F1 Fanatic guest writer Journeyer revisits Mark Webber’s F1 career to date.
If there’s one man heading to the Hungarian Grand Prix on a high, it must be Mark Webber. His first Grand Prix win in Germany puts in a good position for the championship. But to get there, he took a long, hard road. Let’s take a look back at the rise of Mark Webber.
1999: The first time many would’ve seen Mark on TV was during his sole run at Le Mans this year. But his run will probably be remembered for his car somersaulting in the air three times during the weekend. It happened with Mark during practice and warmup, and it happened to his teammate Peter Dumbreck in the race.
2000: After Mercedes decided to shelve their Le Mans program, Mark returned to single-seaters. After pestering Eddie Jordan, Mark was introduced to fellow Aussie Paul Stoddart, who not only gave him an F3000 seat in the European Arrows F3000 team, but also gave him his first F1 test with the Arrows F1 team in December 1999. He was the best of the rookies in F3000 that season.
2001: Mark decided to move to the more successful Super Nova Racing team for his second season of F3000, aiming to win the title. By this time, he was now testing for Benetton rather than Arrows, thanks to new manager Flavio Briatore. Mark won some races, and lost in others in spectacular fashion – here’s his crash at Eau Rouge at Spa.
2002: Mark’s F3000 run was good enough to convince Stoddart to give him a ride in his newly-owned European Minardi F1 team that season. Not only did Mark handily beat Alex Yoong, he also had a magical debut in Australia. The young Aussie driver in the Aussie-owned team finished fifth in Melbourne. The crowd went nuts.
2003: His great run at Minardi helped him seal a deal with Jaguar for two years. Mark was excited at the chance of driving a faster car, but the Jag never really lived up to its full potential. He had a big shunt that year in the messy Brazilian Grand Prix – with Fernando Alonso following his lead and causing the race to be stopped.
2004: His entire 2004 season could be summed up in one race weekend, and that was the one in Malaysia. He came out of nowhere to stick his Jaguar second on the grid – an amazing effort, as you’ll see below. But at the race start, he couldn’t find a gear and dropped to the midfield. He had so much bad luck that day, his race duly ending in the gravel trap long after he dropped out of contention.
Webber thought he had the potential to do so much better. Tomorrow we’ll look at how he got into the team where he finally broke his victory duck.