Mark Webber: The man, the mystery


A number of years ago my Dad came home from work and was really excited.  The conversation went something like this.

“Dylan, you’ll never guess who I met at work today?”


“Mark Webber!”


Yep.  This was before Mark had hit the big time.  This was back when Mark was an up and coming Formula 3000 driver who was about to compete in the Le Mans 24 hour race.  Little did we know that what was to happen in that very Le Mans race, would be the perfect crystal ball insight into how the rest of Webber’s career would pan out.

We all remember what happened.  Mark’s Mercedes was caught in a slipstream and decided that it didn’t want to be a car anymore; it wanted to be an aeroplane. So, it took off, somersaulted a couple of times and eventually crashed in spectacular fashion.

It was a freak accident, but it was a prophetic one.  After this Mark Webber’s racing career would never be the same.  Not because he was suddenly a bad driver – the accident wasn’t actually his fault – but that he would have the worst fortune of any racing driver in motor sport history.

A first, it seemed Mark was going to be the luckiest driver on the planet though.  Not only did he survive this absurd crash, but when he was finally given his chance to compete in Formula 1, he decided to use the ‘Stephen Bradbury’ tactic to near perfection. I.e. let everybody else crash and he would coast over the line in a strong position. Mark ended up finishing the race in 5th place on debut, which was an astonishing achievement given that the car he was driving could have been beaten in a straight line by my Mitsubishi Lancer.

This created somewhat of a false impression in people’s minds though.  It created the impression that maybe Webber was both a lucky and talented driver.  So, after toiling away for a season at Minardi and failing to finish almost every race, Webber signed with the Jaguar team where he actually performed quite strongly.

Again, the car was not exactly what one would call a ‘competitive’ one; however he managed to string together a series of 7th place finishes and the Formula 1 world sat up and took notice. This however was going to be the turning point of Mark’s career.  Although, it was a turn for the hideous.

Mark was offered two drives for the start of the 2005 season. Firstly with the traditionally successful team called Williams, named after its disabled and micro-managing owner Frank Williams. The other drive was a less-tested drive run by Flavio Briatorie called Renault. Mark decided to stick with history and signed with Williams and his Formula 1 fate was sealed.

What happened next? Well, Renault proved to be the best car in Formula 1 not only in 2005... but in 2006 as well. The driver who would have been Webber’s team mate was a young hot shot named Fernando Alonso who would end up becoming World Champion two years in a row. What happened to Webber? Well, he managed to DNF a record number of times in both seasons, and his one podium effort came in Monaco where he was running second, yet his team mate pitted before him thereby allowing him to be overtaken and he finished third.

Such a shame.

This is where Mark Webber’s once illustrious reputation began to take a turn for the worse. While he was once regarded as talented and lucky, he was now regarded as not-so-talented and very unlucky. He also had a reputation as a one hit wonder due to his spectacular qualifying, and woeful race performances. The best example was in the 2004 Malaysian Grand Prix where Webber somehow qualified second. Well, this was not to last. At the end of the first lap Webber was running last after stalling on the grid. He then sped in pit lane and had to take a 10 second penalty. He then crashed out of the race. Oh the humanity!

After two terrible years at Williams, Webber was offered the chance to drive for a breakaway team run by BMW. Webber decided this was not a good option and signed for Red Bull.  What happened next?  Well, I’m sure you can guess.  With Red Bull, Webber got one podium for the entire season, and even in that race he nearly spun out on the last corner. However the crowning glory happened in Japan when the race was being run in wet conditions and a safety car was on track.  Webber was driving amazingly and was in second place and was consistently posting faster times than Lewis Hamilton who was leading.  Just as the safety car was about to leave the track, Sebastian Vettel in 3rd position decided to lock up his breaks and crash into the back of Webber knocking him out of the race. 

This was a new low for Webber.  To crash out when he wasn’t even racing - incredible.  What capped it off though was when ITV was interviewing him after the crash Webber dropped the F-Bomb on live international TV earning him scorn the world over.  Yes, Webber was once again the unlucky one.

Where is Mark Webber now?  Well, right now on a plane to Malaysia after finishing last in the Australian GP.  Sure he was crashed into on the first corner, but it was Mark Webber.  That was always on the cards.

Now, I should explain something.  I am a Mark Webber fan.  As the only Australian in Formula 1 he has my unyielding support.  I will cheer for him before any other F1 driver.  The thing is though; I’m also not an idiot.  There are a lot of one-eyed fans out there who will say “He has bad luck” or “it’s never his fault”.  To those people I say “Please... shut up.”

It’s no longer simply ‘bad luck’ if it happens for a decade.  In sport, everyone has unlucky moments.  Whether it’s referees giving bad decisions, or people crashing into you, there will be bad luck for anyone and everyone.  If it happens for over ten years though, it doesn’t count as bad luck any more.  What is apparent is that he either isn’t as talented as everybody hopes he is... or he has made bad decisions.  In the case of Mark Webber, I think that both of those answers are correct.

While yes, he does seem to have more ‘bad luck’ than others, he has consistently shown that he’s just not that good a racing driver.  I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen him overtake someone on a racing circuit.  I can list his bad choices without fear of contadriction.  I can confidently say that Mark Webber isn’t really only unlucky.  I’m afraid he’s just not that good.

So, where does that leave us?  Sadly, absolutely nowhere.  Like the rest of his fans, I long for the day when Mark will stand upon the podium having won a Formula 1 race. However, from everything I know about him and his career, I think that has as much chance of happening as Megan Fox winning the Best Actress Oscar for her performance in Transformers 2.

And frankly... that sucks... about Webber not winning I mean.

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Mark Webber hasn't had much
fun in Formula 1

Stephen Bradbury 'won' gold for
Australia... kind of.
Mark has never been too impressed at
his woeful performances.
Megan Fox's performances
aren't exactly Oscar worthy.