HomeRacingMy F1 Cars: Mark Webber’s route from Minardi to Red Bull · RaceFans
My F1 Cars: Mark Webber’s route from Minardi to Red Bull · RaceFans
April 27, 2021
A peak of marginally over six foot (1.84m) all the time was going to be a large handicap to hold into Method 1 for Mark Webber.
But the Australian usually managed to shade his four-inch-shorter Purple Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who, crucially, was 12 kilograms (26lbs) lighter. Certainly, Webber received 9 grands prix in 215 begins and scored 13 poles, together with two at Monaco and one at Spa-Francorchamps.
In 1999 whereas racing sports activities automobiles for Mercedes, Webber attracted the curiosity of fellow Australian Paul Stoddart, then an astute ‘tremendous fan’ with a watch to future F1 group possession. Stoddart brokered an F3000 drive and Barcelona F1 take a look at with Arrows for Webber, then race offers in each classes. In the end aviation entrepreneur Stoddart, who spoke to RaceFans at size for a collection final 12 months, performed a significant position in Webber’s profession.
Arrows-Supertec A20 (1999, take a look at)
Webber describes the Arrows A20, raced by Pedro de la Rosa and Toranosuke Takagi within the 1999 season, because the F1 automobile he “misplaced my virginity” in. The automobile scored a single level all season. “It wasn’t on the entrance of the grid,” Webber remembers, understatedly, including along with his trademark grin, “however, it had all of the lumps and bumps in the fitting locations to get the job finished…”
The automobile’s dealing with across the Circuit de Catalunya made a critical impression on the
“Any time you step up from the junior classes into Method 1, it doesn’t matter what sort of F1 automobile it’s, it’s going to be an extremely distinctive expertise. The velocity, the brute pressure of these automobiles, the ability to weight ratio actually hits you very, in a short time. And I used to be on a fairly good circuit as nicely.
“It’s an actual wake-up name, the G-forces, the load on the physique, and also you in a short time see the extent of health it’s good to function these automobiles for 2 hours. That’s the largest get up name. Then, after all, the individuals within the storage, you’ve obtained an enormous entourage to get used to. So, your first take a look at is all the time an enormous one, no matter efficiency of the car.”
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Benetton B201-Renault (2001, take a look at)
Nonetheless, Stoddart and Arrows boss Walkinshaw quickly fell aside acrimoniously, and Webber examined for Benetton. The group mutated into Renault, with group boss Flavio Briatore taking over Webber’s administration contract off the again of the take a look at.
“That was a bit extra critical,” he remembers of the Estoril take a look at, the place race driver Giancarlo Fisichella was current. “It was actually an analysis. Flavio was taking a look at me on the time as a real take a look at driver again then whenever you did do various mileage as a take a look at driver.
“There have been fairly just a few drivers within the image. I used to be fairly nervous going to the take a look at – I’d finished a seat becoming on the manufacturing facility in Enstone, however I wasn’t positive how snug I used to be going to be as bodily I used to be a bit large for the automobile.
“Fortunately, Alex Wurz [1.86m] had been there not lengthy beforehand, which was good as a result of ‘Wurzie’ moved out the furnishings a bit, so I may get my ass and knees into the automobile. That was a extremely critical take a look at for me, it was just a few days so, after all, I didn’t have an opportunity to recuperate.
“You get drained, neck, [over] all of the components of the physique which have by no means actually had an excessive amount of publicity to the form of forces. That was an actual eye-opener to do a number of days, and loads of units of tyres. And whenever you’ve obtained a great deal of tyres to check, which means extra G-forces as nicely.
“We had a monumental engine failure on the entrance straight, in order that was a fairly spectacular end to one of many days. Nevertheless it was an excellent take a look at.”
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Minardi-Asiatech PS02 (2002)
Testing for Benetton ready Webber for his grand prix debut – in March 2002 on house soil, with Minardi, which had been acquired within the interim by Stoddart. Historical past data the mixture scored a magical fifth place in Australia, edging out the may of Toyota. Nonetheless, Webber remembers the automobile as being “actually a ache within the ass”.
“That was a automobile I didn’t match into,” he defined. “I used to be fairly purple from bruising in that one. We examined in Valencia within the build-up to the season and funding was not precisely Minardi’s robust level; we needed to be actually measured within the build-up to the [race].
“It was a two-race contract [initially], Australia and Malaysia. I feel the longest fixed run I did [in testing] was 17 laps and it was a 58-lap race.
“On the finish the automobile was actually falling aside beneath me. The differential was gone, we couldn’t open the gasoline flap on the pit stops, it wasn’t linked to the pit limiter, there was all types of stuff. We had open that manually with a screwdriver – you couldn’t make a few of the stuff up.”
Although underpowered, the PS02 dealt with nicely, Webber remembers. “It was a nimble automobile, notably on its Michelin tyres,” he says. However cracking the highest six – the one points-paying positions 19 years in the past – was a problem. He took eighth in France and tenth on the season finale in Japan – plus 4 Eleventh-place finishes.
