Mark Webber: I went into the car fearless -- Aussie reveals F1s risks and rivalries

Publish Date : 2021-04-05

Mark Webber: I went into the car fearless -- Aussie reveals F1s risks and rivalries

'Eric Bana,' says the ex-Formula One racer, referring to the Australian actor, during a pit stop at CNN's London headquarters.

The dashing Australian's rise from the fastest pizza delivery boy Down Under to an F1 title contender has a blockbuster script with bust-ups, high-speed crashes, and a pretty decent love story too.

Webber won nine grands prix in his 14-year career and finished third in the drivers' championship in 2010, 2011 and 2013 before giving back the keys to his F1 car two years ago.

Since quitting F1, the 39-year-old survived the biggest crash of his career, when his Porsche hybrid smashed into a wall and caught fire at Brazil's Interlagos circuit, and grieved as close colleagues lost their lives in other racing series.

Despite this Webber says: 'I went into the car virtually fearless.'

A new autobiography - 'Aussie Grit' -- plots Webber's racing journey but he also revealed to CNN more on his riveting rivalry with Red Bull Racing teammate Sebastian Vettel, his new career racing Porsches and why he's always too busy to wash his hair.

What's a true story that you've left out of your autobiography?

That I very rarely wash my hair.

Who would play you if the book was made into a film?

Eric Bana. He's a mate, he's an Aussie and he's got a bit of Aussie grit.

What's the toughest lesson you've learned in life so far?

The best lesson I've learned is not to judge people quickly. The toughest lesson is maybe thinking you're prepared and you're not prepared. You need to be more prepared than you think you do. You do your best at the time but don't trivialize what you might need to be prepared for.

Why do you race cars?

I loved karting as a youngster and I wanted to move up and drive something quicker, more demanding, more challenging.

Testing myself on the hardest tracks in the world and against the best guys in the world, it was an incredible, rewarding profession. The competition was a huge factor.

You've seen some of those you raced against during your career -- including Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi -- killed in motorsport accidents. Why are racing drivers prepared to take the ultimate risk?

Well, we have a huge amount of trust in our abilities. We know that it's very, very rare for people to be able to do the job that we do, that's something which we don't trivialize.

It's a top-end profession. Pushing the cars to the limit, pushing ourselves to the limit, we enjoy being in that tight envelope. We gain a lot of experience.

Yes there can be consequences that you might not foresee. For us a big problem is mechanical failure on the car.

The three of names you mentioned they were involved in pretty freakish accidents and they can happen.

Read: Justin Wilson dies following IndyCar crash

It is motorsport and we are doing 200 mph. So you can have injuries and you can have fatalities unfortunately in our sport. But we accept that. For a huge majority of my career, I went into the car virtually fearless.

You've had some big accidents from Le Mans 1999 to Brazil 2014 (both driving sports cars). Is there an intangible thrill you get from driving despite the dangers?

You only discover that when you don't do it as often, which I'm doing now although I still race quite a lot with Porsche in sports cars.

I've had friends who've had to stop racing because of injuries and you see them struggle with that because it's not on their terms, it's a huge hole for them.

In many ways racing drivers are relatively simple but we know the way we see things -- the way we absorb high speed is very rare and unique. That's what is difficult to simulate and you do miss that when you don't have it.

You are now a race winner with Porsche in the World Endurance Championships. How does it feel?

The biggest difference, and the thing I'm enjoying most at this stage in my career, is the team component.

Did I want to do this championship when I was 22, 25, 28, 30? No, I wanted to be in F1 and I loved that. It was a personal and rewarding profession for myself.

Now I'm in a team and the drivers are all open. We talk and help each other as much as we can in terms of getting the most out of the car because we share the driving duties.

The cars are still very quick. These cars are the closest things to F1 in terms of lap time and that's very important to me.

Do you miss anything about F1?

Not really. I got the timing perfect, which was really good. Working with (Red Bull chief technical officer) Adrian Newey was really good, those guys get the best out of you.

I keep an eye on it. I'm knowledgeable and I like watching the sport but Formula One doesn't consume my life now in the way that it used to. I don't need to smash it down my throat and watch every F1 practice and qualifying session on TV.

Thankfully I'm still in the car and I'm pretty fortunate to be working with Porsche. They've got a lot of really good guys and we strive to push each other. I don't miss F1 a huge amount.

What three things would you change about F1?

To make the cars quicker, more access for the fans, and more noise.

Is Bernie Ecclestone the man to lead F1 forwards?

He's been at the helm for so long and he's done a lot of incredible things for the sport, the drivers have a lot of respect for him because of what he's done.

We've all seen the template he's had to make the sport so exclusive. Is it hard for him to understand some of this new media and digital era? It could be.

But there are still a lot of other things that he has nailed and has done well, he loves his old style of going about and deciding where the promoters have these events, and he'll stick to those rules which he's had for a long time, that's just the way he is.

Who should replace him?

Well, I hope it's not just an army of people to do that job, we still need someone who's at the helm and who's a visionary for the sport.

What's your best F1 memory?

My first F1 win -- Germany 2009.

And your worst?

Losing the world championship in 2010.

Was Sebastian Vettel the driver that ended your career or who ignited it?

He got more out of me than I would have ever got out of myself. It was important that he was on the other side of the garage, and I retired completely on my terms.

You and Sebastian were such fierce rivals at Red Bull Racing between 2009 and 2013. How do you reflect on your relationship with Sebastian now?

Still pretty positively.

At the time it was horrible to manage the whole scenario and it was uncharted waters for the whole team. 2010 was a pivotal year, it was the first time that the team had fought for the championship and the first time Sebastian or I had fought for a title.

Seb won the first world championship in 2010 and after that it was pretty much a no-brainer that the results were probably going to go that way.

He had the momentum and he deserved all that, no question about it, but at the time it was all played out in the media.

Those rivalries are great for sport. Sometimes we crashed into each other on the track and there were big flashpoints. It was hard inside the team to keep us two working together.

Sebastian won four world titles with Red Bull, will he win more titles with Ferrari?


Should you have left F1 earlier than you did?

Probably, maybe one year. It wasn't just Red Bull, I suppose it was the sport. I'd been in the sport so, so long. I was very fortunate to have the career that I did, I really enjoyed operating at that level, and racing against those guys.

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Seb got more out of me than I ever would if I had been racing on my own.

Any sportsman or woman can relate to the last two or three years. It's tricky to hang on and have the contradictory gut feeling, 'How do I manage getting away from this?'

Has Alonso made a mistake joining McLaren-Honda?

(Sighs). At the moment, but he's going to have to be patient to get the fruits.

What's in your luggage for a race weekend?

Boys' training gear. I always have running and cycling kits.

How did you become a Manchester United fan?

It got smashed into me by (long-term partner) Ann at home. She's a huge fan as well. I watched them win the treble in 1999, that was pretty much one of the first football matches I watched in its entirety.

You start to have a bit of a dig and I did some research on the Busby Babes and what the club stood for.

I know Fergie (former manager Alex Ferguson) wasn't everyone's cup of tea but in the end he delivered so many good results. I've been to United a lot to watch them play.

What do you miss most when you're traveling?

My dogs. I've got two, Simba and Shadow.

How do you relax?

I enjoy my coffee, so chilling out having coffee with mates. A bit of training too, I love being in the outdoors.

Does the Mark Webber story end here or will you have a sequel to scribble?

Well there are many exciting things on the radar. We could do things with the Aussie Grit brand. I'm an outdoor junkie and I do a lot of adrenalin or endurance sports, so we've got some ideas.

Who's your favorite F1 driver? Tell us on CNN Sport's Facebook page


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