Mark Webber is one of Australia’s most prominent racing drivers. He is best known as the Formula 1 racer, but he achieved his best results in the other racing series.
He recorded 215 starts in the Formula 1 World Championship between 2002 and 2013, driving for Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull. he scored nine victories and 42 podiums. After leaving F1, he spent three season with Porsche LMP Team in the FIA World Endurance Championship, taking the world title in 2015.
Alain Prost and Kevin Schwantz as childhood heroes
Mark Webber is born in August 1976 in Queanbeyan, New South Wales. He was involved in the sport as a boy, but his first love was rugby. Later, he became interested in motorsport.
As he once said , Formula 1 champion Alain Prost and motorcyclist Kevin Schwantz were his childhood heroes. As a teenager, Webber debuted in karting, becoming the champion of New South Wales in 1993.
Racing in an old car and working as a driving instructor
When his father bought him a Van Diemen FF1600, which was owned by Craig Lowndes, Webber moved up to Australian Formula Ford Championship. He finished 14th overall in his first season in the series, working at the same time as a driving instructor at Speedway in Sydney. In 1995, Mark Webber progressed to fourth position overall, scoring several wins. He began a partnership with the championship coordinator Ann Neal who secured his long-term sponsorship by Australian Yellow Pages. Later, as his manager, Ann Neal helped Mark to start a career in Europe.
Moving to Europe was a new stage in the career of Mark Webber
After tests with Van Diemen British Formula Ford team at Snetterton and Brands Hatch, he got a contract for 1996 season. Webber completely fulfilled expectations finishing the season as a runner-up and scoring four wins. His results were recognized at home and he was voted as the ’Young achiever’ and ’International achiever’ of 1996. Soon afterward, Mark was offered a contract by Alan Docking Racing to compete in Formula 3 and a new adventure was prepared for 1997.
Despite team’s constant lack of money, Mark Webber had a solid season. With a help of Australian rugby legend David Campese, Webber managed to finish the season successfully. He won the race at Brands Hatch leading from start to finish, had three podium finishes and clinched fourth place in the Drivers’ championship.
Good start and inglorious end with Mercedes
The same year, he was offered a test drive for Mercedes-AMG. Webber declined the offer, but later decided to accept the call after all, and impressed the team officials during a test drive in Austria. Mark signed a contract for 1998 to compete in FIA GT Championship alongside reigning champion Bernd Schneider. Webber’s rookie season was really impressive as the pair won five of 10 races, but that wasn’t enough for the championship title which went into the hands of their teammates Klaus Ludwig and Ricardo Zonta.
Webber’s sportscar racing career was marked by huge accidents at training sessions for 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1999. Driving Mercedes CLS, due to aerodynamical failures, Webber in two days went airborne twice at Mulsanne straight, but luckily escaped injuries. Mercedes decided to suspend its sportscar racing program for a year, and Webber was forced to think about returning to open-wheel racing.
A step closer to Formula 1
The next stop for the Australian was Formula 3000 and Arrows team which also gave him the first taste of Formula 1 during 1999 post-season tests in Barcelona. For 2000 campaign, Mark Webber had the good financial backing and was ready to make an impact in Formula 3000. He won the race at Silverstone, scored two podiums and three fastest lap times, to finish third at the end of the season. In the same time, he acted as Arrows team test driver in Formula 1 and gained valuable experience.
Interestingly, Webber declined a contract offer from Arrows for 2001 and decided to switch to title holders Super Nova Racing. At the same time, he became a test driver of Benetton Formula 1 team after outpacing Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella during tests at Estoril. In his last Formula 3000 season, Mark Webber finished as a runner-up despite winning three rounds. He was ready for the full-time season in Formula 1 as a regular driver, but another unexpected thing happened.
Formula 1 debut with Minardi
Benetton team hired Fernando Alonso as a test driver, but the team owner Flavio Briatore secured Webber a contract with Minardi team where he became a regular driver. Mark debuted in Formula 1 at home, at 2002 Australian Grand Prix. With a bit of luck and with some brave maneuvers, Webber managed to finish fifth in the race with a really uncompetitive car. But, the rest of the season wasn’t even close to that result. Webber failed to score a single point, with 8th place in France. Even that was enough to earn plaudits from the racing magazines and pundits which emphasized Mark’s raw talent, many of them comparing him with Nigel Mansell in his early career days.
Switch to Jaguar
In 2003, Webber started driving for the Jaguar team. His best results were qualifying for Brazilian Grand Prix and driving the third fastest lap at Austrian Grand Prix. Although he was not out qualified by his teammates Pizzonia and Wilson, he was forced to retire from a number of races. At the end of the season, the Australian had 17 points what was enough for 10th position overall. During that season, Webber signed a new two-year contract with Jaguar.
Due to many mechanical failures, Webber’s second year with Jaguar was not very successful.He scored only seven points and finished 13th overall, with 6th place at German Grand Prix and second place in qualifications for Malaysian Grand Prix as the season highlights. In the middle of 2004, it was announced that Mark Webber will drive for Williams F1 team from 2005 onwards.