“We had some good races in it,” Webber remembers, “high six was exhausting to get. I feel we completed just a few races within the high 10 so would actually have gotten extra factors as of late. However that’s how the cookie crumbles. However Magny-Cours, Monaco have been just a few good races.”
Jaguar-Cosworth R3, R4 and R5 (2003-04)
Webber’s performances with Minardi caught the attention of Niki Lauda, then group boss of Jaguar Racing. “I did a take a look at with the [R3] in the midst of  which went nicely,” Webber explains. “The [Cosworth] engine was unimaginable, actual energy. The automobile wasn’t particular by way of steadiness, so aerodynamically wanted numerous love.”
Webber signed with the inexperienced group after the take a look at. However by the point he arrived in Milton Keynes Lauda was on his means out, which Webber remembers was “irritating”. Nonetheless, he loved the season, which additionally noticed the introduction of one-lap qualifying.
“I actually was at one with that [R4] when it counted over one lap. An enormous-engined automobile that was an actual handful within the races. That was evident as a result of we all the time certified in the direction of the entrance, however then [it was] very exhausting to hold on to, notably aerodynamically.”
Three sixth locations and 4 sevenths have been the outcome – thankfully for Webber factors had been prolonged to eighth place that 12 months. He took tenth within the standings.
“With expertise, trying again,” he says, “we focussed on the incorrect issues. Even with the engineering group we have been barking up the incorrect tree, not measuring sufficient and [not] getting sufficient information and science into understanding why we have been killing the tyres.
“That every one develop into obvious afterward in my profession, why and the way it’s good to respect the aerodynamics a lot.”
Issues didn’t enhance markedly for his second season at Jaguar, which was the group’s final earlier than promoting out to Purple Bull Racing, now based mostly on the identical Milton Keynes tackle.
“It was good for me to be related to such an enormous group,” he says, “however in the end, they didn’t have the assets or firepower to deal with areas that made the largest efficiency beneficial properties, which was clearly aero.
“I feel Cosworth have been an outstanding firm, they did an excellent job though reliability was a bit flaky which was comprehensible given what they have been up in opposition to.”
Williams beckoned subsequent. Webber’s arrival evoked comparisons with one other profitable Australian, Alan Jones, who delivered the group’s first championship success.
But a partnership which promised a lot left each events extraordinarily dissatisfied. After testing the FW27 which received the season-closing race of the 2004 season in Brazil, Webber’s hopes have been excessive.
“I assumed that is going to be good, that is going to be unreal. I used to be doing lengthy runs at Barcelona at what was just about qualifying laps within the Jaguar, give or take just a few tenths.
“The automobile was so mushy on its tyres, it had a truckload of horsepower with the BMW, the aerodynamics of the automobile have been fairly secure, the software program electronics have been actually dialled in with all engine braking. The automobile was superior.
“Then out got here the brand new one… and she or he was a lemon.”
He places the issues all the way down to “Primarily aero, there have been just a few little regulation adjustments. The primary take a look at we did all people simply checked out one another, and went ‘We’re in critical strife right here, this factor’s doing nothing.’ It had no grip.”
Webber is, although, complimentary concerning the “extraordinary” BMW engine. “The torque – traction management was round then, so we may play lots with techniques and software program on easy methods to deploy that sort of energy.
“The engine saved pulling the place the Cosworth was a bit peakier. We simply had much more grunt within the backside a part of the RPM vary. So, a really, very spectacular engine.”
However with BMW poised to finish their relationship with Williams, having purchased Sauber for 2006, Webber suspects their engines have been dialled again. “Most likely the very best of the BM days have been after they have been on the entrance, they usually peeled again slightly to not have any tough PR of their final season [with Williams] for no actual good use.”
Clearly Webber anticipated extra from the season than a single, debut podium look at Monaco. Nonetheless if the FW28 was a disappointment, its Cosworth-powered FW29 successor proved worse in 2006.
“Cosworth was handy in phrases the UK and British model, that was the massive pitch, and positively they may produce some good energy which they did,” says Webber. “However the automobile was the Achilles Heel, the efficiency was not good.
“We had even easy issues like diffusers touching [the ground] in high-G corners. We have been exploding inside shoulders on tyres, issues like that which was simply unreal.
“The gearbox was not dependable – we had an issue behind the Security Automotive in Melbourne when on target for an excellent outcome probably, and the gearbox wasn’t syncing.
“I bear in mind mowing the garden and pondering, ‘It’s not going nicely; it’s time I’ve obtained to decide. Go to Purple Bull, which was truly the one possibility.’”
Purple Bull-Renault RB3-RB9 (2007-13)
Webber’s tenure with Purple Bull established him as a daily grand prix winner, with classifications of fourth place and three thirds throughout his seven years with the (growing) group testifying to his consistency of their Adrian Newey-designed automobiles. Newey’s first ‘correct’ Purple Bull was the RB3, powered by Renault after swapping its Ferrari engines with sister group Toro Rosso.
