Mark Webber’s top 10 greatest drives

The popular Australian helps us pick out his best races from a successful career that included nine Formula 1 victories and the 2015 World Endurance crown

Mark Webber’s top 10 greatest drives

Mark Webber was one of Formula 1’s frontrunners during Red Bull’s purple patch, having impressed at Minardi, Jaguar and Williams.

The Australian, who started 215 world championship grands prix, scored nine victories, 13 poles and 19 fastest laps before retiring from F1 at the end of 2013. He then went on to score success with Porsche, winning the World Endurance Championship in 2015 and finishing second at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

That means there were a lot of candidates for a list of Webber’s top 10 drives. Fortunately, the man himself gave us a hand, so here are the picks…

10. 2002 Australian GP, Melbourne

Mark Webber's fifth place on debut at his home race launches his F1 career

Mark Webber's fifth place on debut at his home race launches his F1 career

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Car: Minardi PS02
Started: 18th
Result: 5th

Webber laid down a marker on his Formula 1 debut by qualifying 18th for his home grand prix, ahead of the Jaguar team, a Jordan-Honda and Alex Yoong in the other Minardi-Asiatech.

When Ralf Schumacher’s Williams triggered an eight-car collision at the first corner, Webber was elevated to eighth and recalled team owner Paul Stoddart’s pre-race instructions. “Stoddy said: ‘If you could just bring this thing home, that would be phenomenal’.

“It was a dog to drive. I didn’t fit in the cockpit, didn’t have power steering, then a lot of the electronics packed up and I had no diff control, the traction control played up and there was a problem getting the fuel filler flap to open at a pitstop. It seemed a bloody long race.”

Webber’s persistence got him into fifth in the closing stages, but he still faced a challenge to score Minardi’s first points since 1999.

Top 10 Minardi F1 drivers ranked: Alonso, Webber, Badoer and more

“I’m short-shifting and doing everything to stay running in what has become fifth place,” adds the 46-year-old. “And then Mika Salo arrives in the Toyota. Stoddy gets on the radio and says, ‘Under no circumstances let him past!’ So, the pre-race brief has obviously changed!

“I gave it everything, defending into [Turn] 3, and he spins off. I could hear the crowd; they were going mental! I was only supposed to have two races. Stoddy said I could stay for the rest of the year.”

Drive secured, he also famously got to go to the podium on his F1 debut, his fifth place hailed like a victory.

9. 2015 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas, Austin

The Austin win launched the #17 Porsche's WEC title charge

The Austin win launched the #17 Porsche's WEC title charge

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Car: Porsche 919 Hybrid
Started: 2nd
Result: 1st

Following the end of his F1 career in 2013, Webber switched to sportscar competition. He shared a Porsche 919 Hybrid with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley to take the 2015 World Endurance Championship drivers’ title with four wins, including a dominant display in Texas.

“The stint average across the three drivers was so good that we just destroyed everyone,” recalls Webber. “We had the Porsche set up so well that I remember saying I didn’t think the car knew who was driving it! That's how even we were.

“We were able to hold that lap time for six hours. There wasn't a lap where anyone closed on us. It was two tenths to half a second gap every lap, right into the night. That was one of our greatest performances in terms of just grinding the competition into dust.”

The eventual winning margin over the second-placed Audi was more than a minute and was the highlight of an endurance-racing career that also included wins with Mercedes in the 1998 FIA GT Championship.

More: How Webber proved his doubters wrong with Porsche

8. 2000 F3000 Autosport International Trophy, Silverstone

A clash with Manning didn’t stop Webber as he took the first win since his return to single-seaters

A clash with Manning didn’t stop Webber as he took the first win since his return to single-seaters

Photo by: Sutton Images

Car: Lola B99/50
Started: 2nd
Result: 1st

The second round of the 2000 International F3000 Championship supported the British GP, moved to an April date, which meant appalling weather. After a spell in sportscar racing, Webber relished a return to single-seaters with the European Arrows squad.

“I remember this race well, because I felt super comfortable in the rain – and, boy, was that one wet,” says Webber, who showed his canny side that day at Silverstone. “Darren Manning was leading, but I closed on him using very different lines where I found a lot more grip.

“I got alongside into Club and we made contact. He came back on and, of course, being behind me, he can see my tyre marks, so I’m using his line and not showing any of my tricks until I got to the point where I could slowly move out to the places where I liked to be.

“That win was important at a time when I was driving around in a 1.1 B-reg Fiesta and didn’t have a pot to piss in. My focus in F3000 was being seen to do enough to get a drive in F1. Winning at Silverstone in such shitty conditions certainly helped.”

Webber would go on to finish third in the standings that year and second in 2001 (with Super Nova) before making it to F1.

More: In defence of F1’s unloved feeder series

7. 2010 Japanese GP, Suzuka

Perhaps an unlikely pick, Webber feels the high level of performance achieved by the podium trio means it sticks out for him

Perhaps an unlikely pick, Webber feels the high level of performance achieved by the podium trio means it sticks out for him

Photo by: Sutton Images

Car: Red Bull RB6
Started: 2nd
Result: 2nd

With four races to go, Webber led the championship by 11 points from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, with Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel a further 10 points in arrears.

