Greater Noida: Mark Webber, an Australian who has made England his home, spoke to The Telegraph (at the BIC) in the lead-up to Sunday’s Indian GP.
Teammate Sebastian Vettel has been cornering all the glory, but Webber has also made an appreciable contribution to the mega success of Team Red Bull.
Webber, who starts fourth on the grid here, finished second in three GPs this year — Malaysia, Britain and Japan.
Some regard Webber as moody, but he’s been very courteous in interactions with this newspaper, both in 2012 and this time.
Webber, by the way, is into cricket big time.
Q Why are you ending your F1 innings at the end of this season?
A I’m 37 and my energy levels aren’t the same as they were when, say, I was 25... It’s getting to a stage where it isn’t easy for me to operate at this level week after week. When you get older, it gets harder... With age, a lot of small things get tougher. Controlling one’s weight, for example.
It’s not easy keeping it super high... I think I’ve got the timing (of leaving) right. As a professional, I needed to get it right.
But was it a simple decision to make?
(Pauses) The decision to leave F1 has been against my instincts, for I’m a competitive person by nature... But it’s impossible to operate at this level forever.
You’ve signed up with Porsche for the FIA’s World Endurance Championships from 2014. Is that going to be less challenging?
The schedule, for one, is less demanding... I’ll have 8 races, including the Le Mans 24 hours, as opposed to 19 in F1. So, it will be a big change.
As a brand, Porsche is massive...
It’s an incredibly big brand and it was important for me to be associated with a big player. I’ve worked hard (in F1) to get to this stage, to get to an association with Porsche.
Won’t you miss the thrill of driving in F1?
But the Porsche cars are fast, which is good, for I still need the adrenaline to flow... I need the speed. Exhilaration comes with speed.
You’ll be leaving F1 just before significant changes in the rules and regulations...
Next year, I expect the gap between the teams to get wider. Generally, when changes are made, the strong get stronger while the weak become weaker... The depth of the competition will surely be less. That’s my view, at least.
You’ve been around in F1 for 11 years. What has this period taught you?
To deal with the highs and the lows, not to take things for granted... I’ve learnt so much... To back myself as an individual and as a professional... Seeing others, I’ve learnt to operate under pressure. It’s a lot that I’ve picked up.
Early this year, in the Malaysian GP, there was that much-talked about incident with teammate Vettel, who defied team orders and denied you the chance to finish first. Was it very hard on you?
All that any driver can ask for is a fair chance to win... Sometimes you don’t have that dynamism within the team... Today, I could look back and say that a few things could’ve been handled a bit differently. Having said that, nobody is a perfect human being. With experience, you learn about others and learn about yourself... Actually, your question isn’t easy to answer.
How do you rate Vettel, who is possibly hours away from a fourth drivers’ championship in a row?
Vettel’s a quality driver and he’s done a good job, there’s no denying that. In fact, he’s done incredibly well.
You’ve been a fan of Sachin Tendulkar. Well, in a matter of weeks, he’ll be through with cricket. Your thoughts?
Tendulkar’s had an amazing career, but in the last stages, as it was with Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting back in Australia, the media starts to talk about retirement and so on... From what I know, Waugh and Ponting’s point was that the media didn’t get them to the top and the media wouldn’t finish them either.
Sachin’s views have largely been the same...
Really! Unfortunately for Tendulkar, he’s raised the bar so high that even a 50 or a 60 is seen as a failure. People expect so much from Tendulkar, but they’ve got to remember that, at the end of the day, he’s human. He can’t operate at such a high level week after week. That must be appreciated.
What has Sachin done for Indian sport?
(Tone of admiration) Tendulkar’s definitely lifted Indian cricket... He’s been its beacon for many, many years. I’ve spoken to some of the Australian players and all of them have said that playing against Tendulkar has been great... One would like the Brian Laras and the Tendulkars to play forever, but that’s not possible.
So, what has been Sachin’s USP?
The calmness in Tendulkar’s head... The extra nano second he’s got to play his shots... I suppose there’s something with the smaller guys, those who aren’t tall. They lack a presence, strictly physically, but make up for it in other ways... They’re fox terriers and become such a pain for the opposition.
What separates the good sportsmen from the run of the mill ones?
Lastly... Do you have words of wisdom for the young drivers?
You never know who is watching, so put your best foot forward. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated... Take it as advice, not words of wisdom.