mate Sebastian Vettel.

In 2008 he finally has a car that?s both quick and reliable and Webber?s been delivering points finishes with greater regularity than at any time in his F1 career.

Some remain unconvinced of his potential, however, and his plain-spoken approach with the media makes easy ammunition for his critics: ??he whinges too much?, ??he shouldn?t get involved in politics? etc??

I have no time for these complaints. I think it?s a poor state of affairs that many F1 drivers ?ǣ usually on the instruction of their teams ?ǣ shy so far away from controversy when talking to the media that they never say anything interesting at all.

Webber has not always made the correct choice of teams in the past and he faces potentially another tricky choice now. Red Bull are clearly improving, but is that progress coming fast enough?

Question marks hang over Fernando Alonso?s future at Renault, and Briatore?s presence at the team potentially creates a route to it for Webber. Should he go down that path? Or would walking away from the Milton Keynes team for a second time simply be repeating an old mistake?

Read more about Mark Webber: Mark Webber biography

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 34 comments on “Mark Webber: the driver debates”

    1. Outside of the top three teams and along with Jarno Trulli, Webber is one of the few drivers who has absolutely maximised his results this season. His performance in France, for example, was metronomic, and damn quick. Now that he has a reliable race car, you can put money on him bringing home a decent haul of points every time. If he was in a top car, the logical conclusion would be that he’d be fighting for wins. He’s comprehensively outpaced every team-mate that he has ever had on raw speed. He’s quick, savvy, good with the media, mature, experienced, technically astute… he either needs Red Bull to come good quick or for one of the big boys to come calling soon, before time runs out.

    2. I see Webber as a just below “superstar” type driver – meaning , yes , in a top car he could certainly win a world championship , without doubt. Unless an offer by the top two teams , unlikely as it may look , better to stay where he is at Red Bull , than venture into the unknown once again , time is no longer on his side.

    3. He seems to have aged, all of a sudden…..I mean I remember him coming into F1, and it doesnt seem that long ago, he always had promise, but now he is very old

    4. He’s a superb ATHLETE, a good driver, the girls love him, BUT ………… he IS a whiner, on that we all agree. Side by side, I’d pick Trulli.

    5. he IS a whiner, on that we all agree

      Erm, I don’t.

    6. Robert McKay
      1st July 2008, 15:04

      Webber is easily the biggest enigma of this Formula 1 generation. There’s decent talent there, but the potential has never quite turned into reality for some reason. There should have been more to show for his career so far. How much of that is down to reliability? A fair bit, I guess, but something has been missing from his F1 career – something hard to pinpoint and define exactly, but something important nonetheless. But I do like his plain talking: something we see far too little of in F1.

      I’ve started to think he’s being hampered by some of F1’s increasingly bonkers rules. He’s a great qualifier, and hence a regular in the top 10. But it seems that the way it often works out, taking out a bit of fuel to try and get, say, 8th, is actually probably more disadvantageous than being 10th/11th with heavier cars. Red Bull don’t seem to realise this and so Webbo, whilst always looking a bit racy in the early stages, is always generally racing someone a bit further back over a longer game and so often is in a false position for a lot of the race, and hence the disappointment when he comes out 7th when running 4th or 5th for a large chunk. I think he suffers this problem more than any other, as one of the most consistent non-top-6 drivers to regularly make Q3.

      But he does race a lot better than he used to: I said in the DC discussion that he’s now definitely outqualifying AND outracing Coulthard, but maybe DC is no longer a proper benchmark.

      Webber is in a sort of no-mans-land, in my view. I think he does deserve to be in a team that’s a lot closer to the top 2 than Red Bull (or Renault) are at the moment. But, does he deserve a top drive? Mmmm….maybe. At this moment in time, I can’t put him forward ahead of Kubica or Kimi or Hamilton or even Massa, but he could outdo Heidfeld, given another chance, or maybe even Kovi… The real question is WILL he get a top drive? No. I feel pretty certain he won’t be driving a Mclaren/Ferrari or BMW in his career. It just looks like the big teams are not going to want him, when they have their own stream of younger, nurtured talent coming through. So the drive he deserves doesn’t really exist, at the moment. Realistically, he needs either Red Bull to take another step and start mixing with BMW, or needs Renault to begin to work their way back to the front. Those are his options, I fear.

