Exclusive - who is the real Mark Webber? 19 Apr 2006
The Australian driver chats exclusively to Formula1.com about this seasons changes at Williams, about his regard for rookie team mate Nico Rosberg, and about his famously amiable public persona
Q: Last year you said you were confident that Williams would be competitive in 2006 despite the departure of BMW. The teams impressive form in the opening three races has proved you right, but that form hasnt yet translated into results. When do you expect that to happen?
Mark Webber: Yes, we were very frustrated by what happened in Malaysia and Australia as it was obvious the car has plenty of potential and is quick enough to run near if not quite at the front. We are certainly very encouraged by its pace. At the moment our biggest priority is reliability and the quicker we sort that out, the quicker we can look to seeing the chequered flag and stronger results.
Q: At the end of the year it will be points that decide where you and Williams stand in the final pecking order. What is your goal for this season - personally and for the team?
MW: Its important to set yourself realistic goals. When I came into Formula One with Minardi, my goal was simply to finish as many races as possible, and with Jaguar it was to punch above our weight. When I came to Williams I had high hopes of challenging for wins, but as we saw last year, we simply didnt have a good enough package. Clearly Renault are, by far, the best prepared team at the moment, and after that the competition is extremely tight for the next eight, ten positions, which is unfortunate, but thats the way it is. We have, of course, given a lot of points away at the start of the season - we can never get those back, but hopefully we can add to what we have in the bag as quickly as possible. And, at the end of the year, well get what we deserve.
Q: Williams no longer have the resources of a major car manufacturer behind them - what has been the most obvious change? The saying goes that small is beautiful - is this true for a Formula One team?
MW: Im really enjoying being back with Cosworth as I worked with them in my Jaguar days and I know how professional they are about their business. Im not in the slightest bit surprised that they have produced such a good engine and itll be interesting to see whether the manufacturer-backed teams will edge ahead in terms of engine development as the season goes on. I dont think the actual size of our team is an issue - Renault isnt the biggest team in terms of human resources and finance but theyre doing a better job than anyone else at present. Its more about how the team is managed and how to get the best out of everyone.
Q: This is obviously a transitional year for the Williams team, which presumably, with BMWs departure, is a slimmed-down version of its former self. Is the team more unified this season?
MW: I only came into the team towards the end of their relationship with BMW, but clearly there was a bit of history there and a feeling that it was a divided team. That has definitely changed for the better this season as the team is controlling its own destiny again and I think that alone has given them renewed vigour and a fresh approach. However, the team isnt any slimmer; in fact weve actually recruited more staff!
Q: How has this affected your working environment?
MW: The team certainly feels much more united because were all pulling in the same direction with the same objectives in mind. With that kind of team spirit around you, you cant help but share in the enthusiasm and thats whether youre factory-based or out in the field.
Q: Williams have changed from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres for 2006 - a questionable decision, or a shrewd investment for the future?
MW: Frank (Williams) is one of the shrewdest operators in F1 so I think he knew where he was heading when he decided upon Bridgestone for 2006.
Q: You're the senior driver at Williams in terms of experience, with a solid history in Formula One racing. What is the most important thing you can teach your team mate Nico Rosberg this year?
MW: Unlike some of his predecessors, Nico has come into Formula One as best prepared as he possibly could. Hes done the best apprenticeship he could through the junior ranks so its hard to know what advice I could pass onto him. Its probably how to handle some of the off-track pressures and politics of the sport but then again, he has a former world champion as a father so I think hell be fine.
Q: How does it feel to have such a hotly-tipped rookie team mate breathing down your neck?
MW: Ive always been a big fan of new talent coming into Formula One so it doesnt matter one iota to me. I know when I started out as a test driver for Benetton, my biggest aim was to try and do as good or a better job than the regular drivers, Giancarlo (Fisichella) and Jenson (Button). So, I can quite imagine Nico having a similar ambition.
Q: This coming weekend Formula One racing starts its European season, with the first of two races - Imola and Nurburgring - that feature much cooler temperatures than the flyaway races to date. Could that be an advantage for you?
MW: If I were to go by pre-season form, then I would say the cooler temperatures wont be an advantage to us. However, Melbourne wasnt at all hot and we were pleasantly surprised by how well our choice of Bridgestone tyres performed. Itll be interesting to see how we get on back in Europe.
Q: The public Mark Webber is a team manager's dream - no scandal, quiet but articulate, knows his own mind and not afraid to speak the truth. But who is the real Mark Webber?
MW: What you see is what you get! Im not into the showbiz side of the business at all, but I love what Formula One provides me with - the challenge to drive the best racing cars in the world against the best opposition. Im not comfortable with people treating me differently just because I happen to race F1 cars for a job - I can think of far more deserving people who should be afforded that kind of recognition.