True Grit

Rolex Tes­ti­monee Mark Web­ber may have re­tired from For­mula One, but he con­tin­ues to push the lim­its of his phys­i­cal and men­tal strength, says Kar­ishma Tul­si­das

Singapore Tatler - - STYLE -

It is no se­cret that the Ma­rina Bay Street Cir­cuit is one of the most dif­fi­cult For­mula One tracks in the world. For this rea­son, al­most every Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix has seen its fair share of on-track drama such as this year’s Force In­dia col­li­sion on race day. In 2013, Red Bull’s Mark Web­ber and Fer­rari’s Fer­nando Alonso made head­lines when the Aus­tralian racer re­tired on the last lap and hitched a ride from his Spanish ri­val. While the show of ca­ma­raderie earned them both ku­dos from the me­dia and their fel­low driv­ers, they were also rep­ri­manded for the dan­ger­ous stunt they pulled. [When we met Fédéra­tion In­ter­na­tionale de l’au­to­mo­bile (FIA) race di­rec­tor Char­lie Whit­ing at this year’s race, he said Web­ber had ignored warn­ings from the stew­ards not to cross the track as there were other cars driv­ing past.] This sin­gu­lar in­ci­dent of­fers an in­sight into the man Web­ber is—a born risk-taker and ad­ven­ture-seeker. While he has a streak of com­pet­i­tive­ness, he has also forged in­deli­ble friend­ships with his on-track ri­vals. When we caught up with the man at the For­mula 1 2018 Sin­ga­pore Air­lines Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix at the Rolex Pad­dock Club suite, we were in­stantly charmed by his easy-go­ing na­ture and the gra­cious­ness with which he an­swered our burn­ing ques­tions, which in­cluded what he missed the most about rac­ing. “The team el­e­ment,” the now F1 com­men­ta­tor replied in­stantly. This sense of sports­man­ship was in­cul­cated in him dur­ing his child­hood in New South Wales, Aus­tralia by his mo­tor­cy­cle dealer fa­ther Alan Web­ber, who re­mains a great in­flu­ence in his life. Lessons of hard work, giv­ing no ex­cuses and how to deal with pressure held the younger

Web­ber in good stead as he started go-kart­ing pro­fes­sion­ally at age 14 be­fore em­bark­ing upon a suc­cess­ful but ar­du­ous ca­reer as an F1 driver, which re­quired him to leave home for Lon­don at age 17. “I lived in a small box room in Lon­don where I could hardly lie down straight, but I had only two choices: roll up my sleeves or go home.” He at­trib­uted the world of sports as be­ing his great­est teacher as he learnt many piv­otal lessons that would im­pact him in his per­sonal life as well. “You learn not to rest on your lau­rels. Sports teaches you great val­ues like re­silience be­cause you learn to deal with the ebb and flow of a pro­fes­sional sport, which you can re­late to your per­sonal life. Peo­ple who are psy­cho­log­i­cally weaker get found out in sports as you need to be­lieve in your­self, and be tena­cious and re­silient.” The sac­ri­fices he has had to make to reach the pin­na­cle of his ca­reer were not in vain, as he won the Grand Prix nine times in his 12 years of F1 rac­ing. He ranked his maiden win at the 2009 Monaco Grand Prix as one of his proud­est mo­ments, not least be­cause the tro­phy was pre­sented to him by his child­hood idol and fel­low Rolex Tes­ti­monee, Jackie Ste­wart. To cel­e­brate that huge win, he pur­chased his first Rolex watch. “I knew that once I did some­thing spe­cial, I would buy a Rolex. It had been on my radar for a long time and meant so much to me. Life has come full cir­cle, as my dad used to watch Jackie Ste­wart race in Aus­tralia, and Jackie has spent 50 years with Rolex. He’s my dad’s hero, and he’s fu­elled my dad’s de­sire to see me race, so it was nice to buy my­self a Rolex watch, and then later on buy my fa­ther one, too.” He also re­vealed that get­ting the phone call from Rolex last year invit­ing him to be part of its Tes­ti­monee cir­cle was an emo­tional mo­ment. “Every driver, be it at the 24 Hours of Le Mans or 24 Hours of Day­tona, is al­ways talk­ing about get­ting a Rolex, and not the tro­phies. A tro­phy can’t be with you all the time, but a watch can. To be as­so­ci­ated with such an iconic brand that has in­cred­i­ble prin­ci­ples is a big high­light for me.” Post-f1, Web­ber em­barked on the FIA World En­durance Cham­pi­onship with Porsche be­fore hang­ing up his pro­fes­sional rac­ing gloves for good in 2016. He has since es­tab­lished his own sports­wear brand called Aussie Grit and re-en­tered the F1 cir­cuit as a re­spected pun­dit, who is able to give peo­ple “more meat on the bone about my story and the sport”. On the side, he con­tin­ues to push his phys­i­cal stamina and strength with chal­lenges such as his name­sake Mark Web­ber Tas­ma­nia Chal­lenge and the Race Across the Sky. “My wife doesn’t like it when I do ex­treme events as she knows any­thing can hap­pen,” he said. “Un­for­tu­nately, it’s in my na­ture. I’ve an en­deav­our in me to al­ways learn and push my­self to the lim­its. I en­joy the un­known— we never get ner­vous about get­ting the gro­ceries! I’ve tougher ex­pec­ta­tions on my­self. It’s a Rolex men­tal­ity too, as I’m con­stantly sur­rounded by the best peo­ple who want to do well.”

TRACK KINGS From top: For­mula One le­gend Mark Web­ber joined his hero Jackie Ste­wart (pic­tured right) as a Rolex Tes­ti­monee last year; Rolex is a long-term global part­ner and the official time­piece of F1, and it is also the ti­tle spon­sor of sev­eral races in­clud­ing the For­mula 1 2018 Rolex Aus­tralian Grand Prix

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