Mark Alan Webber is an Australian Formula One driver. He was born in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, son of Alan, the local motorcycle dealer. He is the first Australian to race in Formula One since David Brabham in 1994.
Mark Alan Webber is an Australian Formula One driver. He was born in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, son of Alan, the local motorcycle dealer. He is the first Australian to race in Formula One since David Brabham in 1994.
After some racing success in Australia, Webber moved to the UK in 1995 to further his motorsports career. He continued to win, although he gained his biggest headlines while driving for the Mercedes-Benz sports car squad at Le Mans in 1999 where he had two spectacular accidents during practice and warmup in which an aerodynamic fault caused the car to somersault off the Mulsanne straight. After Mercedes' withdrawal from the race, Webber began a partnership with fellow Australian Paul Stoddart, at that time owner of the European racing Formula 3000 team, which eventually took them both into Formula One when Stoddart bought the Minardi team.
Webber made an emotional debut in Formula One in 2002, scoring Minardi's first points in three years at his and Stoddart's home race. After an impressive first season, Jaguar Racing took him on as lead driver. During two years with the generally uncompetitive team Webber several times qualified on the front two rows of the grid and outperformed his team mates. He joined the former championship winning Williams team in 2005, for whom he achieved his best finish in Formula One to date; a third place at the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.
Webber is a keen sportsman away from the track. He has won the annual F1 Pro-Am tennis tournament in Barcelona three times and has recently set up the 'Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge' trek across Tasmania to raise funds for cancer charities.
He started his relationship with sport young, working as a ball-boy for premiership winning rugby league team the Canberra Raiders during the late 1980s. However, motorsport was where his interest lay, later listing Formula One World Champion Alain Prost and Grand Prix motorcycle racer Kevin Schwantz as his childhood heroes. Starting out racing motorcycles, Webber moved to four wheels in 1991, taking up karting at the relatively late age of 15. He won the New South Wales state championship in 1993, and moved straight into the Australian Formula Ford Championship after his father bought him an ex-Craig Lowndes Van Diemen FF1600. Working as a driving instructor at Sydney's Oran Park Raceway between races, Webber finished 14th overall in his debut season. Continuing in the series in 1995, Webber scored several victories, including a win in the support race for the Australian Grand Prix at Adelaide. He finished the series in fourth place, but perhaps more importantly, teamed up with Championship co-ordinator Ann Neal, who secured him a seven-year sponsorship with Australian Yellow Pages, and would become his manager and accompany him on a trip to England in an attempt to start a career in Europe.
Webber was given a test at Snetterton with the Van Diemen team, and subsequently earned a works drive for the team at the 1995 Formula Ford Festival, held at Brands Hatch. He finished third in his first international race, a result good enough to see him retained by the team for the 1996 Championship. Before moving to Europe permanently, Webber won the Formula Holden race at the 1996 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. During the 1996 British Formula Ford Championship, Webber took four victories on his way to second place overall, finishing his season strongly with a win in the Formula Ford Festival. He also won the Spa-Francorchamps race of the Formula Ford Euro Cup, taking third in the series despite competing in only two of the three rounds. His results throughout the year saw him voted as Australian motorsport's "Young Achiever" and "International Achiever" of 1996. Two days after his Festival victory, Webber completed a successful test for Alan Docking Racing, and was signed by the team to graduate to Formula Three in 1997.
Without the financial backing he had enjoyed during his time in Formula Ford, Webber and his team struggled to find the money to fund their championship campaign. He was almost forced to quit halfway through the season, but was able to obtain personal support from Australian rugby union legend David Campese, which helped him to complete the year. Webber took victory in just his fourth ever F3 race, at Brands Hatch, leading from start to finish and setting a new lap record in the process. He took a further four podium finishes, including a second place in the support race for the 1997 British Grand Prix, and finished the season in fourth overall. Webber also took strong finishes in the Marlboro Masters at Zandvoort (3rd) and the F3 Macao Grand Prix (4th), both times making his circuit debut. During the 1997 season, Webber was approached by Mercedes-AMG to participate in a sports car race. He initially declined the offer, but at the end of the year he was invited to participate in a test session for the team at A1-Ring in Austria. AMG were suitably impressed with Webber, and he was signed as the official Mercedes works junior driver for the 1998 FIA GT Championship, alongside reigning champion Bernd Schneider. Travelling around the world, including the United States, Japan and Europe, the pair won five of the ten rounds on their way to second in the overall standings, remarkably beaten to the Championship by teammates Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta by just 8 seconds in the final race at Laguna Seca.
