'He doesn't need to hit tennis balls' – Webber on why Hamilton will have the edge in 2020
Lewis Hamilton is the heavy favourite for the title in 2020 according to Formula 1 veteran Mark Webber, who reckons the circumstances surrounding this delayed F1 season will play right into the six-time champion’s hands.
Webber was a guest on the latest F1 Nation podcast and spoke about a number of topics including Sebastian Vettel’s possible plans once he leaves Ferrari at the end of the year. But when he was asked who would win the title in this unprecedented season delayed by the coronavirus pandemic, the Australian replied without hesitating.
“I think it’s Lewis," he said. "Yeah, this is set up for him: no mileage, disrupted programme, y’know this is a guy that needs no- he doesn’t need to hit tennis balls. He’s just a guy that can get on with it at very, very short notice so I think for him it’s going to be very, very special.”
Having started 215 Grands Prix between 2002 and 2014, Webber ended his F1 career with nine wins, 42 podiums and the accolade of being Red Bull’s most experienced driver with 129 starts.
His career included in some stunning moments, including wheel-to-wheel battles with the likes of Hamilton and Fernando Alonso – something he touched on while discussing some of his best on-track battles.
Looking back on his favourite overtaking move, Webber said: “I think it was ‘09 in Barcelona, it was a real sneaky one. I think that the Renault had KERS then so there was a restart in Barcelona and Fernando did me on the start on the front straight and then I dummied him back down the inside into Turn 1, so I think that was probably, technically the hardest move I ever pulled on him.
“The Eau Rouge one [at the 2011 Belgian Grand Prix] was clearly a very, very unconventional venue. But... we never touched each other. We never touched a wheel. So many, it was almost like 50 races or 60 races, a good couple of seasons, we were like hanging out with each other [on track].
“It was good to race against him, as was Lewis. Lewis was world class, Lewis was clean, never desperate. That’s the one thing I think about those two: they were never desperate. They just had so much mind management composure to fight against. When I was flapping under the water they were bloody, bloody handy. So it was just great to race against them,” he said.
With Austria hosting the first two races of the season, however, it might not be so easy for Hamilton to hit the ground running. After all, he's won just once at the Red Bull Ring, while Max Verstappen has taken two successive wins at the circuit...