Vettel took pole at Suzuka, 0.068 seconds ahead of Webber, with Alonso on the second row. They finished in that order, separated by less than three seconds after 53 intense laps.

“That was one of the highest quality GPs I was ever involved in,” reflects Webber. “It wasn't overly spectacular as a race but, if you look at the lap times and splits, it was absolutely top drawer. The three of us were on it.

“I’d come out of Spoon and Fernando was right there. Same on the next lap. And the next. And the next. Millimetres in it. It’s not always about the victory – any of us deserved to win. That was a very special race on such a great circuit.”

It would be at the next round, in Korea, that Webber’s title challenge would start to unravel.

6. 2012 British GP, Silverstone

Webber took the fight to Alonso for his second British GP win

Webber took the fight to Alonso for his second British GP win

Photo by: Sutton Images

Car: Red Bull RB8
Started: 2nd
Result: 1st

Webber became only the second driver to win twice in 2012 when he took on and beat Alonso, who led the championship ahead of Webber heading to Silverstone. Alonso topped pole in the wet but the dry race was another story.

“[Designer] Adrian [Newey] and I worked a lot on the aero and I felt very comfortable in the car,” remembers Webber. “Fernando started from pole with me alongside. I’ve always enjoyed being the hunter rather than the hunted. When the pitstops shook down, Fernando was leading on softs and I was on the hards. I gradually picked up speed and chased him down, taking the lead with four laps to go.

“It was a nice move round the outside through Brooklands and this added to another special victory. I’ve tremendous memories of Silverstone. I did so much racing there as a youngster, won races in every class and I’ve always had a good following in the UK.

“Jenson [Button] and I used to joke with each other because he had no results in Silverstone and I couldn't buy a result in Australia – where he won twice. And I won twice [in F1] at Silverstone.”

5. 2010 Hungarian GP, Hungaroring

Another titanic tussle with Alonso to grab victory after Vettel's error

Another titanic tussle with Alonso to grab victory after Vettel's error

Photo by: Charles Coates / Motorsport Images

Car: Red Bull RB6
Started: 2nd
Result: 1st

A major misjudgement by Vettel when running behind a safety car may have gifted his Red Bull team-mate in one respect, but Webber still had to work hard for his fourth win of 2010.

“I’d found myself third behind Seb and Fernando after the first corner and knew there was little chance of getting past the Ferrari because Fernando’s magic there,” says Webber, who had qualified second to Vettel. “When we had a safety car, I elected not to pit, but the two in front of me did.”

That put Webber in control for the restart on lap 18 of 70 and it was his young team-mate who made an error: “I don’t know what Seb was thinking but he completely screwed things up by leaving too big a gap and got himself a penalty.

“So, now I have a different strategy to Fernando where I’m going super-long and trying to make the tyres last while building up a big enough gap. That was tough; really, really hard; a balancing act between driving flat out and not falling off.

“I remember telling the boys in the radio, ‘Leave me out a bit longer. I think there’s a bit more here and I want to give you an extra three seconds around the stop. Relax. I’ve done the work here; once we do the stop, we’ve won.’ Which was another way of saying, ‘Don’t f*** it up, guys!’ And, of course, they didn’t. A great way to win on what happened to be my 150th GP.”

4. 2012 Monaco GP, Monte Carlo

Brake issues and late rain put Webber under pressure for his second Monaco GP win

Brake issues and late rain put Webber under pressure for his second Monaco GP win

Photo by: Sutton Images

Car: Red Bull RB8
Started: 1st
Result: 1st

Starting from pole may have been more than half the battle at Monaco but Webber was aware that every one of the 78 laps would be fraught with potential difficulties – particularly when his team-mate moved into the lead with a different strategy just before half distance, and then it started to drizzle with 10 laps remaining.

“This was probably one of my strongest Saturdays ever in F1,” recalls Webber, who inherited pole after timesheet-topper Michael Schumacher was bumped to sixth for a clash at the previous race. “Seb qualified ninth; I was on pole. Adrian Newey said, ‘Thanks, mate. She's probably not a pole car today, but you put it up there.’ That was the easy bit. The race was really stressful.

“It’s all about strategy, stopping at the right time, covering everyone off and then resetting. We had a small KERS thing going on, which was playing havoc with the front brake temperatures. I had to run the brake balance a long way forward, which gave me a lot of front locking and a stressful middle part of the GP, particularly when Seb hadn’t stopped and I was making sure he didn’t build a big enough gap to get in and out of the pits ahead of me.

“And then it starts to rain. I can see the film on the tyres and I’m saying, ‘It’s just drizzle. Stay calm.’ But that’s a very nasty sting in the tail. The guys that are second [Nico Rosberg – Mercedes] and third [Alonso – Ferrari]; they want it to rain. There's one guy who doesn't want it to rain - that's me. I’m the first to arrive at the corners and discover the changing grip levels. It hadn’t rained all week and you just never knew what to expect on the streets. I was very, very relieved when that was all over.”