    7. I’ve started to think he’s being hampered by some of F1’s increasingly bonkers rules. He’s a great qualifier, and hence a regular in the top 10. But it seems that the way it often works out, taking out a bit of fuel to try and get, say, 8th, is actually probably more disadvantageous than being 10th/11th with heavier cars.

      That is an excellent point.

    8. Webber is not an elite driver by any means. He has had many DNFs and most of them were due to his faults. He doesn’t have particular pace, even in a fast car, and the only reason he is hyped in the media is that he is Australian, and that country is a significant F1 market (in fact, it’s a continent by itself). Webber is a middle-of-the-road driver, no less, no more. I would pick Jarno over him any time. And the major teams know all this and that’s why they are not interested in him.

    9. He has had many DNFs and most of them were due to his faults.

      That may have been true earlier in his career. But last year from 17 races he finished 10, stopped in six due to car failures, and was taken out of one by Vettel. He’s finished every race this year except the first when he was one of several drivers caught up in a crash at the start. So I don’t think it’s true any more, if it was true in the first place.

    10. Webber 18 points
      Trulli 18 points
      Kovalainen 20 points

      I think the differences between the toyota and red bull with the mclaren are clear. Someone it´s not getting his job done properly, so if these guays manage to get almost the same points than a machine clearly ahead i´m afraid they deserve to have a try on that machine, it´s a shame fro Trulli, he almost could have the reanult, but he screwed his relation with the boss, but he proved a good match for Alonso those two years (even you can count that Alonso was improving)
      In the case of webber he hasn´t had the opportunity to try a good car, but he is delvering good results, constantly, good in a lap for qalify, and difficult to pass (in the spanish tv, de la Rosa is always commenting, and always remember hard fought battles with him, and regard him very good, and not tell me he is bad for overtaking, he overtook M. schumacher on a slippery surface with schu jumping a chicane, not a piece a cake).
      He is showing everything needed for a top car, maybe there are too little top cars for the people deserving, but for me he is clearly deserving

    11. Yeah, remember that time when Heikki got screwed over by the safety car rules in Australia, or that time when his wheel rim failed in Spain, or that time when he suffered a puncture on the first lap in Turkey, or that time when something was wrong with his steering wheel before the start in Monaco? And let’s not forget about the two grid penalties in Bahrain and France!

      You’re right, we’ve clearly seen all there is to Heikki and he obvously doesn’t deserve that McLaren drive… ;D

    12. Keith

      Absolutely off topic, but did you heard anything about Coulthard announce his retirement on this weekend?

    13. Becken – I suspect I’ve only seen the same vague online rumours you have. Feel free to start a post in the forum if you want to start a new discussion by the way:

      F1 Fanatic Forum

    14. Terry Fabulous
      1st July 2008, 23:56

      Spot on Johnny. Heikki is undoubtably the unluckiest man this year. He must have driven over a black cat, skiding off underneath a ladder on the 13th lap of the 13th test session.

      Webber is doing exactly what he needs to do to get into a race winning car, which is to convincingly beat his teammate and drive consistently and strongly. When he moved to Williams, they had won the last race before he arrived! He just coincided his arrival with the decline of the team. The key for him is to stay with Red Bull and see if Adrian Newey is on top of the new regulations. Ted Kravtiz (Whom I have a new respect for since reading his notebooks) thinks that Red Bull could have a good chance to be on top of the new regulations.

      On that topic, Keith, when do the teams start testing their 09 models. I can’t wait to see the first pics of the slicks tyres and cleaner, barge baord less cars.

    15. Mark Webber clearly deserves a drive in a top car. The issue is that most of the current drivers will retain & generally deserve to retain their seats.

      Heidfelds drive is a distinct posibility, he has been smashed by the Kube, he has a contract for next year but BMW are big enough to absorb the cost of paying his contract out. The catch with this situation is Alonso could be a possibility for BMW as well. However I do feel that Alonso just does not fit the BMW mould. But what would i know.

      Hekki is the only other real possibility. Surley Webber would have more points if he has been in Hekki’s car this year but i still doubt they would kick Hekki out and put Webber in for next season.

      Regardless of what happens, Webber has done everything he possibly can, he has out preformed his car, his team mate, his direct opposition and on ocassions those in faster cars.

      A lot of people view Webber as a whinger or whiner, i believe this is a cultural misunderstanding. A whiner would be him saying its just not fair that my team cant make a gearbox to last longer than 12 laps. HIs attitude is to call it as it is. ‘We need to fix reliability problems’, not whinging but calling it as it is. He is also willing to make a point if he believes in it (eg Mosley comments) we need more drivers like this. We want to see some personality come out in these elite atheletes.

