In the third episode of Formula 1’s ‘Beyond The Grid’ podcast, former F1 and Endurance driver Mark Webber opens up on his career, his rivals and more.
The eight-time grand prix winner starts the podcast talking about his journey into motor racing, especially the end of it when he decided to call it quits in 2013 from F1 while retiring from racing all-together in 2016.
Throughout his career, he was a competitive figure but the Australian was quite certain when to stop as it only becomes harder for anyone when age catches up – he takes the example of Valentino Rossi from MotoGP in this regard.
Even though the Italian is performing well enough, but the way Marc Marquez is riding, it only makes it much more tougher for Rossi. So much so, Webber no longer has a racing license even and also turned down Porsche several times for a GT drive.
He talks about his intense character on the grid, conceding that he should have been a little less of that while recalling the trip from Korea to Japan in 2013 when he along with most other F1 drivers had a ‘hell of a time’ to be knackered the day after.
The 2015 WEC champion then talked about his former teammates Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel – both world champions. He felt from the two drivers, Vettel came into F1 as a complete driver than Rosberg.
Nature wise, both were same considering their nationality, but it took Rosberg more time to settle in while Vettel was on it from the word go. He revealed about Vettel’s mindset when he tested a Williams in 2005.
Straightaway he turned down the move to F1 as he felt it was too much for him at that age and he eventually made his debut in 2007. He still had much to learn sure but he caught up well on his weak points early in his career.
He admits that he was surprised with Rosberg’s decision to quit early after winning the title, but understood the reasons – where the German had to make a lot of sacrifices, including remaining separated from his wife at times to concentrate on his driving.
Talking about his rivals, he always enjoyed racing against Fernando Alonso as one of the greats. The discussion then brought up the case of Michael Schumacher’s ‘alleged cheating’ during the 2006 Monaco GP qualifying.
Webber thinks that no matter how big a driver is, he or she tends to make some error in judgement like that which could harm the legacy of the particular driver and in the case of Schumacher, there is no doubt that he is regarded as one of the best sportsperson in the world than just a F1 racer.
He brought up the example of Tennis legend Roger Federer, with whom almost no one has a beef and the one celebrated by all. He thinks only Sir Jackie Stewart is the one who could be F1’s Federer and not Ayrton Senna or Alain Prost.
Moving on, he admitted that his switch to Williams and not Renault was a wrong call in the end in 2005 where he was undone by a superb pitch made the British outfit, with a little bit of history of Australian driver Alan Jones racing for the team.
As he wrote in his book as well, Webber talked about his Ferrari move to partner Alonso but his wish of a two-year deal wasn’t coming through with the Ferrari management after his talks with the then heads Stefano Domenicali and Luca Montezemolo.
Red Bull re-signed him for both 2012 and 2013 seasons – the latter being his last year in F1. He said Ferrari wanted not only him as a driver but also some of the leading Red Bull staff at that time. To his surprise, there was no talks of being a ‘Number 2’ driver as well.
Once his F1 career finished, Webber returned to endurance racing with Porsche. He was wary of racing in Le Mans especially after the huge accident he had with Mercedes, but he overcame those horrors to race again in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
He then recalls the recovery from the horrific leg injury he had during the 6 Hours of Sao Paulo in 2014 and ends the podcast talking about the recent fan engagement increase in F1 – which he thinks is not the best idea as it makes F1 drivers ‘trivial’ and not stars.
[Read/Listen: Robert Kubica on Beyond The Grid]