Webber held on to win by 0.643s on a day team-mate Vettel finished fourth.

3. 2010 Monaco GP, Monte Carlo

The Australian dominated at the 2010 Monaco GP and with it took the lead of the F1 world championship for the first time in his career

The Australian dominated at the 2010 Monaco GP and with it took the lead of the F1 world championship for the first time in his career

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Car: Red Bull RB6
Started: 1st
Result: 1st

Webber started from pole and led every lap to take the lead of the F1 world championship for the first time in his career.

“This was completely different to the Monaco win in 2012,” reflects Webber. “This time, I felt in complete control. The final result shows everyone very close, but that wasn’t the story of the race. There were a lot of safety cars and if you accumulate the gaps before the safety cars, I would have been between 20 and 30 seconds down the road.

“I had to stay focused all the way because this was one of those days where the pitboard just keeps going the right way. I was thinking, ‘Where are they all? Brilliant!’ That was a beautiful feeling. But, of course, it's a long day out there and Jenson [winner in 2009] had been playing a few mind games beforehand, saying things like, ‘Late in the race, the barriers will move. They’ll move! They start closing in on you’ and all sorts of bullshit like that.

“From the start, I’d said to myself, ‘Get your head down at Ste Devote [the first corner] and buckle into the first few laps. The most important thing then is just the next corner, just next corner, then the next corner, and the next corner. Stay super-present. Winning at Monaco: that was a very, very special day.”

2. 2010 British GP, Silverstone

The

The "not bad for a number two driver" race

Photo by: Sutton Images

Car: Red Bull RB6
Started: 2nd
Result: 1st

With McLaren-Mercedes and their drivers leading both championships, the pressure was on as Red Bull’s first title appeared to be slipping away ahead of round 10 of the 2010 campaign. The tension increased dramatically at Silverstone when Webber, having run a revised nose wing during practice, was forced to hand it over to Vettel for qualifying, Vettel having damaged his.

After Vettel took pole, with Webber alongside, the German came off worst during the anticipated first-lap conflict and prompted Webber’s infamous line: “Not bad for a number two driver” as the Aussie took the chequered flag.

“You could say there was lot of tension in the team,” grins Webber today. “Both of us on the front row and all this business about the nose. I think [team boss] Christian [Horner] and the guys were worried about us going straight to the fence at the first corner. I remember talking to Flav [Flavio Briatore, Webber’s manager] that morning and he said: ‘Just win the f***ing start!’

“It's an amazing thing about Silverstone but the number two grid slot – on the old layout and the new – always had better grip. I had more than Seb and I thought about parking him a bit on the apex at Copse and screw his run to Becketts. Actually, I bumped him more than I probably wanted to because Lewis [Hamilton] touched him and cut Seb’s tyre. I went into Beckett's with Seb right there: I came out – and he’d disappeared. I thought: ‘Sensational! He's gone.’”

Webber defeated Hamilton’s McLaren by 1.4s, having backed off in the closing moments, with everyone else more than 20s behind. Vettel was seventh.

“We had a good car advantage there and I felt it was my race to win even though Lewis drove an awesome race,” adds Webber. “And, yeah, I couldn’t resist saying what I did when I crossed the line. Well, you couldn’t miss an opportunity like that, could you?”

1. 2009 German GP, Nurburgring

Webber's maiden F1 win comes out on top in his top 10 list

Webber's maiden F1 win comes out on top in his top 10 list

Photo by: Sutton Images

Car: Red Bull RB5
Started: 1st
Result: 1st

When Webber took his first GP victory, the release of emotion was loud – and very long. With his right arm thrashing the air and his left thumb on the radio button, Webber’s primordial yell and constant repetition of “Yes! Yes! Yes!” was charged by the liberation of a self-belief frequently snarled in frustration during 130 attempts.

Typically, this win had not been easy, Webber’s first pole position having been compromised by a drivethrough penalty following a first-corner clash of wheels with the Brawn of Rubens Barrichello. The head-down response and string of fast laps added to the untrammelled joy when the chequered flag gave Australia its first GP winner in 28 years.

“The first win was obviously a huge milestone,” reflects Webber. “I believed I had been ready for it earlier in my career but, for lots of different reasons, that didn't happen. So, the pressure valve just blew wide open!

“It was crucial that this had not been a race of attrition. I hadn’t been gifted the win; it was on my terms. I’d had a tough off-season after breaking my leg [during a charity endurance cycling event in Tasmania]. I’d had a tricky first part of the year in terms of conditioning and fitness.

“Despite being on pole, I didn’t get off the line well and momentarily lost sight of Rubens. It wasn’t until I hit him that I realised where he was. When I got that drivethrough, I did think, ‘Ah mate, here we go again’. But as soon as I left the pits, I just out-drove and out-strategised the whole field that day, which was super-rewarding.

“It was all about knowing I could do that. This was a genuine result at the highest level. So, with all of that and everything that had gone on during the past eight years in F1, the relief as I crossed the line was absolutely massive.”

Webber became the first Australian winner in F1 for 28 years

Webber became the first Australian winner in F1 for 28 years

Photo by: Sutton Images

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