      Webbers fitness is the class of the field, he is determined, proven by his resilience and path to the sport. He has all teh attributes and given the correct car could deliver, of that im sure.

    16. Well for one, Webber is not a whiner. He just says it how it is, which as someone else mentioned is more likely an Australian trait than anything else (those of you who have spent some time with plain speaking Aussies will know what I mean). We don’t beat around the bush.

      As regards to results, Webber seems to have inherited that other unlucky Antipodean’s hex from Chris Amon. I have no doubt that Webber is capable of winning races, he just needs the car under him for a start, and to hold together for the race duration. Monaco 2006?
      He was running third, before the Williams expired on him. And that is just one example, from a myriad of others. Maybe I pay more attention to Webber & his results than others do, seeing as he’s the only Aussie in the field. So when others see only DNF’s, I see the cause behind them. And to be honest, I can’t even remember one DNF that you could say was his fault. I am not saying he is error free, just that circumstance has conspired against him.

      Now it seems like he has turned a corner, and with the ever improving RB4 I live in hope that Webber can finally show everyone what he is made of. I think he should stay put at Red Bull. He knows the team, he knows the car, and they have Adrian Newey whose touch is just starting to be felt.

      At Renault, he’d be back to square one.

      My patriotic blinders are not on so much that I think Webber is the best driver out there – or possibly even WDC material – but I’d certainly rate him in the top six.

    17. I think your article highlighted Mark Webber as a driver perfectly Keith, and I think he should stay at Red Bull for the forseeable future, an opportunity he deserves.
      The hunger and desire for success is there in Webber, you can hear it in his voice when he speaks and in his general attitude, that some mistake for arrogance.
      I agree that Mark Webber is a more ‘old fashioned’ race car driver, not afraid to speak his mind to anybody, no matter how powerfull.
      I was impressed by his openess in discussing the future of Max Mosley prior to the FIA’s decision, something not done by any of his peers and for obvious reasons.
      Concerning his past, Webber has yet to be at the right team at the right time. Ofcourse Minardi were the stepping stone into Formula One for Mark, but Jaguar failed to deliver in F1 period, and Webber suffered badly due to that as did others.
      At Williams, Webber had the misfortune to arrive as the team took a downward turn as you quite rightly illustrated. In hindsight, a Williams drive maybe two or three years earlier may well have helped serve Webber better, but hindsight is a wonderfull and useless thing.
      With Red Bull, Mark Webber has the chance to lead. Lead a team that is well financed, with Adrian Newey designing the cars. Webber has had David Coulthard under control this season, and has achieved some impressive results.
      I like his style at times, even if it comes across as a bit arrogant. Don’t forget that Brabham and Jones were both a bit like that back in the day, when drivers openly spoke their minds without fear of retribution.

    18. Which was the race last year where Webber was the first to come out on dry tires? I think it was China…

      Webber is one of my favorite backmarkers, and in time they can be better than underachieving Renault… Ferrari, McLaren, and BMW are setting a tough bar though.

    19. Almost forgot the most important point I wanted to make… If not F1, where would Webber drive?

    20. I would like Mark to continue with RB and not move across to a team that is either not improving or actually going backwards – i think RB are on the up especially there reliability and lets hope MW helps them achieve there first victory in the next season or two……..

    21. Mark Hughes at Autosport speculated at the start of the season, that Webber, & his adaptable driving style, would be as good or better than Massa in the Ferrari.

      Mark’s position in the GPDA & his vocal stance has, however, portrayed him as always complaining…..even when complaint was justified.

    22. Without drivers like Webber and Coulthard actually saying something to the media F1 would be much worse off. The comments of the ‘top’ drivers after the race are always the same, you could change the GP and the quotes would stay the same!

      Webbers clearly been driving awesome for the last 2 years, it’s good people are starting to see it. A reliable car is finally showing that he’s left behind early 2005 where the majority of fans formed an opinion of him and then just repeated that over and over, regardless of his actions in the present.

    23. Well Schumi, Mansell and Hill have proven that 37ish is not too old to be still at the top of your game. Translate tha to DC who is clearly still very motivated and you can assume he is still at the top of his game as well. When at Mclaren, Mikka and Kimi kept DC at bay much the same as Webbo is now. Not a bad form line.