“It was so, so good that [Red Bull owner] Dietrich Mateschitz – and Adrian from what I hear – was slightly bit eager to provide me a run,” says Webber. “That labored out nicely and off we went.”
The RB3 proved quick however initially fragile – Webber and team-mate David Coulthard every retired seven instances in 17 races. Nevertheless it got here good in the direction of the tip of the season, rewarding Webber with a podium on the Nürburgring and the lead at Fuji earlier than being punted out by future team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Clearly, although, Newey was nonetheless attending to grips in Milton Keynes after stellar years at Williams and McLaren.
The RB4 suffered an preliminary run of suspension failures for each drivers, and I recall a typical Webberism after I requested him about fragility in Melbourne: “Mate, if we have been constructing aeroplanes I’d be fucked…”
The quote remains to be legitimate, he says throughout this interview: “I feel on the time Adrian was pushing the boundaries, he had a little bit of a tough run.
“I used to be a friggin’ nightmare for Adrian, I used to be too tall, he hated the dimensions of me, however he obtained me in [the team] and I’m perpetually grateful he made an effort to get me snug.”
Webber says the [hip] space, not footwell or elbow room, was his largest squeeze, resulting in “nervous moments in January” when the FIA’s exit exams have been carried out.
“There was no query about it, within the final three or 4 years I used to be extraordinarily snug within the automobile and had no points, and that reveals that when you’re been with a group for some time, it’s an enormous win. That’s one thing which individuals on the surface don’t see – it’s good for the cockpit, the ergonomics, and the [car] setting.”
The 2009 season introduced the RB5 and a return to slick tyres rather than grooved rubber. It additionally introduced a brand new group mate within the form of Sebastian Vettel.
The start of the season was formed by an argument over ‘double diffusers’, launched by rivals Brawn amongst others. By Might Purple Bull launched its personal trick diffuser, which made a world of distinction, says Webber.
“There was simply a lot a lot grip within the rear of the automobile [with it]. A grand prix automobile is by its nature unstable within the rear typically by way of the ability and particularly with no traction management, no matter you might do to calm the rear down after which jam a entrance load stuffed with downforce onto it to steadiness it, then the stopwatch goes to find it irresistible.
“It was an excellent Method 1 regulation,” he grins, “the automobiles have been fast, refuelling kicked off though qualifying was a joke with no means of figuring out gasoline hundreds. And naturally [it brought] my first victory, which is essential to any Method 1 driver’s profession and it was a terrific cup.”
That breakthrough victory was classic Webber, as he charged to the entrance on the Nurburgring regardless of a penalty for contact with Rubens Barrichello at the beginning. However Vettel had already taken his first win just a few months earlier, and the fast ascent of the group’s junior driver prompted claims of favouritism.
“I feel at the moment we have been attempting to get to the entrance, nonetheless simply growing the automobile, no matter we thought was finest to whoever was the quickest, and at the moment there was nothing between us,” mentioned Webber. “Till, clearly, [his] first championship.” That got here in 2010.
“The youngest world champion was essential for Purple Bull, so as soon as that was finished then it turned very difficult inside there after that.”
The RB6 commenced a four-year unbeaten run for the group in each championships, Vettel taking the drivers’ title every time. Throughout a interval of relative stability within the laws, Purple Bull and engine provider Renault have been first to use the potential of utilizing exhaust gasses to reinforce the ability of the automobile’s diffuser.
“The blown diffuser was very a lot linked to the [strong] partnership with Renault as a result of clearly we have to use the [exhaust] plume to stimulate the diffuser,” Webber explains. “Whether or not it was sizzling air, which we’d have typically gasoline stepping into, or it was simply the engine operating, simply open with the throttles open [no ignition] and chilly air going by, nonetheless a plume going by.”
However Webber admits Vettel mastered the driving approach essential to extract probably the most from this part within the improvement of 4 successive and comparable automobiles.
“After we obtained that proper, clearly Sebastian loved it greater than I did,” he says. “It was a really particular piece of equipment.
“We used extra gasoline, clearly, exhaust temperatures have been by the roof and the exhaust can be exploding. Then you definitely would hyperlink that to your entrance wing angle relying on how a lot you’re going to be cranking rear the ground. To place that entire jigsaw collectively was good enjoyable.”
Thereafter “the automobiles simply saved transferring alongside”, the 2011-2013 automobiles (RB7-9) being evolutions of what went earlier than or an optimised adaptation the place (minimal) regulation adjustments forward of F1’s change to the hybrid system meant adaptation.
That changeover prompted his change from F1 to the World Endurance Championship, the place he received the title with Porsche in 2015. Trying again, he believes he timed the choice nicely.
“It was my final 12 months, however I nonetheless managed to get a few poles. I used to be very, very comfortable to be on the rostrum with Fernando and savour my final race and get the quickest lap.
“So it was good timing. It’s very simple to screw the timing up and be there too be lengthy…”
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