Webber remained with the AMG team for 1999, and was promoted to his own race car for the season. However, his sportscar career came to an early end after he flipped twice on the straight in the lead up to the 24 Hours of Le Mans race that year. An aerodynamic fault on the team's Mercedes-Benz CLRs caused Webber to spectacularly become airborne during both practice and race-day warm up, with the same fate befalling teammate Peter Dumbreck five hours into the race. Both drivers escaped uninjured, but the crashes forced Mercedes to shelve their sportscar program for the year and Webber to reconsider a return to open wheel racing. Webber spoke to Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan, who introduced him to fellow Australian Paul Stoddart. Stoddart offered to undercut the necessary $1.1 million budget for Webber, and gave him a drive in his Eurobet Arrows Formula 3000 team for 2000. As a result, Webber also got his first taste of a Formula One car, completing a two-day test at Barcelona in December 1999 for the Arrows F1 team.
Webber was signed as test driver for the Arrows F1 team for 2000, and also gained sponsorship from Australian beer company Foster's whilst competing in the F3000 Championship. Webber took victory in round two of the season at Silverstone Circuit, and finished the series with two fastest laps and three podiums on his way to third overall - the highest position of any rookie that year. Contract issues meant that Webber was never able to drive the Arrows A21 car, and rejected an offer of a full contract for 2001 in July. However, he was offered a three day evaluation test for Benetton at the end of the year, outpacing F1 drivers Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella at Estoril. The results were good enough to earn him the test driver role with the team for 2001, and he also agreed to take on team boss Flavio Briatore as manager in return for finance for a further F3000 season. Webber joined the championship-winning Super Nova Racing team, and despite winning at Imola, Monaco and Magny-Cours, he finished second overall to British driver Justin Wilson. Webber was replaced as test driver for Benetton for 2002 by Fernando Alonso, but Briatore managed to secure Webber a contract to race alongside Alex Yoong in the Stoddart-owned Minardi team, making him the first Australian in Formula One since David Brabham in 1994.
Webber made his Formula One debut at his home race, the 2002 Australian Grand Prix. He qualified 18th of the 22 cars, over 4 seconds away from the pole position time, but 1.4 seconds ahead of teammate Yoong. The start of the race featured a spectacular accident between Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, the aftermath of which forced 8 cars to retire from the race. Webber, who had a problem with his launch control at the start, battled with a broken differential to fend off the experienced Mika Salo and finish fifth. The result made Webber just the fourth Australian F1 driver to score World Championship points, and the first Minardi driver to score points since Marc Gené in 1999. Webber was forced into retirement in the Malaysian Grand Prix, before picking up consecutive 11th-place finishes in the following two races. He, along with Yoong, was forced to pull out of the Spanish Grand Prix due to potentially dangerous wing failures during the weekend. Webber picked up two more 11th place finishes, but was unable to score points for the remainder of the year, his next best result coming in the French Grand Prix, where he finished 8th. In the Hungarian Grand Prix, Webber lost two kilograms in weight over the length of the race as he was forced to drive without a drink after his water bottle broke. Webber was able to outqualify Yoong (and Anthony Davidson, who replaced Yoong for the Hungarian and Belgian Grands Prix) in every race, and his two points in Australia were the only points that Minardi scored all season, helping them to 9th in the Constructors' Championship, ahead of Toyota and Arrows. Webber's results earned him the "Rookie of the Year" award in F1 Racing magazine's annual Man of the Year awards (receiving 53.70% of public votes), the Autosport.com "Rookie of the Year" award and "F1 Newcomer of the Year" at the annual Grand Prix Party "Bernie" Awards. In light of his season, notable Formula One journalist Peter Windsor related Webber to 1992 World Champion Nigel Mansell, saying they had similar amounts of "raw talent". In November 2002, it was announced that Webber would join Jaguar Racing for the following season, alongside Brazilian Williams test driver Antônio Pizzonia.
