“Aussie Grit” by Mark Webber reviewed

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“It is very difficult for us drivers to say certain things, because we have sponsorship deals, partners, we’ve got to represent the sport in a certain way.”

That’s the justification Lewis Hamilton gave earlier this year for why Formula One drivers so rarely speak their minds.

Someone must have forgotten to explain this to Mark Webber, for until his retirement from the sport at the end of 2013 he could be relied upon to be the last driver to hold his tongue to spare someone else’s blushes.

“I found it insulting to be told what my response should be to certain questions,” explains Webber in his recently-released autobiography. His no-nonsense style was always going to make this book a must-read: thankfully he hasn’t kept us waiting too long (it hit the shelves in Australia a few months ago) and nor has he disappointed.

Inevitably a major focus for many early reviewers of Aussie Grit was what it revealed about his five-year spell alongside Sebastian Vettel. But what is most striking is how minor a character Vettel is.

Webber does not aim the kind of jabs at his former team mate some might have wished to read. “I was not pissed off with Sebastian Vettel,” he says of his 2010 title defeat, saving his sharpest criticism for the way Vettel conducted himself in the aftermath of the ‘Multi 21’ saga.

Helmut Marko, Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 2015
Marko only had eyes for one of Red Bull’s drivers
Instead Helmut Marko, the Red Bull junior programme director who championed Vettel’s career, is characterised as having seized every opportunity to elevate his driver at Webber’s expense. Team principal Christian Horner is portrayed as a leader in title only, ineffective and indifferent to Marko’s constant undermining of Webber.

This is only one side of the story, and though Webber puts his views across in characteristically trenchant fashion it’s hard to side with him on every count. His insinuations about the reliability of his machinery compared to Vettel’s may reflect a view which is widely held but it is simply not supported by the facts.

However the turmoil within Red Bull was only a secondary factor in Webber’s growing disenchantment with F1. The end of 2010 was clearly a turning point for him as his dismay at losing the championship coincided with the onset of the gimmick era: the Drag Reduction System and designed-to-degrade tyres, the latter being Webber’s real bete noir.

Few drivers are as well-placed as Webber to understand the seriousness of the phrase ‘motor racing can be dangerous’. The most astonishing passage of the book concerns his experience at Le Mans in 1999, where despite Webber flipping twice at high speed during practice Mercedes failed to heed the warnings that there was a fault with their car and continued into the race – only for Peter Dumbreck to suffer a similar accident.

Faced with that kind of experience, how can anyone consider it acceptable to hush drivers when they warn their safety is at risk? Yet that is exactly what happened following two high-speed Pirelli tyre failures at Spa this year.

Being told to shut up is one thing, going along with it is another. Speaking his mind didn’t stop Webber from winning races for Red Bull, being courted for a seat by Ferrari or landing a plum World Endurance Championship drive with Porsche.

Maybe it’s not so “difficult” after all.

F1 Fanatic rating

Rating five out of five

Buy “Aussie Grit: My Formula One Journey” (UK)

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“Aussie Grit: My Formula One Journey”

Author: Mark Webber (ghost written by Stuart Sykes)
Publisher: Macmillan
Published: 2015
Pages: 390
Price: £20.00
ISBN:9781509813537

Win one of five signed copies of Aussie Grit

For your chance to win one of five copies of Aussie Grit signed by Mark Webber, send your answer to the following question using the contact form below:

At which circuit did Mark Webber score his first F1 race victory?

This competition has ended.

Competition terms and conditions
1. Maximum one entry per household.
2. The competition is not open to employees, friends or family of F1 Fanatic or Macmillan.
3. In the event of a dispute the editor’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
4. No cash alternative is offered for any of the prizes.
5. Deadline for entries is midnight GMT on 3rd November 2015. Winners will be notified by email.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 31 comments on ““Aussie Grit” by Mark Webber reviewed”

    1. When the book was released, I was very curious what Webber had to say but I was expecting it to be very bitter. But from reviews I’ve read, including this one, it’s much more worth it than I thought. Hope I win, else I’ll buy it anyway :)

      1. @andae23 I have already read it and it is a joy for the Webber fan and interesting for the F1 fan. He remains my hero.