    24. We would be the beneficiaries if Webber’s car gives him a shot at race wins. He has done some great inside outside passes over time but he needs a faster car to take the risk to break out of the “conservative imperative” which brings points but not the triumphs you guys want to see to mark greatness.

      I would be really interested to see what Mark would be doing if he had been given a “go race order” and was in Alonso’s seat right now – would he be doing better?

      Webber is not arrogant, he rates other drivers as he sees them if he thinks well of them and only ticks off the kids when they well and truly need it. Otherwise he pays due respect or says nothing (incl Coulthard on car set up and racing speed). Also other drivers like Kovaleinen, Alonso, and even Hamilton if he is just asked about his speed.

      But Australians don’t worship at the alter of the high and mighty on any field mate.

    25. Jonesracing82
      2nd July 2008, 8:41

      RBR is Better than Renault this year so i dont see him going there!
      new rules for next year and adrian newey is good at that scenario
      if i was him, i’d want to stay where he is

    26. Terry – teams usually don’t start testing their cars for next year until this year has finished. But perhaps we will see them earlier than usual this time as there are so many changes planned for next year – KERS, lowwer downforce, slicks, etc.

      Loud Howard – I agree entirely. I want drivers to show a bit of personality, not just mumble something vague and add ‘for sure’.

      Motion – Interesting point about his attitude to other drivers. I remember an article ina magazine in 2002 or 2003 whre Webber was talking about how he always tried to pay attention when he was lapped by Michael Schumacher, or running behind him in testing, to try and work out what Schumacher was doing that he could learn from…

    27. Mark has always said Schumacher was his hero since he was a kid and remained so as a racer even if the person didn’t measure up (he didn’t say the latter explicitly).

      I didn’t mean Webber should go to Renault, I would just be interested in how he would do head-on-head in the same seat, his reactions during those half chances and whether he would push as hard as Alonso and keep his head.

    28. It’s hard to know what next year will look like. Alonso said the other day that Honda might even be an attractive option, as no one knows who is going to cope with the changes best. Personally, I can’t see Webber taking that risk, despite the attractive lure of Ross Brawn. I can, however, see Alonso thinking about it if, and only if, he has signed on for Ferrari in 2010, or if he suspects Renault are well behind the 8-ball.

      I think Webber should stay where he is. Red Bull may consider themselves in a similar position as BMW as far as R&D goes. Even though they are not where they should be, or where they’d like to be, they can probably accept that regular podiums are out of reach this year and solid small points hauls are more realistic. That means they can pump most of their resources into next year’s car and get a jump on the other teams. I’m not saying they shouldn’t continue to develop the RB4 to maintain their position, but they are in an enviable position with regard to priorities. From what Christian Horner says, Newey is now focussed almost entirely on the 2009 car, and BMW are probably doing the same now that they have hit their target for 08.

      It’ll also be interesting to see if Vettel takes DC’s place next year, and interesting what effect that has on Webber.

    29. Personally id me more then happy to see Mark stay with redbull for another 2 years.
      Id rather be in an Adrian Newey designed car in the next couple years on the eve of all these new aero regulations. Newey designed world championship cars when these style of cars were running around. Personally im excited about F1 and the next few year.

      Hopefully like SJ mentioned know one really knows how each team will cope with the changes and it might really bring the field together, but with Newey on your side you should be in the top half.
      Marks 32, and with his superior fitness and determination, hopefully will see him in F1 into his late 30’s. Looking forward to it!

    30. Some great points, as i see it for Mark next year there are 3 options at best.

      Honda are a posibility, they could produce the goods but its a risk.

      BMW if Heidfeld geets the boot Webber would be a much better fit for the BMW ethos than Alonso.

      RBR a good bet for many reasons. However resource limits worry me. Newey is brilliant but with such widspread changes we need resources. Some teams arer talking about designing 2 cars (one with KERS and one without it) We could simply not do this. So the RB5 will be hit or miss.

      Renault are a no go i think. My reasoning for that is if they are going to be anywhere around the mark then Alonso will stay, if Alonso goes then its a good indication they are not fairing to well with the development of next years car.

      I saw an interview with Webber on the weekend where he mentioned he knew some teams were going to be running their 09 cars in the next few months, other teams just before christmas and some others in the new year. He did not elaborate who those teams were though.

      I wonder if he is privy to this info because of his contract negotiations and the teams ‘putting forward their case’ to lure him for 09??

      Either way its such a tricky call for him.

