Mark Webber is a member of a small group of drivers who have started 200 grands prix. The Aussie continues to retrace his career and brings us up to the present day in this second part of our exclusive interview…
Your 100th Grand Prix start came at Spa in 2007. What was your first year with Red Bull like?
MW: The car wasn’t particularly quick – but what comes easiest to mind is how uncomfortable it was. The RB3 was way too small for me. I was purple after most races. Adrian made them a little bit more comfortable after that. They got quicker too – which also helps. In fact everything started to go in the right direction.
The RB3 was way too small for me. I was purple after most races.
What do you remember of your 150th Grand Prix, Hungary 2010?
MW: I remember I won it! That was a unique grand prix. Seb made a mistake behind the safety car. It put me in a position to win but the safety car had left me knackered in terms of strategy. I was racing Fernando [Alonso] and had to pull out a pitstop-sized gap to stay in front of him. I remember it being about running at qualifying pace for 20+ laps and being absolutely anally focussed on the pitboard. Real, Zen-like concentration on those numbers. Then the guys doing the pitstop had real pressure on them – but they did the job and got me out in front. After that, the last stint was probably the easiest of my life.
Would it be fair to assume the RB6 is your favourite F1 car?
MW: Yes. I liked it because it had good tyres. It’s a big factor. I liked the RB8 too but didn’t get on with the RB7 at all. It would have been interesting to have those last two on different tyres.
Rewinding a little bit, what’s the feeling like when you realise you have car that’s able to win – and win repeatedly – on merit?
MW: It’s very weird because nothing changes but the pitboard. Your level of effort doesn’t change, the way you go about your job stays the same but the pitboard says you’re pulling away from the guy in P2 rather than the guy in P6. I’ve bashed out nearly 40 podiums in these last four years. It completely changes your goals and expectations. That’s good, it sets the bar high – and it does make motivation easier, particularly at this stage in my career. I’d have very poor motivation racing for tenth place right now.
I’ve bashed out nearly 40 podiums in these last four years. It completely changes your goals and expectations.
You’re the 13th driver to make 200 Grand Prix starts… what qualities does a driver need to get to this point?
MW: Desire. Discipline. Application to your job. Staying healthy. Staying fit. Tolerance for certain parts of the job that you don’t enjoy. I enjoy it when I’ve got my helmet on and when I’m working with the guys in the garage, figuring things out about the car. The other stuff: media, PR, that’s something you’ve just got to manage.
Are you planning to join the 300 club?
That’s very definite …
MW: At the end of this year I should have… 215. 300? No way.
I know it’s a tough decision to make – tough because you can see it as giving up. Quitting.
You have the exit strategy planned?
MW: Well, you have to get the timing right. I’ve spoken to several great sportsmen and sportswomen about it, I know it’s a tough decision to make – tough because you can see it as giving up. Quitting. And that’s completely opposite to your nature and the thing that got you to where you are. It doesn’t fit comfortably with any of us. But I’m not there yet...