This weekend sees the final race of one of F1′s most outspoken drivers, as Mark Webber ends his F1 career with Red Bull, heading to Le Mans with Porsche for 2014.
The Australian has often been revered as one of the unluckiest driver’s in F1, with hopes of success often dashed by poor luck.
Indeed looking back over his career it’s easy to suggest Mark Webber has simply been a victim of circumstances.
Webber’s career certainly got off to the right start when he famously finished fifth in his first race in Australia for Minardi. That then showed the talent the man from New South Wales possessed. However what would come to characterise Webber’s early career was an ability to drive for the wrong team at the wrong time.
Following Minardi, Webber would spend two largely unsuccessful years with Jaguar before joining Williams just as the team began its fall from the front of the grid. The 37-year-old himself admitted that move to Williams was his biggest mistake as he revealed he was offered the Renault seat alongside Fernando Alonso in 2005.
After more disappointing years at Williams, and unable to capture a move to a top-team, Webber joined Red Bull for 2007. Partnering the now retired David Coulthard, Webber’s entire Red Bull career would be full of often have promising situations snatched away by poor luck or unreliability.
In 2009, a new team-mate would join the Anglo-Austrian outfit; the man would eventually prevent Webber from likely becoming world champion, Sebastian Vettel.
With the huge changes in aerodynamics for 2009, Red Bull’s designer Adrian Newey took advantage and the team bolted from the midfield to the front, that enabled Webber to finally take his first GP win at the German Grand Prix, but despite a new found competitiveness his chances of great success were dashed as Brawn GP and Jenson Button went on the claim the title.
The following year would be Webber’s best ever chance to claim the title. Claiming four wins, he would be leading the championship with three races to go, however a crash at the Korean Grand Prix and two wins for Vettel ended Webber’s hopes and from there he has rarely had a look in.
Many believe that since his first world title Vettel was given preferential treatment by Red Bull, but what has become apparent, particularly as this season has progressed, is that Webber simply can not exploit the areas in which Red Bull have an advantage, mainly in the exhaust and engine mapping department and that is where the Australian falls down.
The switch to Pirelli was another major factor in Webber’s lack of success compared to his team-mate. In an era when knowing how much you can push, when to back off and what particularly damages the tyres- Vettel again is simply better.
As a result then it is a fairly simple conclusion.
Webber for sure is a great driver, worthy of much greater success than he has had. But in this modern-style F1, he just couldn’t adjust to the different approach as well as some; particularly one Sebastian Vettel.
The stigma of being the best driver to win a Championship could lay at Webber’s door, but on this occasion it wasn’t through lacking the final extra skill to become a champion.
Indeed Webber will be remembered as a driver who gave so much to a team only for a young hot rod to steal his time to shine.
Would Webber be a champion without Vettel? Most likely yes, but losing out in 2010 and the dominance Vettel has shown since left Webber very much as a number two in the team. Frustration had been building up frustration and eventually a lack of motivation has led to his exit.
Off the track the straight talking has made him loved by many and he has gained sympathy from others who watch his plight at Red Bull. Certainly with his nine wins and 38 podiums Webber will have plenty of happy memories and will leave F1 as the champion of one important group, the fans.
The legacy of Mark Webber is a simple one, he’s the people’s champion, an old-school racer who was a victim of circumstances, and his is certainly a personality F1 will miss.
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