Mark Webber: “A big moment in my career”

© Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Part 1 of our exclusive interview with Mark sheds light on the early years of his Formula One career

Barrichello, Patrese, Trulli, Schumi, DC, Button, Fisichella, Berger, de Cesaris, Piquet, Alesi and Alonso: it’s an exclusive band of drivers who have started 200 grands prix and Mark Webber spoke to us in Bahrain on the eve of joining the club.

Simple one first up Mark: what sticks in your mind from your first 200 grands prix?
MW: It’s got to be the wins. The first win especially. Victory at the Nürburgring in 2009, in a race where I had a drive-through penalty, that was unique. A big moment. A big moment in any driver’s career.

Aside from that, I’d say the Monaco wins. They were very different races: 2010 was littered with safety cars. In the end it didn’t matter – though it would have been nice to know how much I could have won by without the interruptions.

I got a text message afterwards from Ari Vatanen. He said ‘very impressed’. That meant a lot to me.

2012 had no interruptions but rain at the end of the race and we were running on slicks. Very, very difficult. I got a text message afterwards from [1981 World Rally Champion] Ari Vatanen. He said ‘very impressed’. That meant a lot to me. There are emotional absolutes in racing – and after winning Monaco you feel like you could run through walls.

The low points stand out too. The crash in Korea [2010] was one and there’s a couple of others where things slip through your fingers. Melbourne [2006] in the Williams was one of those: podium for sure and then the gearbox shits itself…

Speaking of Australia, you're often defined as an Aussie. Is that reasonable when you’ve lived outside a country for all of your adult life?
MW: I'm a proud Australian and will be ‘til the day I die. I think irrespective of where I spend my time, my father’s influence on me is very strong. That’s important: his values, my grandfather’s values. The first 20 years of your life are what guides you. That stays with you wherever you are. I never envisioned the professional journey I’d take – but I’m very glad my Dad has been here to see it with me.

Jaguar was a nice stepping-stone up from Minardi because it was a bigger team doing things differently.

Looking at some of your milestones, what do you remember of your 50th race, the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix?
MW: It was my last race for Jaguar and I crashed with [team-mate] Christian Klien. Disappointing that I didn’t finish my last race for Jaguar – though Williams won, which I was happy to see as that’s where I was going.

History records Jaguar as an F1 flop. You were there when it was falling apart – presumably it wasn’t what you had anticipated?
MW: Actually, Jaguar did go how I expected – it was Williams that didn’t. Jaguar was a nice step up from Minardi because it was a bigger team. Yes, my second year there was a disappointment but mostly because the first year was perfect – but that didn’t stop me learning. At Williams for 2005-6, that’s when my career hit… at best a plateau.

After Williams I virtually had to re-establish at Red Bull.

It must have been a strange situation to be in, with the relationship between BMW and Williams souring.
MW: Jaguar had been almost seamless but when you go to a team where the engine partner and many of the commercial partners are leaving… it’s difficult for everybody, and I was still pretty green. After Williams I virtually had to re-establish at Red Bull.

Part 2 of The Big Interview with Mark Webber will be featured on redbull.com tomorrow...