Webber: In this sport, it’s not always easy to show the person that’s behind the wheel
25 November, 2013
Mark Webber’s final Formula 1 race came to an end as the chequered flag waved at the end of the Brazilian Grand Prix, whereupon he calmly removed his helmet and did his final lap in the Red Bull in a dignified and unforgettable manner after finishing second.
Thus curtain came down on a career at the pinnacle of the sport that began with his debut at the Australian GP back in 2002. Since then he amassed 215 starts of which he finished on the podium 42 times of which nine times he won, scored 13 pole positions and 19 fastest laps in the process. He spoke after his final grand prix.
That’s your last race in Formula One, a very emotional day for you. You have over 200 races in your career…
Mark Webber: Yeah, it was a very good finish to my career, a good fight with all the guys I’ve enjoyed fighting with for most of my career: Seb, Fernando, Lewis, Nico, all the guys who have been in the window for the last five or six years. I want to thank the team, I enjoyed the last few laps. It was a very nice way to finish. I want to thank everyone in Australia. I wouldn’t be here where I am without the support in the early days. It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable career. A great journey, one of which I’m proud of, and there’s been so many people who have played a special role in my career. They know who they all are – thank you very much if you are watching and…yeah… enjoy watching Formula One next year with these guys, but off to Porsche and looking forward to it.
A great end to your Formula One career. I hope you’re happy with it as well. How did it go?
MW: Yeah, I was happy with [with the race]. Tricky grand prix for all of us as you say, straight into dry conditions for a Sunday afternoon race. Maybe it’s what Bernie should do! He should just have Sunday afternoons mate, just turn up for Sundays and just race from there because it was a pretty good start to the grand prix, I think, all of us getting into the groove with no dry running: challenging for the teams and the drivers. So we all got there in the end. Both Seb and I had tough starts, I was happy to lose only to Lewis actually. I had a good little scrap in the first lap: Fernando and Lewis were having a good battle and then we settled into it. It looked like the Mercedes were struggling to hold the tempo of Fernando, myself and Seb, so we had to clear the Mercs as best we could. And then it was coming up to Fernando, so, managed to pass Fernando as well. There was some really nice moves and some good racing and I think for the team to get a one-two with obviously not their cleanest day in the pitlane – which we can let them off every now and again, because they’ve had a superb season in the pitlane – so we gave the red guys a sniff but we managed to respond each time. Very proud to have raced with these guys at the end. I mean I raced pretty much all four or five of them at some stage in the race – apart from Seb, obviously who was a little bit down the road – but the pace… it was a good battle for all of us. It’s been a real pleasure for me to finish the race like this. Yeah, and also to finish on the podium with arguable the two best guys of the generation we’re in at the moment. I hold them in very high esteem. I’m happy with the finish and I’m happy to go and do something different now. It was a special day for myself, all the people that helped me get here. Australia. And the team, of course, had a nice car to finish. Renault as well, a 1-2 for them, last time with the V8s. Lots of things which are special, so thank you very much.
What will you miss most and what won’t you miss most?
MW: What will I miss most about Formula One? I think there are some special circuits which we race on: obviously Suzuka, Spa, Monte Carlo, Silverstone, even here to a degree. There are some really nice circuits which, when you have the car in the window, particularly in qualifying, there’s not much that can please a driver more than having the car on the edge and having yourself on the edge in the ultimate machine and that is something which I will miss. But you also have to respect that you want to make sure that you’re getting the best out of yourself in that scenario. If you think you’re a little bit off, then it’s not as rewarding as it once was. I will miss those scenarios. I will miss, I think, also the perfection that goes on in this game, especially with a team like Red Bull, the amount of work that goes in, the details. It’s quite inspiring to watch the relentless approach with the work, that’s something which I’ve learned a lot and I will take it to future challenges around the corner. What I won’t miss: looking to pull the travel back down a little bit, spending a bit more time with my people that helped me to get to where I am. I’m not young but I’m not old, I’m in the window, it’s a good time for me to get that balance, a little bit less intensity in the private life and also in the professional life. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be pushing hard with Porsche, obviously. I will be pushing very hard with those guys but in this game, you need to be on it all the time and I’m finding that more and more difficult. It’s a chance for me to finish strongly, which I’ve done. That’s some of the things I’ll miss. I think I answered that right.
What is your schedule now, are you going to take some holiday, just like retire or are you working for Porsche as soon as possible?
MW: No, I’m going to have a few weeks out, for sure, doing nothing. I love putting the fire on at home, chopping some wood, putting the fire on and maybe a bit of red wine and chill out with some chocolate. Also my Tasmania Challenge is on which I can’t get to this year, it’s just too busy to get to my charity event, so I hope that goes well for everyone taking part. It starts on Wednesday but I just can’t get to Tasmania from here, it’s just been a relentless year and quite difficult so I’m looking forward to just having a bit of a break. For sure there is some Porsche stuff in the background. Obviously there is a chance I can do some stuff with them before the year is out, which Red Bull have been very good with and then it will be a steady loading into January as it will be for all of us.
Tell us about taking your helmet off on that last ever lap and savouring it? Your eyes seem to be tearing a bit; maybe that was just the wind in your eyes.
MW: Yeah, it was the wind, Dan, I was tearing at that time. Look, it’s not easy to get the HANS device system away from the helmet so I spent half a lap trying to get the left hand side off, so I finally got it there but the cars are bloody noisy with no helmet on, I know that much, so it was really noisy, all the vibrations and you can hear lots of things that you don’t want to be hearing with the helmet on, that’s for sure. It was good to get it off, obviously the marshals, the fans, to see… in this sport, it’s not always easy to show the person that’s behind the wheel. We can in lots of other sports but in Formula One we’ve always got the helmet on so it was nice to drive back with the helmet off. Only time you’re seen with the helmet off is on the podium if we have a good day which we did both, so nice to get it off. In the last sector, I got it a little bit jammed, so I think the marshals were a little bit worried that I couldn’t turn left but in the end, no it was fine, it was a nice moment to come back, a little bit of a different touch to bring the car back.
Do you think it would have been better for you if the team had left you out for one more lap and then go in, because you obviously had to wait for Sebastian at the pitstop?
MW: I got the pit call quite early in the lap, they were worried about a safety car as well. I think Maldonado had been off or something had happened. When I braked for the pit lane line, I looked on the big screen and I could see that Seb was in the box, saw on the TV that he was pitting and I thought ‘I hope it’s a replay’ but it wasn’t. When I got over the top, he was in the bloody box so I thought ‘shit, we’ve got a bit on here now’. In that case, mainly we were losing time, that’s the biggest thing but then just the rear jack guy remembering to get out of the way. Obviously I’m going to stop but I have to wait for him to move out of the way so I thought it was obviously a complete surprise, uncharacteristic of the team to do something quite tricky and risky, when there wasn’t a huge amount to risk but it turns out obviously that there was an issue at the start of Seb’s stop which snowballed into me and then we had the little Spanish lion on the back of me again, so it was a good recovery but the team… I’m sure they want to do that part again. In the end, we recovered well and cool heads…