Mark Webber: “A big moment in my career”

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

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 tomorrow...

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