After a dream run with Porsche in 2015 Mark Webber has managed to capture what alluded him during his F1 career.
At what point did you know motor sport was what you wanted to do for a career?
Mark Webber: Growing up in Queanbeyan was very fortunate for me, a rural setting, easy access to motor bikes at an early age and then go-karts straight after that. I think 14-15 was the age I was definitely locked onto motor sport and shortly after that realised I wanted to get into cars and get onto the bigger tracks. Cars were obviously a huge step and then of course going to Europe.
Since leaving Formula 1 you have been singing the praises of endurance racing. What is it about this formula that works for you?
MW: I think what I like about WEC at the moment is the timing I suppose in my career. There’s no doubt about it I wanted to race in Formula 1 for a long period of time if I could, and obviously when I got there I had a lot of hard work to do and in the end didn’t have too bad a career and raced for a long time in F1. Then I was very fortunate that Porsche were in a position to start a program in sports cars. They were in touch with me very early, which was nice and it fitted very well with my decision to stop in Formula 1. I enjoy the championship because it has a lot less races in terms of travel but you still have the adrenaline of racing. It almost has a bit of a Davis Cup feel to it as I work with my team mates in a much more open way which again at this age you are more open to that, more pliable, whereas when you are younger you are more driven and more selfish I suppose. Which is the single-seater mentality.
Congratulations on winning the World Endurance Championship in 2015, how did the championship unfold for you and how did it feel to be crowned champion?
MW: Winning the world championship was definitely a huge moment for myself and the team. We thoroughly deserved it, we won four races on the bouncer in the middle of the championship, so we were in a great position to put the pressure on Audi in Bahrain. But that wasn’t straight-forward as we had a huge problem with the engine throughout the race and in true German fashion the guys were very well prepared for repairing the issue that 7 we had, which involved a very long pair of pointy nosed pliers inside the top of the engine to hold the throttles open. It was very, very stressful to say the least. The guys burnt their hands to get that equipment in there and it was a very stressful last race to close the championship out. To share the car with Timo and Brendon, we really grew as a team this year and I think that was big reason why we actually got the job done. There were very little egos involved and we worked very well at getting the car in a very good window at all venues and extracting the best out of it. We deserved it and a great team result.
Porsche has achieved an amazing feat by returning to Endurance racing and winning a championship in two seasons. What was it like being part of that?
MW: Everyone was very excited when Porsche announced they were making the comeback to top-flight sports car racing. They have such amazing pedigree, as we all know they have had such amazing results on the past. Porsche has record victories at Le Mans with seventeen wins and also World Championships now with our result this year and previous years with Mr Bell [Derek Bell] himself. We knew we had a tall order ahead of us, everyone expects that we should win and be fast. Even the board members at Porsche expect that from the racing division. So we had a lot of pressure on us and it was quite interesting putting the team together. We had a lot of different cultures, about 30 to 40 different nationalities, not unlike Formula 1 so I was used to that. But putting a team like that together wasn’t a five minute job. Now seeing all the different departments working together, understanding the regulations and getting the car working and then the icing on the cake is working with the drivers. It’s been enjoyable for me to help with some of those challenges, leaving a Formula 1 team that was super established, running on all ten cylinders in Red Bull Racing and going to a team that was basically starting from scratch, and now we are obviously in good shape.
Mark Webber World Champion, what does that mean to you?
MW: To be successful in motor sport you need to have an immense amount of enthusiasm. The determination and the self drive has to be there consistently to be able to extract the potential out of yourself, always be open to learn, look at different ways to be versatile. You can’t be a one-trick pony, the conditions are always changing as a driver. I know that if I came back and did a oneoff touring car race it probably wouldn’t work out for me. So it really is understanding your limitations within the category you are in and getting the most out of them. The good guys can also pull very, very hard on the resources and that’s a very different thing in top level motor sport compared to domestic motor sport. The great drivers have an incredible ability to pool their resources at all times, and that’s really the difference between the absolute superstars and some of the people who don’t have too longer careers.
Who has impressed you the most and why?
MW: I have been very fortunate in my career to come across the best on the industry and even outside motor sport as well. Whether it’s someone in tennis like Roger Federer or Valentino Rossi on two wheels, the way these guys go about their business is phenomenal. You can only look at these guys and learn. From a non-driver side and less competitive side someone like Roger Penske, the way he runs his teams, I take my hat off to Roger. Jackie Stewart, he is a great counsel of mine and I really enjoy talking to him when I can … Adrian Newey as well, he is just a phenomenal engineer and one of the best of our era. In terms of the driver I have looked up to the most, learnt the most off and was challenged the most against particularly in the early years was Michael Schumacher. Michael was extremely fast and extremely disciplined. Even when he got those results and was so successful for so long, he still kept that motivation incredibly high and it’s to be admired.
A long career at the top levels of motor sport, can you share your proudest moment?
MW: I think my proudest moment in motor sport is reaching Formula 1. Reaching the doorstep of F1 wasn’t straightforward. After all those years in Europe in the junior categories and getting an opportunity to race in Melbourne was a huge moment. I only had a contract for two races so it could have been over very quickly but 12 years later and 215 races my career is something I look back on with immense pride winning some Monaco Grands Prix and British Grands Prix. I am also very proud that the era I did my winning was one of the toughest periods in Formula 1. Every ten years you get an era that is super competitive and I am very happy that I did win when it was really tough with Fernando [Alonso], Lewis [Hamilton] and Jenson [Button], Seb [Vettel] and Michael [Schumacher]. It was good times and I learnt a lot about myself. A lot of proud moments.
What makes Mark Webber tick? What gets you up in the morning? What is your greatest motivation to succeed?
MW: Obviously when I was racing I was super selfish and very individual in terms of focusing on what I wanted. I wasn’t always that popular in the house with Anne or even the family. I wanted to train every day and get back to Europe. My stays in Australia were very short and still are to this day. I was just focused on being with the team and getting the most out of the situation … I love competing and testing myself against the best. The best cars in the world on the best tracks. I think that when you have exposure to those types of people you compete against, you have to bring you’re A-game every day. So that’s enough to get your feet out of the bed and say that I have a responsibility to myself to get the most out of myself. If you take a lot of short cuts you are going to be found out pretty quickly.
Any words of wisdom for developing drivers who may be thinking of starting a career in professional motor sport?
MW: We get an email probably once a week from all around the world. Whether it’s a young Brazilian driver, a young Australian or an English driver saying “How do I get to F1?” Unfortunately things have changed a lot. It is very difficult now, the finances required is the most extreme that it’s ever been, which I am not happy about and many people in the sport are not happy about. The driver market is pretty poor because the last part is closed off effectively with huge budgets coming in from over the top of the young talented guys who are sitting in that great pool of talent in the junior categories. If you put that aside I think you need to be doing a lot of karting, I would have liked to have done more junior karting. You don’t always need the best equipment, … you have to deliver even when you don’t the right materials. As long as you are getting the results and working hard you never know who is watching. Really work and pull the most out of the people you are with because they will see that, motor sport is a small business and word goes around very fast if you are applying yourself in a good way. Good Luck!
Source: CAMS Speed Read – February 2016