Webber's Jaguar career started disappointingly, as he qualified in 14th place for the 2003 Australian Grand Prix before being forced to retire on lap 15 with a rear suspension failure. The following race in Malaysia was even more dramatic for Webber, as Giancarlo Fisichella began reversing towards him on the starting grid, before Webber's in-car fire extinguisher discharged into his face and he was eventually forced to retire from 8th with an oil consumption problem. Webber took a remarkable provisional pole position in Friday qualifying of the Brazilian Grand Prix, outqualifying local driver Rubens Barrichello by 0.138 seconds in a rain-affected session. He continued his good performance in the Saturday session, taking a career-best 3rd on the grid, a result which was also Jaguar Racing's best qualifying performance in their four-year Formula 1 history. In the race, which was hit heavily by rain, Webber was sitting in seventh place when he attempted to cool his tyres by driving through a puddle lying off-line in the final corner. The resultant lack of grip caused Webber to crash heavily into the pit straight tyre barriers, leaving debris on the track which caused a second major crash. The race was subsequently red-flagged, and although Webber was originally classified in 7th, an FIA investigation found a timekeeping error, and Webber was placed 9th in the re-classification. Webber's good qualifying form continued into the San Marino Grand Prix, but he dropped from 5th to 11th by the first corner due to a launch control failure that affected both Jaguars, and he retired from the race after 54 laps with a driveshaft failure, his fourth consecutive non-finish for the year. His luck improved in the following races though, taking his first points in Spain and signing a new 2-year contract with the team reportedly worth $US6 million per season. He then went on to score points in five of the next six races on his way to moving into the top 10 in the World Drivers' Championship, the run of results interrupted only by an engine failure in Monaco. One of his best races came in Austria, where despite starting from the pitlane and suffering a drive-through penalty, he set the race's third fastest lap (behind only the Ferraris of Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello), and finished in 7th.
After the British Grand Prix, which Webber finished 14th, he had scored 12 Championship points compared to Pizzonia's 0, and after much speculation it was announced that Minardi driver Justin Wilson would replace the Brazilian for the remainder of the year. The German Grand Prix saw Webber's sixth retirement for the season, after he made a desperate last lap lunge on Jenson Button in an attempt to salvage a point from the weekend. Consecutive points finishes in Hungary and Italy saw Webber climb to ninth in the drivers' standings, with a 5 point margin to Button. He was unable to hold onto his position however, as one too many laps on dry tyres saw him spin out from the lead of the United States Grand Prix, and a disappointing 11th-place result in the Japanese Grand Prix meant he finished on equal points with Button, but lost out on a countback. Although Wilson scored a point in the United States Grand Prix, Webber had still never been outqualified by a teammate, and late in the year, Jaguar announced that rookie Christian Klien would team up with Webber for the 2004 season. Webber's results again earned him plaudits in the press, winning the 2003 "Driver of the Year" award from Autocar magazine.
Continuing with Jaguar in 2004, Webber qualified sixth fastest for the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, but faced his second consecutive retirement from his home race, this time due to a gearbox failure. The following race, the Malaysian Grand Prix, Webber produced the best qualifying performance of his career, splitting the dominant Ferraris to line up 2nd on the grid. The race was disappointing though, a stall at the start meaning he was well outside the top 10 by the time the cars reached turn 1. An aggressive lap saw him move up to ninth place, but during an exciting battle with Ralf Schumacher, the German collided with him and forced Webber to pit with damage to his front wing and tyre. In his desperation to make up for the lost time, Webber exceeded the pitlane speed limit and was handed a drive-through penalty, which left him even further behind. More frustration eventually led to the end of his race, as he spun into the gravel trap on the outside of the final corner on lap 23. The situation improved for the following race in Bahrain though, as Webber picked up his first point for the season despite a small mistake in qualifying which left him in 14th and marked the first time he had been outqualified by his teammate in F1. He was unable to continue his pointscoring form, however, as intermittent electrical problems in San Marino and a lack of grip in Spain meant that he could do no better than 13th and 12th in those races.
Amid Jaguar's announcements of special one-race sponsorship deals with movie Ocean's Twelve and diamond company Steinmetz Group, Webber suffered two engine failures in practice for the Monaco Grand Prix, the first of which forced Webber to extinguish it himself after being unable to find a trackside marshall willing to help. In the race itself, Webber was forced to retire due to a loss of engine power, but he was able to pick up two Championship points in the following race with a seventh place finish in the European Grand Prix. Webber lined up 14th on the grid after being handed a one-second penalty for yellow flag infringements during Friday practice, but was able to move through the field to take his points tally to 3. After the race he was criticised by Michael Schumacher for refusing to yield after Webber emerged from his pit stop slightly ahead of (but one lap behind) Schumacher, although after hearing the comments, Webber said he "would do exactly the same again" in the same situation.
