Wonders of team Webber
IT’S been less than six months since Mark Webber told me he would win his first grand prix this year. Forecasting a win was a big call for a bloke who doesn’t like to pump up his own tyres, but Webber was always confident the Red Bull RB5 was a winning car.
And now he’s done it. And in absolutely dominant style.
Webber’s win in the German Grand Prix reminded me a lot of Michael Schumacher, his Formula One role model. He qualified on pole position, biffed Rubens Barrichello on the run to the first corner, then recovered from a stewards’ penalty to outdrive his rivals with speed, skill and commitment.
It was typical of the drive and talent that has taken Webber to the top of global motorsport, and the wild ride from Formula Ford in Australia to the top step of the podium.
I’ve been a Webber fan for many years and have many great memories of time with the bloke — like hot-lapping at Calder Park in a Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR sports prototype. There are plenty of others.
But in this memorable week for Webber-mania it’s worth mentioning a few, and talking about their commitment. First, there is Ann Neal. She is Webber’s long-term partner and has been the powerhouse for the whole project. The impact of his first win hit me on Sunday night when Ann, who always stays in the background, stood below the podium.
Ann had to be forced to go by David Coulthard, but admits it was something she had to do.
Dad Alan Webber needed no pushing to stand in the cheering crowd, and his wet eyes reflected his emotion. I can also remember many, many other times when Webber Sr has been there for his son — even watching him mow the lawn at their house in Britain.
And he’s a real motorsport enthusiast, too, who can tell you who among the young Aussies is worth watching.
Geoff ‘‘Joffa’’ Donohue met Webber when he was working for one of his sponsors, Yellow Pages, and now he is part of the team and the man behind the Tasmanian sporting challenge. He is a ripper bloke who has done everything he can to help his hero make it to the top.
Then there is motorsport publisher Chris Lambden. He was one of the earliest sign-ups for the Webber train and has sacrificed many years of Formula One tipping chances by pushing his man. When Webber drove an F1 car for the first time, Lambden paid his own way to be there.
There are countless others who are part of the Webber team and it’s great that they were able to celebrate this week.
But as Mark would say, Germany is done. It’s time to move on to the next success.
Powerful partners: German GP winner Mark Webber with Ann Neal.