Birthplace: Queanbeyan, NSW, Australia
If there’s such a thing as the typical Formula One driver, then Mark Webber definitely isn’t it. Red Bull Racing’s Aussie import prefers to live a short drive from the Factory, rather than a short drive from The Alps; owns a donkey and dogs rather than a yacht and revels in giving straight answers to even the most crooked of questions.
Mark Webber became a single-minded, relentless driving machine rather later in life than many of his Formula One contemporaries. After a passionate affair with Rugby League and passing dalliances with most other sports Mark, who grew up in and around the Webber family’s motorcycle dealership, came to motorsports via two-wheels. Not until the age of 14 did he turn to karting – though his instant affinity with the sport firmly focussed his mind. He became New South Wales State Champion two years later, made the move into Formula Ford and enjoyed some success on his native soil before following in the footsteps of many, many Australian teenagers by heading for England.
More success in Formula Ford followed, before Mark graduated to Formula 3 in 1997. He kept up the winning ways before being lured into sportscars with a works drive for Mercedes. Further success followed, though the race for which Webber’s sportscar career is best remembered is the 1999 24 Heures Du Mans. During practice, a peculiarity of the Mercedes’ aerodynamics had it lose downforce in the most spectacular fashion on the Mulsanne Straight, coming close to handing Mark the distinction of being the first Australian in space – twice. It seemed an appropriate time to return to the rather more grounded discipline of open-wheel racing.
For 2000 Mark teamed up with another shy, retiring Australian, racing for Paul Stoddart’s Arrows F3000 team. He won at Silverstone on just his second outing and finished the year as leading rookie. F1 beckoned and Mark split his 2001 season between testing duties for Benetton and competing in F3000 with the Super Nova team, with whom he won at Imola, Monaco and Magny-Cours, earning Mark a F1 seat for 2002 at Minardi.
Webber’s debut came on home soil and, despite having a car four seconds off the pace, good luck and a cool head allowed him to finish fifth. It was the painfully slow Minardi’s only success of the year, but a string of solid performances enhanced Webber’s reputation and saw him attract the attention of bigger teams. Seduced by the bright lights of Milton Keynes, Mark signed for Jaguar Racing.
The uncompetitive Jaguar did little to sate Webber’s ambition, but it did cement his reputation as an awesome qualifier who frequently dragged the green machine far higher up the grid than it had any right to be. Mark moved on again in 2005, taking a drive with Williams. The Monaco Grand Prix of that year saw Mark finally step on to the podium, but for the rest of his tenure the team struggled for pace and Mark had to content himself with continuing his unbroken run of beating every F1 team-mate he’d ever had.
For 2007 Mark moved to Red Bull Racing, a homecoming of sorts with many of the garage crew being acquaintances from his Jaguar days. In that first season Red Bull Racing had its best championship finish to date, the highlight of which was Mark’s podium at the Nürburgring. 2008 offered much the same: Mark’s consistent pace bought a run of five consecutive points finishes plus Red Bull Racing’s first start from the front row of the grid, thanks to a stellar qualifying lap at Silverstone.
Mark is generally acknowledged as the fittest driver in F1, if not one of the fittest sportsmen in the entire world. He’s a keen kayaker, a regular winner of F1 tennis pro-ams and enjoys nothing more than cycling with his friends – and when you consider those friends include seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, you realise how good he is at it. In fact Mark is up for pretty much any sport you care to mention – though he goes against convention by admitting he isn’t much of a surfer.
On the rare occasions Mark isn’t outdoors or in the gym, you’ll find him relaxing with a sporting biography or watching a sports channel on TV. Mark’s a big fan of cricket and rugby, though his outstanding guilty pleasure is motor bike racing. Conversely, if you want to hear authentic Australian cursing and swearing, just ask his opinion of reality television.
Like many in the Red Bull Racing team, Mark Webber really came of age in 2009. Finally given a car capable of winning races Mark did just that. His maiden victory came at the Nürburgring where, despite incurring a drive-through penalty, he had enough in reserve to still come out on top. His second win, later in the year at the Brazilian Grand Prix contained less drama but was no less commanding, Mark simply driving away from the rest of the field. Together with three fastest laps, a first pole position and six other podium finishes it helped Red Bull Racing to second position in the Constructors’ Championship.
Mark’s immediate ambition is to be Formula One World Champion, but he has aspirations beyond the cockpit. He’s part-owner (with Christian Horner) of a team in the fledgling GP3 Championship, while beyond the track he would like to cycle the Silk Road through the Himalayas, swim with sharks, and run his own motorcycle race team. He’d also like to learn to cook – but acknowledges this might be an ambition too far.
Visit his official website: www.markwebber.com