Why Mark Webber deserves to be a Formula One champion
There were more than just a few conspiracy theories abound following the 2010 season that Red Bull Racing had scuppered Mark Webber’s championship challenge in order to ensure that their ‘wunderkind’ Sebastian Vettel win the Formula One crown.
It was certainly tempting to think so. Especially after Red Bull made it abundantly clear that it would not favour one driver over the other. This was despite the fact that the Australian was 24 points ahead of Vettel in the championship standings after the Italian Grand Prix that year and five points clear of second placed Lewis Hamilton.
Team orders were, of course, banned in 2010 but it seemed like a no-brainer for many F1 observers for Red Bull to back Webber. Not in the least since the Austrian team had severely irked him at the British Grand Prix that year when they took off their latest-spec front wing and installed it on Vettel’s RB6. The German took pole, but Webber put in a storming drive to take the win while Vettel could manage just seventh.
Sticking it to Vettel prompted Webber to sound off to his pitwall on the radio after he crossed the finish line. “Not bad for a number two driver!” Perhaps it was those words and the verbal warning from Red Bull’s powers that be, thought the conspiracy theorists, that ultimately sealed Webber’s fate in the tight title race that followed.
Webber of course, was quick to silence the conspiracy theorists and point to his mistake in the Korean Grand Prix that lead to him crashing out and scoring zero points.
Even as he struggled to get anywhere near Vettel in 2011 (when team orders were legal again), the conspiracy theorists were silenced again by Webber’s admission of not getting on top of the rubber supplied by F1’s new tyre supplier Pirelli.
It’s not easy to find a driver in F1’s ultra-competitive environment to admit to his own mistakes and yet not back down when it comes to racing against his rivals. But then again, it’s not for no reason that the man’s twitter handle is ‘aussiegrit’.
One incident in the very early stages of Webber’s racing career best sums up the man. It also possibly explains how he has been able to recover from seeing the 2010 title slip through his fingers. Not to mention scoring 134 points less than Vettel in 2011 to win the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix and move just three points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso and tied with Vettel.
In 1997 Webber’s motor racing career was all but over because he couldn’t find anyone to sponsor him during his rookie season of British Formula 3. A 50,000 pounds-sterling loan from former rugby international David Campese allowed him to keep pushing on his quest to reach motor sport’s pinnacle. Campese, 14 years senior to Webber came from the same hometown as the aspiring racing driver and was more than willing to give out a helping hand…one one condition. Webber had to make it count by getting to F1 and do more than just make up the numbers.
It’s probably safe to say that Webber has held his end of the deal pretty well and proved himself to be a driver capable of becoming a F1 world champion. And a truly deserving one at that.
By Vinayak Pande