Watch him fly at Hock­en­heim

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - TIMBLAIR blairt@dai­lytele­graph.com.au

AUS­TRALIAN Mark Web­ber en­ters this week­end’s Ger­man GP equal with Spain’s dual world champ Fer­nando Alonso on sea­son vic­to­ries (two each) and vir­tu­ally equal with Alonso on world cham­pi­onship points. Yet Web­ber’s ti­tle chase fails to ex­cite lo­cal sports fans in quite the man­ner of, say, bike hero Cadel Evans and his pur­suit of a sec­ond Tour de France win.

Part of this might be lack of aware­ness of how im­pres­sive has been Web­ber’s F1 ca­reer. He’s scored more podium fin­ishes and pole po­si­tions than our pre­vi­ous world champ, Alan Jones, plus an equal num­ber of fastest laps and just three fewer wins. Web­ber’s num­bers add up.

Part of it might be due to per­cep­tions of him as a com­plainer. This seems a lit­tle un­fair, yet un­der­stand­able— F1 is a com­pli­cated team sport in which driv­ers carry the weight of press at­ten­tion, in­vari­ably obliged to try to ex­plain tech­ni­cal or tac­ti­cal er­rors. It can def­i­nitely look a lit­tle com­plainy, es­pe­cially to those who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate F1’s in­fi­nite galaxy of high-speed vari­ables. These guys aren’t ex­actly tak­ing penal­ties against blind­folded keep­ers.

When pure driver er­ror or un­der­per­for­mance are in­volved, Web­ber is usu­ally di­rect and hon­est. Many ri­vals aren’t keen on ad­mit­ting fault.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Web­ber alien­ated many lo­cal jour­nal­ists two years ago when he rightly crit­i­cised our nan­nys­tate driv­ing reg­u­la­tions. Some took a set against the Quean­beyan boy.

For the rest of us, Web­ber’s 2012 sea­son is a reve­la­tion. Stomped by team­mate Se­bas­tian Vet­tel in 2011, at 35 Web­ber is demon­strat­ing re­newed speed and pre­ci­sion. Watch him fly at Hock­en­heim, the scene of Jones’s first Wil­liams win in 1979.

SAFETY IN NUM­BERS

IF ever your life de­pends on judg­ing a car’s age— hey, it could hap­pen— re­main calm and count the cup hold­ers. The more cup hold­ers, the more re­cent the car. Many cur­rent mod­els have more cup hold­ers than cylin­ders. Some older cars might ap­pear to have none. Check the inside of the glove­box lid, which should dis­play a cou­ple of shal­low in­dents. These were used when the car was stopped. It was a dif­fer­ent, less ur­gent era.

Web­ber gets air: An­other podium fin­ish, at Sil­ver­stone ear­lier this month

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