10 July – Webber And Red Bull Shine As Sun Comes Out For British GP


So Mark Webber becomes the second repeat winner of the 2012 F1 season, and if Fernando couldn’t get the win, then I am super happy that it is Webbo. I have liked MW from the first day I really noticed him back in 2003, when he was racing for Jaguar. Prior to that he raced a season for Paul Stoddart’s little team Minardi alongside one Fernando Alonso.

MW is a breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale facade that is Formula One’s preferred driver persona. I’m referring to the amount of corporate money and sponsorship that has always been part of the sport but in the last ten years has come to govern a large part of it. And of course that means drivers and team principles have to water down their personalities (unless you’re Flavio Briatore or Jacques Villenueve), their off-track behavior and lastly what they say to the media. And although I am not looking for absolute chaos in drivers, team principals and pit crews, I definitely wish more F1 participants spoke their mind and behaved a little more true to their character. They’re racecar drivers after all!

Kimi is a notable exception to this unwritten rule and I think this is why he is so loved up and down the pit lane; he just doesn’t give two shits what anyone says. He drinks excessively, goes to strip clubs and acts crazy (and it is not even the fact that he goes to strip clubs but the fact that he won’t let a team principal or a sponsor tell him he can’t that I think is great), falls off his yacht in Monaco (more than likely bombed), crashes motorcycles, snowmobiles, and rally cars, breaks a limb doing it, and by the way don’t ask him to be nice to the sponsors, ha ha!

But back to my main point about how deserving of our respect Mark Webber is — there are a few different kinds of drivers in F1 and it breaks down like this:

1. World Champions – have achieved something quite remarkable in a sport that is very difficult- definitely deserving of piloting an F1 car.

2. Drivers that could be world champions, but have not achieved it yet – these guys are just as talented but have not had the machinery or luck to take the next step, but they all deserve to be driving in F1.

3. Drivers that are good, but will never be champions – these drivers just don’t have the ability to find those few extra 10th’s or pull off the amazing pass, despite having a car that can win. I am slightly ambivalent on this one, part of me feels they deserve to be in F1 and part of me doesn’t – tie goes to the runner, we’ll say they are deserving for now.

4. Drivers that don’t belong in F1 – but somehow because of some circumstance, money, timing, connections, or dumb luck found their way into an F1 car. They usually don’t last more than a few years and after that no one remembers them, and they definitely don’t deserve to be piloting an F1 car.

Mark Webber is not only in the second category, but as I said before he refreshingly also speaks his mind, doesn’t let anyone push him around, races hard (but fair) and from my (American) point of view is a real man’s man.

So let’s just review some of his finest moments in the past few seasons:

– Prior to the 2010 season, gets run over by a truck while riding his bike, undergoes some excruciating sub zero freezing treatment to ensure his leg was ready for the up coming season – that’s commitment.

– During the 2010 season, gives no quarter to Sebastian Vettel in the now infamous coming together that created Crash-gate at the Turkish GP. Vettel retires and shows the world the cuckoo sign; Mark continues and remarkably finishes third. I loved every moment of this controversy and the firestorm of comments on-line, for F1 junkies like myself it was just brilliant. Days of every race fan with online access having his or her say. Forget all the crap that you can buy or search for online; this is what the Internet was made for. And maybe some more altruistic things as well.  LOL

– Also in 2010, just three races further into the season, Webber is shafted by his Red Bull bosses in Front Wing-gate. Let me refresh everyone’s memory. Red Bull only brings one newly redesigned front wing and nose cone assembly to the GP of Britain and despite MW leading his teammate in championship points they give the new wing to Vettel, the favorite son, he being Austrian and a product of the Red Bull young drivers program. OK, it sucks but that is the way it goes sometimes, who ever said F1 was fair? Note that every team unofficially but unmistakably has a #1 and a #2 driver — by giving the new wing only to Vettel Red Bull was clearing calling him their #1. Anyway the wing is worth a 10th or 2, and that is exactly the gap that Vettel pulls out on Webber during Saturday’s qualifying session to get pole. Race day, red lights out, Vettel and Webber get into it right from the start with Vettel losing out, he has an off track excursion and rejoins in last place (I think). Webber goes on to win the race and while the pit crew are congratulating him over the radio he calmly replies “Not bad for a #2”, and these words are etched into the lore of Formula One, and the hearts of all underdogs, forever. This is such a revealing moment regarding not only how Webber sees himself in the team, but also how he views himself in F1 in general. Nothing has come easy for him in F1, by comparison to the way Hamilton or Vettel came into the sport. Webber has fought tooth and nail for everything he has achieved. I’m not taking anything away from Ham or Vettel, because everyone works hard to get to F1, but they just had a different and more well paved path. And it is in this defining moment that I, and I am assuming many other F1 fans around the world, became inspired by Mark Webber or at the very least had a new-found respect for the feisty man from down under. Simply put, with that one coolly sarcastic phrase, Webber made it clear that he’s not taking shit from anyone, not Vettel, Christian, Adrian and for sure not Marko! Priceless.

– 2011 season – Well, this was all Vettel and it pretty much made Webber look like someone who had lost his way. The real story is that in this year Red Bull perfected the blown diffuser which makes the rear of the car super stable and not coincidentally really supports Vettel’s driving style, the exact opposite of Webber’s. In 2010 Webber out-qualified Vettel 6 times and was mostly right behind him on the starting grid the other 13 races. He also led Vettel in overall points most of the season, with Vettel only gaining enough points on the very last race to win the championship. By contrast, in 2011 Webber out-qualified Vettel just four times and was more likely to be found four or five spots down on the starting grid for the other 15 races. Vettel dominated most races and had the championship locked up early in the season. I could write a whole post (and maybe I will) on how a car’s characteristics can make you a hero or a zero. Just note how much more equal these two drivers are in 2012, with the blown diffuser banned. Anyway, despite suffering such a difficult season and watching the wunderkind smoke everyone including himself, Mark still refused to give up or go to another team. He just did what he has done since I have been following F1, which is to go racing, believe in yourself, race as hard as you can, don’t listen to all the nay-sayers and at the end of the day it is what it is. Brilliant.

As I have mentioned many times I am a Fernando fan, my wife has a particular affinity for Button right after Fernando. But we both always say if our guy can’t be champion then we would love to see Mark achieve this goal. He almost did it in 2010. This year, I’m going to rip my hair out if Fernando is denied again, but if he is, lets hope the other son, the one that papa Red Bull commonly passes over and forgets to hug as much as Vettel, can keep up the momentum, stay with the leaders, and keep a little luck on his side come the end of the season.  jp.

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