Consecutive retirements in Canada (hit by Klien) and the United States (oil leak) and a 9th place finish in the French Grand Prix preceded a further point in the British Grand Prix, although his total of 4 points compared unfavourably to his 12 scored by the same time in the previous season. It was at this stage that former teammate Pizzonia returned to racing as a replacement for the injured Ralf Schumacher, and upon his return he accused Jaguar of favouritism towards Webber during their time as teammates, saying that Webber received new car parts one or two races before Pizzonia. The claims were categorically denied by Jaguar boss David Pitchforth, and whilst Webber did not publicly comment on the situation at the time, he picked up his best finish of the season by finishing sixth in the German Grand Prix, running ahead of Pizzonia for the entire race. Meanwhile, reports emerged that Jaguar could not guarantee that they would compete in Formula One for the 2005 season, and on July 28 it was announced that Webber would drive for WilliamsF1 for 2005 and beyond, later admitting this was the team that his "heart was always set on" throughout negotiations. Webber was unable to build on his points tally, however as a 10th place in Hungary, followed by a first-lap accident in Belgium, 9th in Italy and 10th in China saw him sitting 13th in the Championship. The penultimate race of the season in Japan saw Webber produce another good qualifying effort as he set the third fastest time, but his race ended prematurely as he suffered from a badly overheating cockpit, the cause of which could not be determined by Jaguar. The Brazilian Grand Prix marked Webber's last race for Jaguar, and Jaguar's last in Formula One, but it ended sadly for the team, as Klien turned in on and collided with Webber as the Australian attempted to make up for a pit stop delay earlier in the race. Webber was forced to retire due to the damage and watched the remainder of the race from the grass on the outside of turn 1 as Klien finished 14th.
Webber was granted an early release from his Jaguar contract to be allowed to test with his new team Williams over the winter. Williams had announced earlier that Jenson Button would drive for the team in 2005 alongside Webber, but after claims the Brit was still contracted to BAR, his contract with Williams was overturned. With his new teammate undecided, and apparently going down to a "shootout" between Nick Heidfeld and Pizzonia, Webber hit back at Pizzonia's claims of unfair treatment during 2003, claiming the Brazilian was lying and saying he was a "loser" for believing that there was favouritism towards Webber, comments which led to a reprimand from his new team.
Heidfeld was finally announced as Webber's 2005 teammate at the Williams season launch on January 31, with Webber admitting he was pleased with the eventual decision. Webber's move to Williams brought about comparisons to Alan Jones, Australia's last F1 World Champion (also in a Williams) and expectations were high as Webber's former team boss Paul Stoddart predicted Webber would take his first victory in 2005, while Williams technical director Sam Michael said Webber would eventually win the World Championship with Williams. In his first race for the team, the 2005 Australian Grand Prix, Webber took 3rd on the grid but was beaten to the first corner by David Coulthard and eventually finished fifth – still unable to improve on his best F1 finish. His best chance to do so though came in the following race in Malaysia. After qualifying fourth, Webber was running behind the Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella, who was struggling due to a lack of downforce and tyre grip. As Webber closed in and attempted a pass around the outside of turn 15, Fisichella locked up his brakes and slid into the side of Webber's car, eliminating both drivers from the race. Fisichella was later reprimanded by race stewards because of the incident, but as Heidfeld took third in place of Webber, the weekend came to epitomise Webber's growing reputation as a fast qualifier who did not perform well under pressure in race situations. It was later revealed that Webber had competed in the first two races carrying a fractured rib, an injury he had sustained during pre-season testing at Barcelona, though he "didn't want to make a fuss" about it and would be fully fit in time for the Bahrain Grand Prix.