Two years with Williams
He spent somewhat disappointing two years with the British team, but there were surely some positives. In 2005, Webber finally won his first place at the podium in Formula 1, finishing third at Monaco Grand Prix. He was pretty fast in the qualifying throughout whole season but he was not able to repeat the same in the races. With 36 points, Mark Webber again was 10th overall.
Mechanical troubles and some minor accidents prevented the Williams driver from having a better season in 2006. Only seven points on the account, Webber finished 14th that year, so the decision to part ways with Williams after a small dispute about a contract extension wasn’t surprising.
The Red Bull Racing era
Reports were suggesting that Webber would join Renault team, ran by his manager Flavio Briatore, for 2007 campaign, but the Australian opted to sign with ambitious Red Bull Racing and to drive alongside David Coulthard. Again, results weren't impressive. Webber scored only one podium finish, at European Grand Prix. He missed a chance to take his first victory at Japanese Grand Prix, where he was forced to retire after an accident caused by Lewis Hamilton when he was in the second position. With 10 points, Mark Webber finished only 12th in the Drivers’ championship.
Video - Tribute to Mark Webber Formula 1 career
In 2008, Webber scored more points (21) and finished 11th overall, but failed to take a place at the podium in any of 18 races. Sebastian Vettel became his new team-mate next year and that would become one of the most successful pairings in the modern era of Formula 1. Although the media were describing their relationship as frosty, in his autobiography published in 2015, Webber stated that the things were different to what was described in the media. The German driver won four consecutive Drivers’ titles during that era while Webber helped the Austrian team to win also four Constructors’ championship titles.
First win at Nurburgring
Red Bull’s era started in 2009. With an excellent Renault-powered RB5 car, the team won their first title while Mark Webber managed to secure his first Formula 1 victory at German Grand Prix at Nurburgring, starting from the pole position. That was the first pole for any Australian driver since Alan Jones in 1980. In the penultimate race of the season at the Brazilian Grand Prix, Aussie driver again was the winner and finished 3rd in the championship. Previously he was a runner-up to Vettel in China what was Red Bull’s first ever 1-2 victory. In July 2009, Webber extended the contract with Red Bull for another season which turned out to be even more successful.
Webber scored four wins in 2010 (Spain, Monaco, Hungary and Great Britain) and four times he finished second scoring 242 points in total and finishing third overall, 14 points behind his team-mate and champion Sebastian Vettel. After the Monaco Grand Prix, Mark Webber was on the top of the standings, becoming the first Australian to do so, again after Alan Jones in 1981.
Good results achieved with Red Bull
The team was delighted with Webber’s performances and a new one-year contract extension was signed for the 2011 campaign. That year, the Australian clinched only one win, in the last race of the season in Brazil. He was second in Turkey and Belgium and scored seven finishes in third place during the season of Vettel’s absolute domination. At the end of the season, Webber was awarded the 'DHL Fastest Lap' prize as he drove seven fastest laps, more than any other driver that year.
After signing a new one-year contract with Red Bull Racing, Mark Webber contributed to the team’s third Constructors’ championship title scoring 179 points. He won the races in Monaco and Great Britain but that was enough only for 6th place that year. After the victory at Silverstone, Webber extended a contract with Red Bull for what will be his last year with the team.
In 2013, Mark failed to win a race but was in a very form through the entire season, finishing eight times at the podium. That year in Abu Dhabi, he scored his 13th pole position, equaling Jack Brabham’s record for Australian Formula 1 drivers. In his last race in Brazil, Webber was second which was a nice way to say goodbye to Formula 1. During his F1 career, Webber from 215 starts clinched nine victories, 42 podium finishes, 13 pole positions and 19 fastest laps.
Rapid success in the WEC
During 2013 season, Mark Webber confirmed he signed a contract with Porsche, to drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship in LMP1 class. After a long time, as a very experienced racer, he was ready for a return to sportscar racing with top and highly ambitious marquee.
Driving a Porsche 919 Hybrid, alongside Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, Webber finished 9th overall with third places at Silverstone, Fuji, and Bahrain as the highlights of the season. During the last race of the season in Sao Paulo, Webber survived a serious accident in which his car was split into two parts. Luckily, the Australian driver wasn’t seriously injured.
In 2015, Mark Webber won his first major title becoming WEC champion. Driving the same Porsche car like in 2014 and with same team colleagues, Australian driver took the title scoring four wins (Nurburgring, Circuit of the Americas, Fuji, and Shanghai) from eight starts, finishing the season just points ahead of Audi Sport Team Joest team.
In 2016, he spent one more season with Porsche, scoring four wins but finishing just fourth in the points. At the end of the season, he said 'goodbye' to racing.
Sports enthusiast and a charity worker
Aside from the world of racing, Webber enjoys various sports, such as tennis and mountain biking. He is still a big rugby league fan and a great supporter of Canberra Raiders team. As a fan of motorcycles, he was a guest at Isle of Man TT Races.
Mark Webber is also involved in the charity work. He is the founder of ’ Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge’, trek-race across Tasmania with the purpose of raising funds and helping children’s cancer research.