Famed for his no-nonsense attitude and fighting spirit, nine-time GP winner Mark Webber spent 12 eventful years in F1, which took him from wrestling sub-optimal machinery at Minardi and Jaguar to providing adult supervision at a fledgling Red Bull. And then came that combustible partnership with Sebastian Vettel. Never short of an opinion, here he takes us on a photographic tour of his career…
British Formula 3, 1997 RACING ON A SHOESTRING
I still have a lot of fond memories of this year, but my dad Al and I were scratching around for money. We certainly knew the price of a pint of milk. For example, we questioned whether we should insure the car for the next race. I didn’t think I’d go off the road, but if I did, by smashing an F3 car up I’d suddenly find myself £45k in the red. All of these things were stressful because I was ultimately accountable.
I had people who believed in me, but I still had to deliver. There were drivers in the pitlane who would turn up in their BMW M5s and that was fuel on the fire for me – I wanted to beat those pricks. They weren’t getting into the cockpit with the stress I had. The drivers who had a lot of money, you could see the fire wasn’t there. They could afford to smash up their cars.
2 Benetton launch, 2001 FIRST DAY AT THE OFFICE
Looking at this picture, Fernando and I definitely need to get to the gym – we’re probably carrying an extra 5kg each here. And Flavio… you can see what a flamboyant character he was even then. In all of these pictures, I’m trying to make myself look small because Flavio was always worrying about my size and whether I was too tall for the car. He was a tough taskmaster – there’s no doubt about that. He wanted us to perform and he wanted us to deliver and there’s a trunkload of podiums amassed between us there. This was a huge moment for me, to not have to look for sponsorship any more and to be paid for my services. Australian Grand Prix, 2002 HOME HEROICS As the race went on, the Minardi was not healthy at all. The diff was spinning up and the fuel cap wasn’t opening at the pitstops, which was linked to the pit-limiter. It was all a bit of a cluster really. Team boss Paul Stoddart told me on the grid that if I could get the car home, it would be sensational, since it was a massive crowd. It was my first grand prix and I had no lack of motivation.
With about six laps to go Mika Salo was coming up quickly behind me in the Toyota, but when he arrived I said to myself: “I’m going to make it really hard for him.” It was elbows out and he spun as he attempted to pass. I looked in my mirrors and thought: ‘Beautiful!’
I was embarrassed about going up onto the podium [Webber finished fifth] afterwards, but Bernie Ecclestone and promoter Ron Walker said we should go up anyway and they’d pay the fines. The crowd went ballistic! It was a very special day.
Brazilian Grand Prix, 2003 HAVING A SMASHING TIME
I moved to Jaguar and the zeros in my salary changed: it was serious and I knew I had a job to do. My teammate Antonio Pizzonia had a great junior career and was hot mustard, but he struggled in F1. So, I built the team around myself, and they looked to the guy who was quickest.
This crash looks more spectacular than it was because the impact was pretty low. We were quick all weekend, but we ran long on the intermediates. By the end of the race there was no tread left and the tyre was getting colder. I got on the damp stuff with the right rear and lost the car. It was a big shunt, and then Fernando arrived, hit the tyre and had an even bigger impact front-on.
I went back to my physio and he asked how I was feeling. I eye-balled him and bashed out 50 press-ups. He said ‘all good’ and we headed for the airport to come home. There wasn’t much of a check-up back then.
Monaco Grand Prix, 2005 HEART OVER HEAD
Driving for Williams wasn’t as enjoyable as it was for Jaguar or Red Bull. I was as frustrated as anyone: you want the team you work for to be the best one. Patrick Head and Frank Williams were the reason I’d gone there and I had so much respect for what they’d achieved. But my heart ruled my head.
Juan Pablo Montoya had taken Williams’ last win in Brazil in 2004, whereas Renault hadn’t had the success up to that point. But it’s Renault I should have decided to go with. It was on the table for me to be Fernando’s teammate, which would have been interesting – although not all plain sailing, I’m sure.
At that time, Williams had just lost BMW and a number of other sponsors, and aerodynamically they had never recovered from losing Adrian Newey. It’s always about people. The windtunnel doesn’t go bad on its own; it needs the right people to press the buttons.
I got my first podium with Williams at Monaco, but we were nowhere near the results we wanted. I just wasn’t enjoying this Formula 1 thing. At Jaguar I’d get there early and leave late, but at Williams I didn’t enjoy going to work.
German Grand Prix, 2009 FAST – AND FURIOUS
Red Bull was such a young team in those days, but Flavio assured me they would be successful eventually. Firstly I was furious that I’d lost the British Grand Prix the weekend before because I felt that was my event. Seb [Vettel] got pole and won it, so I aimed to win in Germany. At that race I got a drive-through penalty after touching Rubens [Barrichello] off the line, but I came back and won. It had been over 20 years between Australians winning grands prix.
It was funny because Dad came to that race and he’d lost a tooth the night before, which I didn’t know about. He’s pretty good with his teeth – since he can eat, my dad – but all the photos from that weekend are hilarious with the front peg he’d lost that day.
British Grand Prix, 2010 “NOT BAD FOR A NUMBER-TWO DRIVER”
That Santander flame’s in a good spot, isn’t it? Burning my arse… Yeah, the team got a bit of a spray from me on Saturday night. And Sunday night. There were two front wings on Friday and, as we know, the preferred front wing went on Seb’s car. It wasn’t as though Seb was 30 points down the road; I was ahead of him, so I thought: ‘What’s going on here?’
I first beat him in qualifying to get pole and made a good start, which wasn’t one of my strengths. If I look back on it, my starts cost me a world title. It was one of my flaws, and pivotal things like that made the environment a real pressure cooker. In the race, it was pretty straightforward. It was a very, very good day – not bad for a number-two driver! A good party and brilliant crowd.
Malaysian Grand Prix, 2013 WHEN IT’S OVER, IT’S OVER
This press conference was one of the toughest I’ve been in. As we’ve seen with Seb, he can get torn between what he’d like to do and what he does do – between his heart and his head. There’s a lot of history between us that goes back to Turkey 2009, and also a year later when we crashed into each other again there. Then there was Brazil 2012 when he was going for the championship and was disappointed that I didn’t give him more room at Turn 1.
Here the call came that the race was off, but then he was still coming at me like a train. He passed me, but I’d pretty much made a decision at that point that I was going to Porsche – I’d checked out. He apologised on the podium but there had been a lot of heat over the radio. Then I found myself dealing with [Red Bull owner] Dietrich Mateschitz on the phone – and it was all a shit sandwich really. That was a bad press conference; no one was celebrating.