      2. Webber is the epitomy of what it is to be an up-front non-nonsense Australian. While he may have some whinges, ultimately there is a certain level of professionalism accompanying it. He isn’t always right, however, you are never left wondering what he thinks… It is this trait that I think Australia is losing at the moment, as power and politics grip many work places. I too like you @andae23 hope to win, but if I don’t, will end up buying myself :)

        1. “We need to be ‘professional'”

    2. As a true character and one of the more likeable drivers of the recent past I was interested to hear what Webber would have to say now his F1 career was over. I too was worried it could end up being a bit negative because it never really suited his “no nonsense, take it on the chin and move on Aussie manner” when he had a moan.

      So I am really glad to hear it isn’t and that it is a good read, look forward to reading it. Hopefully I won’t need to fork out £20 for it either…

      1. Amazon UK are listing it for £7 when I checked just now

    3. His insinuations about the reliability of his machinery compared to Vettel’s may reflect a view which is widely held but it is simply not supported by the facts.

      The numbers don’t stack up, it’s true. That said Webber had many more pre-emptive gearbox penalties and a few more preventive engine penalties throughout his Vettel days.

      1. These “facts” are not really facts. They’re very subjective and most people who watched their seasons together could easily see that the problems were more often than not on Mark’s side of the garage. I trust more Mark’s view on that than anyone else. Having said that I think these issues were not really a reason for Mark’s struggle from 2010. That was the time when we lost some of F1’s rawness and you needed to go deeper to start understanding what is really driving these cars.

    4. would have called it ‘not bad for a number two driver!’

      1. That’s his second book. “Number 2”. Makes sense.

        1. This is his scecond book…..

          1. Maybe he’s keeping that quip for once Vettel has released an autobiography :P

            1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
              23rd October 2015, 13:37

              Not bad for a Number 2 in the morning… @fastiesty @mashiat

    5. He actually found a way to put “number one” on his book, not bad.

    6. He may be the only one speaking his mind openly but for other drivers like Vettel for example, it’s pretty easy to know what they think.

      In an interview where asked what his favorite car is, he starts by saying he drives a VW minivan most of the time and ends with “But of course my favorite car is an Infiniti”. It’s not hard to know what he really thinks.

      He’s also been the most vocal criticizer of Pirelli tyres since we know they can be dangerous. Of course he says he’s “believing in Pirelli’s capabilities” the next race. But again, it’s pretty clear what he really thinks.

      Most drivers speak their mind, they are just more careful to not offend other people when doing so.

    7. I was so excited and anxious to enter the competition that i actually answered the question wrong…
      I put on Mark’s last win (Silverstone), not his first one… It feels humilating, to say the least :P

      On the bright side, that rules out one competitor for you guys-not that my luck is pretty good anyway :P

      I’m just gonna buy it, i guess, maybe for a xmas gift…

    8. I never liked the guy, so not interested really.

      1. Well, thanks for sharing!

      2. Is it because his name is Mark?

    9. This should be a good read. A fascinating insight in the life and tribulations of a second rate formula1 driver. Can’t wait…

    10. He really likes to complain, doesn’t he.

      1. Not as much as that of very embarrassing GP2 engined driver on the grid, unfortunately.

        1. I don’t think that’s possible.

      2. That comes from drinking Red Bull.

        Or at least, I always assumed their slogan has a spelling error and it should read “whinges” instead of “wings”.

    11. As all know, I’m a huge Mark Webber fan, so I was already trying to get his autobiography for xmas. I’m glad it makes up for a great read.

      Also, while I think drivers these days are a bit like robots, I’d pick up Vettel as a superb character on and off the track. He also speaks his mind, maybe not as much as Mark did, but that probably comes with age too. Seb is very funny and intelligent on press conferences and all, so in my view, he’s hardly the PR robot we’re used to.

    12. I enjoyed the book a lot, there was a couple of parts it was a little slow ,but its his story and was worth the read, I picked it up at BigW in Australia for $24 not long after release,

      1. Me too, pretty good read.

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