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GP Week : Issue 196
WEBBER BOWS OUT IN STYLE Mark Webber farewelled Formula 1 on sunday, with the griity style of drive to second that has become his hallmark. Eighteen years earlier, a Formula Ford grid of F1 hopefuls sat in torrential conditions at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit. In one lap, a young Queanbeyan kid scythed his way from eighth to first in a display that very few witnessed. Commentators couldn’t see the track – let alone the drivers – yet Mark Webber somehow found his way through the spray to dominate the race as if in an entirely different sport to the opposition. The only evidence of his tour de force was a frighteningly brave side -by-side pass on the leader through one of the track’s trickiest corners. The mystery of how Webber managed that lap seems to have stayed with him throughout his career, with many of his most inspired drives going unnoticed and his subsequent stumbles being highlighted as a measure of his ‘nearly-man’ status. Since Webber announced his retirement from F1 there has been a mad rush to dismiss his stature in the sport – the results being predictably pedestrian. Webber’s self-induced crash at Korea in 2010 has often been underlined as the flashpoint at which his career simultaneously peaked and ebbed, but in truth Korea was just as costly to his 2010 as Fernando Alonso’s blunder was at Fuji 2007. The Spanish racer has had more realistic shots at the title since then, but he has done so by moving to the devoted bosom of Maranello and undisputed number one status. Get knocked down once, you get back up again, but getting up numerous times takes an extraordinary strength of character. No wonder then that Webber’s 2010 accident in Korea had a psychological effect on his game the following season. On week earlier, he had pushed his teammate within an inch of victory at Suzuka– all whilst nursing a fractured shoulder – and the Australian’s batteries were running on empty. Lack of adaptability has been cited Webber’s Achilles’ heel, yet it was Sebastian Vettel who struggled until Red Bull got their head around having their exhaust-blowing advantage downsized. Vettel’s brilliant driving style was perfectly suited to the Red Bull, but once outside his narrow operating window it was usually Webber who adapted with less fuss. Vettel himself admitted that “the fact that he will not be around next year will surely be a loss for the team and a loss for myself.” In addition to the nine wins Webber will take away from his F1 career, the Australian has also provided the sport with some magical moments: 2013’s gutsy come from behind challenge for victory at Silverstone was testament to that, as was his race- winning move on Alonso the year before. Splitting the Ferraris on the front row at Sepang (in a Jaguar no less) and that duel with Alonso at Eau Rouge will forever be etched in the minds of many. You can’t emboss these magic moments with self- made PR. You earn them with pugnacity and virtuosity. There’s no need to see your name engraved in precious metal to know that. The stopwatch may not lie, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. Thanks for the magic Mark. F1 >>> nEWs 6 GPWEEK.com // 6 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: