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CIMA Gallary

‘Vettel’s been the benchmark for us over the last few years’

Mark Webber on life in the fast lane
A TELEGRAPH EXCLUSIVE

Greater Noida: Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber, who finished second in the qualifier for Sunday’s Indian GP, and is ranked fifth in the drivers’ standings for the year, spoke to The Telegraph the other evening.

The following are excerpts

Q What does speed mean to you?

A Adrenaline... Concentration... Being precise... Constantly testing myself.

Given the high speeds, is there an element of fear?

There is, although most drivers may not admit it. The most tricky part for us is when we race in the rain, when the visibility is compromised... It’s tricky when the conditions are bad... It’s not that you’re scared, but you’re less in control of the situation. You can’t see everybody and you may not be able to position the car where you want.

What’s your preparation, beginning from the night before a GP?

Sleep as much as I can... I like to do some stretching before breakfast, get the heart rate up a bit to have the adrenaline flowing... My breakfast is light... I don’t eat well, so I try and avoid a proper lunch... The idea, really, is to be calm... No running around, no stress. There are things you need to do, like give the occasional interview, but a Sunday morning wouldn’t be the right time. We wouldn’t be chatting on the morning of the race.

In the last hour or so before a race...

Have a massage... Do some skipping, which helps the hand-eye co-ordination.

How do you stay calm?

Actually, after breakfast, I surf the Internet... Not for F1 news, but for other sport... That helps me relax... Listen to music too.

Have you had a role model?

Not an F1 driver, but Michael Doohan, the champion rider.

What’s it like being Sebastian Vettel’s teammate?

Vettel’s a good guy... Very gifted... He’s a huge talent behind the wheel and has done great things in F1. Vettel’s been the benchmark for us over the last few years. Being in the same team, I can see how he operates... It’s interesting. Look, you won’t have the results if you’re not at the top of your game. Vettel is.

So, what separates the drivers?

At this level, all of us are handy, all of us are good... The really outstanding ones are those who’re consistently consistent. Also, the ones who have a very good brain capacity, the capacity to absorb. Do your job, but also absorb other things. That’s a good trait to have.

Should Michael Schumacher have come out of retirement, in 2010?

Michael has had two careers and the second didn’t really work out. Having said that, tell me who has had a phenomenal comeback? Maybe Michael Jordan, to an extent... It’s good for the sport that Michael’s second innings hasn’t been successful, for it shows the sport has moved on... Surely, it wouldn’t have been good for the sport if he’d come back and again kicked everybody’s ass!

Had you been in Schumacher’s shoes, would you have made a comeback?

You’ve got to take your hat off to Michael for trying... He didn’t lose the competitive streak... He didn’t muck around with Touring Cars or the small categories, but returned at the hardest level. The spirit in his tummy has to be applauded... With the benefit of hindsight — I mean, I could tell you everything about yesterday’s weather — Michael may say he shouldn’t have made a comeback... What’s important is that he did what he felt like doing and that’s the way it should be... Allow Michael to do what he wants. Now, he’s decided to retire again.

You’re a Sachin Tendulkar fan...

Of course... I watched one of the Tests in England last year, when all the talk was whether Sachin would get his 100th international hundred. I went to see him play.

What’s special about Sachin?

Sachin plays the game hard, plays it fair... It doesn’t pay to underestimate him and we, Australians, know that only too well. He’s got amazing concentration and a beautiful hand-eye co-ordination. Sachin’s longevity has to be admired... He’s been inspirational.

Is age a factor for a sportsman?

As you get older, you need to play a ‘different’ game to remain hungry. Sachin’s 39... I’m 36... I’m sure he’s gone through phases, but has found ways to stay motivated. Twenty-three years at the top, wow.

The final one... When you won the British GP this year, were you avenging Australia’s Ashes loss?

(Laughs) Well, yeah... I love a lot of things about England, where I stay (in Oxfordshire), but in sport it’s Australia and Australia alone.