    31. Many ppl don’t unstand the complete picture.
      I think you do a pretty good job above!

      In F1 your car is so important, and Webber has shown he’s a very good driver. What he showed us at redbull has been great!
      Can he win, it looks like it, but he still has to prove it when he gets the right car.

      ps: He wasn’t the better of all his team mates as stated above, he did have trouble with Heidfeld who did a great run at Williams alongside Webber. (If you look at the end result webber wins, but again the complete picture is different, Nick didn’t complete the season due to injury)

    32. SoLID the main comment I would mark re 05 is that firstly as a driver it was Marks poorest year.

      He was clearly faster than Heidfeld however Mark did overdrive. He made several driving errors trying to push the car further up the grid than it deserved.

      Heidfeld drove a more conservative season and picked up more consistent points.

      Whilst there is a strong case to put forward for Heidfeld in 05 I still think Mark was ‘better’ and a lot faster than Nick.

      Points wise that was Webbers best year but driving wise it was probably his worst.

      I do however think he learnt so much from 05, as witnessed by his subseqent seasons.

      Try to think back to Marks on track errors since Williams 06… I will surley forget some but the only ones I can remember are:

      Suzuka 06 he dropped it on the last corner mid race.
      Canada 07 he spun at t1 trying to pass Kubica (no damage though)
      Canada 08 dropped it in quali2.

      So its pretty clear that whilst he has always had the speed his driving has really matured since 05.

    33. Mark was quicker than Heidfeld in 05. He comprehensively beat him in qualifying and in race pace.
      But Mark made errors in 3 or 4 races that cost him multiple podiums, and in those very races Heidfeld picked up the points so took the glory.

      In all qualifying during 05 Mark was fueled heavier and closer to the front of the grid than Heidfeld. It all counts for nothing if you can not finish the race.

    34. what i get frustrated at is that mark is called a whinner by alot of people.

      but if none of the drivers werent allowed to speak there minds, how boring would it be?

      im not sure if F1 has a freedom of speech rule, but the drivers should hav free speech, and it spices everything up.

      well mark weboo webber is my favourite driver but for many reasons, and not just because hes aussie.

      1. like what keith wrote, is that he speaks his mind and is not afraid to speak his mind to the media, along with DC. this brought him lots of criticism, but seriously hes just been a fair dinkum aussie speaking his mind.

      2. shows sheer pace without the machinery. yes we know he could have gotten the renault drive if he listened to flavio, but if u were in the mid 04 season, williams were a team like renault in 07, not too bad, and they had won the last race of the 04 season at interlagos.

      3. it always seems the **** think mark is over rated and the rest of the world think mark is under rated. but ive always liked going for the underdog. he just needs the car, ive said that too my mates for years whove given it to me for not going for the big guns.

      4. sure he made a few stupid mistakes when he was at minardi, jag and williams, but at red bull hes kept it clean. i can only recaal a few incedents that werent mechanical that mark had made whilsts at RBR.

      1) 07 canada, spins trying to pass robert in turn 1.
      2) 08 Turkey practice, didnt respect the wet astroturf and spins hit wall.
      3) 08 canada, the track was braking what could u say.
      4) 08 silverstone, a weired race, simple as that.

      compare this to the little brazillian in a frikin ferrari! and how many mistakes he has done.

      and yes marks race starts are poor, but his qualifying these days with the ever improving RB4 is his strong spot. especially these days with it soo hard to pass, qualifying is soo crucial.

      and u got thoose great races too, or great until his car blows up
      1) 06 monaco, probaly would have won if his engine wiring loom didnt set on fire
      2) 06 AUS, running 1st till a hydraulics failure
      3) 06 germany, running a solid 4th, until his engine cut out about 15 laps to go
      4) 07 Fuji, gets taken out by a rookie
      5) 07 nurburgring, challenging conditions, almost lost the podium coming out of the last chicane
      6) 05 monaco, podium. should hav gotten 2nd if not for a team decission
      7) 05 suzuka finished 4th, strong drive, on for a podium until kimi blasted through to win
      8) 05 spa a consistent drive in wet conditions 4th i think.
      9) 08 monaco always strong in monaco was a great 4th. sure the kimi adrian situation helped, but staying out of trouble was the main thing.

      thoose were all great drives by mark

      For what i see, Mark is a real proper racer. we all know his talent, but executing them on raceday will be the hard part that he needs to achieve.

      furthermore, marks smooth driving along with less aero and the new regulations in which adrian should excel with will have Mark in consistent points in 09 if not podium or even wins.

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