At the recent Belgian Grand Prix, 9-time race winner Mark Webber joined us in the Champions Club. Never afraid to voice an opinion, the Aussie talked about his career, life after Formula 1® and compatriot Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault next season. Here’s the highlights of our conversation.
Mark Webber competed in Formula 1® for 12 seasons, scoring nine victories for Red Bull and finishing third in the drivers’ standings in 2010, 2011 and 2013. After retiring from Formula 1, Webber spent three seasons in sportscars, winning the WEC Championship for Porsche in 2015. He published his autobiography, Aussie Grit, in the same year.
On humble beginnings and the desire to succeed
I grew up in a small country town in Australia [Queanbeyan]. I spent a lot of time on the farm, driving tractors and using chainsaws; doing the kind of things that you wouldn’t be able to do now as a child! It was very basic, but it put me in good stead. There were no sacrifices for me. It was all upside. I loved racing cars and I wanted to compete on the hardest tracks in the world against the best drivers. I was very driven, focused and hungry. You’ve got to have that passion and desire to get the job done and those were the key ingredients for me to survive and move through the ranks in Formula 1®.
Most memorable victories?
You never forget your first F1® victory. When I won in Germany after a drive-through penalty, it was an emotion-charged day. I was happy because it wasn’t a lucky result. I qualified on pole, had a drive through penalty and still managed to get the job done. My two Monaco victories were special as well. In 2010, the race was like slow motion for me. It’s amazing when your mind gets into such a concentrated space. I was driving in slow motion. There was no way I was going to lose that race, no one was going to beat me. I was in an incredible frame of mind.
Knowing when to quit
There comes a point in any sportsperson’s career where it gets harder to do the things that were regulation in earlier years. It’s a young man’s game. I retired aged 40 and that was absolutely the right time. I put a lot of batteries into it and my career put a lot of strain on my family. I had a lot of crashes too. I dodged a few bullets and kissed a few angels. I lost some friends in the sport. It’s been a tremendous journey. You learn a lot about the sport and what it can give you. I’ve worked with the best people, who make you strive and get more out of yourself. I’ll carry that with me for the rest of my life. I’m very fortunate to have had the career that I did.
Life after Formula 1®
I never thought I would enjoy the TV role [Webber is an F1® pundit for Channel 4 in the UK.] I had friends who went into it, like David Coulthard a few years before me, and I would say, “Mate, what the bloody hell are you doing?” But it’s actually quite fun, because you get to talk to people about the sport you love. I’ve just commentated on Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap. To talk about what the drivers are going through is enjoyable. It’s a chance to give back to a sport that I know quite well; the emotions, the technical side, the strategy.
On Fernando Alonso retiring
I think it’s the right time for him to retire. He’s not that young anymore. It’s time for the old guard to move on. Alonso is an unbelievable race car driver; for sure he missed some results that he should have had. But he didn’t get himself in the right teams at the right times. He’s no angel to work with either. He’s a pretty feisty character.
On Daniel Ricciardo’s move to Renault in 2019
It’s a bit disappointing, to be honest. F1® is an engine category at the moment. Engines are playing such a huge role. We’ve seen Mercedes and Ferrari take a huge step forward recently. Yes, I know he would have had a Honda engine if he’d stayed at Red Bull. I just believe that Red Bull Racing with Honda in the next 24 months will get more points than Renault. I think Daniel is struggling a little bit with the sport at the moment, with motivation. He’s looking for a change, for a fresh start. I think Max Verstappen was a driving force for Ricciardo making this decision. He’s put a lot of heat on. He’s outqualified Daniel in the last seven qualifying sessions. I really wish he stayed, because Red Bull and Daniel are a great combination; he’s always smiling and so positive. I just hope he doesn’t wander off into the midfield and we lose him. He’s a great talent.
Guest appearances from current and legendary Formula 1® drivers are a key benefit of the Champions Club by F1® Experiences. Join us at an upcoming race to experience unrivalled race views, signature hospitality and more!