After qualifying fifth in Bahrain, a mistake under pressure from Kimi Räikkönen whilst in third place saw Webber ultimately finish sixth, taking his points tally to 7 for the season. He followed this up by qualifying fourth and finishing a disappointing 10th after twice running wide off the track in the San Marino Grand Prix, although his position was revised to 7th after the disqualification of the BAR team and a penalty to Ralf Schumacher. The race was a poor one for Williams (Heidfeld was 9th before the reclassification), but Webber hit back at the Spanish Grand Prix, qualifying 2nd and finishing 6th – his fourth pointscoring finish in the first five races. The following race in Monaco saw Webber take the first podium finish of his career, with third. On the rostrum however, Webber looked noticeably disappointed with the result after losing second to teammate Heidfeld in a pitstop sequence towards the end of the race. The best result of Webber's career was followed by one of his worst at the European Grand Prix. After qualifying third, Webber locked his brakes and had a collision with Juan Pablo Montoya in the very first corner of the race, forcing him to retire as Heidfeld went from pole position to take an impressive second-place finish, overtaking Webber in the Championship in the process. The following race in Canada was affected by this result, as Webber was only able to qualify 14th, but he was pleased with an eventual 5th-place finish and a further 4 Championship points. The United States Grand Prix (where only 6 cars took part) was the beginning of a lean streak for Webber, with just one pointscoring finish in the next seven races, a seventh in Hungary, but by this stage he had slipped from 6th to 10th in the World Championship.
With Heidfeld injured, Webber's former Jaguar teammate Antônio Pizzonia stepped into the second Williams seat, with added pressure on Webber to perform well given the public argument the pair had towards the end of 2004. The Italian Grand Prix saw Pizzonia gain the upper hand, driving to seventh whilst Webber was caught up in a first-corner incident which saw him finish 14th. The roles were reversed for the following race in Belgium, as Webber raced to fourth but Pizzonia retired after a collision with Juan Pablo Montoya in the closing laps. With rumours that Heidfeld had in fact signed with BMW Sauber for the 2006 season spreading, Pizzonia continued in the race seat, and in the Brazilian Grand Prix, was clipped by David Coulthard in turn one. The contact caused Pizzonia to spin into the path of Webber, forcing extensive repairs to the Australian's car. Webber eventually finished 17th and set the race's 8th fastest lap, but was not classified as a finisher. The final two races of the season saw Webber take 4th and 7th to consolidate his 10th place in the Drivers' Championship. Webber described the 2005 season as "frustrating" and acknowledged that his reputation had somewhat diminished, but he opted to stay on with Williams despite an offer from BMW Sauber. Webber's teammate for 2006 would be German Nico Rosberg, becoming the seventh different driver to partner Webber since 2002.
For the first time in Webber's career, the first race of the season was not held in Melbourne, and instead was in Bahrain. Webber qualified 7th and had a solid race to finish 6th and pick up 3 Championship points. Although Webber was considered by some to have the better race performance, this was generally overlooked for the fact that Rosberg set the fastest lap in his debut race and moved through the field well after a first-lap incident. The following two races, in Malaysia and Australia were cut short due to mechanical problems. In Malaysia, Webber started 4th on the grid and was still running in that position before a hydraulics failure ended his race on lap 14. In his home race, Webber qualified seventh and was leading the race (before his first pit stop) when his gearbox failed on lap 22. A sixth-place finish in San Marino saw Webber move up to 9th in the Championship, but in the European Grand Prix hydraulics failure struck again to end his race after he had fought up to 12th from 19th on the grid (due to a mid-weekend engine change).
The Spanish Grand Prix marked the first time Webber failed to make the top-10 cutoff in the new qualifying system, and he struggled during the race to eventually finish ninth. Monaco, however, saw a huge improvement, with Webber qualifying on the front row (after Michael Schumacher's grid penalty) and holding third for a large part of the race before retiring with a cracked exhaust. In the 2006 British Grand Prix Webber crashed out on the first lap.
Webber's contract with Williams finishes at the end of the 2006 season, although the team has first option on him for 2007 and Webber has expressed his desire to stay with the team. However, Webber is managed by Renault boss Flavio Briatore, who will be losing Fernando Alonso to McLaren for 2007 and expressed his praise for Webber after the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, leading to speculation that Webber would join the French team for next season.
- Season summaries
- 2002: Minardi-Asiatech – 16 starts, 2 pts, 16th in Championship
- 2003: Jaguar-Cosworth – 16 starts, 17 pts, 10th in Championship
- 2004: Jaguar-Cosworth – 18 starts, 7 pts, 13th in Championship
- 2005: Williams-BMW – 19 starts, 1 podium, 36 pts, 10th in Championship
- 2006: Williams-Cosworth – 10 starts, 6 pts, 14th in Championship (in progress)