Mark Webber’s win has been a long time coming. The Australian last won a motor race of any description in 2001, when he clinched the Formula 3000 race.
Webber won three races that season and that propelled him to F1. The following year, 2002, he made a dream debut at the Australian GP, driving for the Minardi team. Despite starting his career with a back-of-the-grid team, the home expectations were high. Webber arrived for his debut race, waving from the cockpit of his team boss’s jumbo jets with his Minardi F1 car in the cargo hold.
Then in the race itself, Mark pulled off the seemingly impossible. From 18th place on the starting grid, he claimed fifth place and two championship points on his debut. It still seems amazing that he has taken so long to progress from that day to this, more than seven years and 130 races later. It has been a roller coaster ride, taking him through the Jaguar and Williams teams, and then to Red Bull in 2007.
Since then he has been key to the team’s renaissance and in typically straight fashion, has responded to all the media hype surrounding German ‘wunderkind’ Sebastian Vettel. He has let his driving do the talking.
Red Bull racing are now in the perfect situation. Their second successive one-two finish shows they have undoubtedly the best car on the track at the moment. Their two drivers are pushing each other to the limit, yet working in harmony.
In contrast, leaders Brawn GP are looking vulnerable. The last two races, held in lower ambient temperatures, have exposed a weakness in the Brawn car’s ability to get its tyres to a high-enough working temperature and chinks are appearing in the relationship between its drivers.
Rubens Barrichello’s disappointment after dropping from the top spot to finish sixth might be understandable. But his outburst to media in the paddock after the race that he felt that the team had let him down was as inappropriate as it was factually incorrect.
His Brawn team was thwarted by a faulty fuel rig which could not have been predicted.
If Barrichello were driving for someone like Briatore, the tantrum might well have cost him his drive. Meanwhile, Jenson Button sits on a commanding 21-point championship lead. But it is still not too late for a dramatic change of fortunes.