The Webber 180°
“I’m high on confidence at the moment and firing on all cylinders.”
It was only a matter of months ago that the clouds were rolling in on Mark Webber’s career, the media vultures were circling and ready to call time on what had been a somewhat interesting career. Starting out in the popular backmarker team Minardi the Australian debuted at home in 2002 and scooped up points with fifth place. Since then he’s earned the respect of the grid by often putting the car he drives further up the grid than expected, but within teams that haven’t given him the opportunity to challenge for a title.
Webber’s career has made for tough viewing at times, when fellow Flavio Briatore stablemate Fernando Alonso bedded in at Renault, the Australian followed his heart to Williams with hopes of emulating the success of days past, but where the Spaniard prospered Webber struggled. However a move to a relatively fresh face on the grid, a reincarnation of former team Jaguar at the advice of Briatore, allowed Webber to revitalise his career and back up a 2005 Monaco podium with one at the Nürburgring in 2007.
Working with Red Bull Racing, Webber reached the potential many attributed him in his early days, becoming a serious title contender in 2010 but faltered and left his team mate to bask in the glory of the ultimate victory. The disappointment apparently bled into 2011 and to what led to a much reported annus horribilis, unable to extract the same performance at Sebastian Vettel he lived in the soon to be double world champion’s shadow. His improved points tally did nothing to soothe the disappointment.
Notably the Australian is a fan of sports psychology and a healthy off-season has seen him return in remarkable form, learning to surf and participating in his newly reinvigorated Tasmania Challenge gave him the boost to start 2012 positively. Although he earned a best ever finish at his home race it still saw him miss the podium, but his results have been consistent, which have brought home a fistful of points on all but one occasion.
When 2012 was still in it’s infacy Christian Horner painted a glossy PR view of Webber’s impending season, “He has gone away and trained hard through the winter and his enthusiasm has rejuvenated and I think 2012 could be a very strong year for Mark.” Easy to say, harder to do, even if Webber himself echoed his boss’ sentiments. A broken man after 2011? Simply, no.
Comparing last season to this In 2011 Webber had appeared on the podium five times by the ninth race, however this year he’s only managed that feat twice, but the kicker is both of those times he’s taken the win. Part of the classics range in Formula One, Monaco and Silverstone have both played the Australian national anthem thanks to the lad from Queanbeyan. On the verge of the halfway point of the season Webber is closer to Alonso who currently resides in the number one slot than his team mate in third, a strong position for a man who’s retirement was the hot topic throughout 2011.
That chatter persisted into this year, with Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne tied into Toro Rosso it was a matter of who would be replace Webber, and although the duo scored points early on, the rookies have struggled to match that form. Becoming the first Australian to win around the streets of Monaco twice ensured the vultures were caged, now the talk turned from the Bull to the Prancing Horse.
The prospect of Webber joining his grid buddy Alonso stirred the Silly Season Rumour Mill into overdrive, and curiously evasive comments from the man himself added fuel to the fire. “Yeah…I’ll..I think I’ll be in Formula 1 next year.” Webber was just as helpful last year, “If the team doesn’t want me anymore, I will have to ask myself a question — hang up my helmet or change teams?” Safe to say he knows how to use the media to his advantage. Needless to say he was happy to announce his continued residence at the Milton Keynes based outfit for the 2013 season, but admitted contact was made between him and that prestigious scarlet hued team.
So for Mark Webber there is only question that needs answering now, “Are you going to start 2013 as a world champion?”