Time for Famous Five
Mark Webber is having the season of his life. The Red Bull driver scored his first win only last year, when he triumphed in the German GP, and his second win in Brazil, was overshadowed by being the race where Jenson Button finally wrapped up the championship.other Updated: Oct 23, 2010 22:26 IST
Mark Webber is having the season of his life. The Red Bull driver scored his first win only last year, when he triumphed in the German GP, and his second win in Brazil, was overshadowed by being the race where Jenson Button finally wrapped up the championship.
In 2010, though, the Australian has sprayed champagne from the top of the podium four times and leads the standings by 14 points with three races left. He was not expected to give his teammate Sebastian Vettel a run for his money but the man who tweets under the name AussieGrit was underestimated not only by the young German but by a good chunk of the Formula One family too.
Not any more. He has driven beautifully. Monaco and Silverstone spring to mind. He has been an uncompromising racer, not giving Vettel or Lewis Hamilton an inch in Turkey and Singapore. He has also largely avoided the bouts of brain fade that can wreck a season.
But there is a feeling that for Webber it is now or never, that a chance of a tilt at the title may never come again. He is certainly driving as if that is the case and that is his strength.
Of his title rivals three (Button, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso) have been world champion. The other (Vettel) is touted as being a multi-title winner by the time he retires. After a decade in F1, Webber was considered a good pro, a team man, fast enough to do a proper job but not a champion in the making. That is why Webber is the sentimental favourite. Not only has he come up the hard way; he was not expected to do much when he got there.
Webber has also had a battle within his own team beyond racing Vettel. He was never a part of Red Bull's young driver programme overseen by Dr Helmut Marko. The former Le Mans winner and F1 driver has been developing driver talent since his career behind the wheel was cut short in the 1972 French GP.
One well-connected paddock insider suggested that, should Webber win the title in Abu Dhabi, he might climb out of his car, tell Marko where to stick it, walk away from F1 and go and race V8 Supercars back home in Australia. It would be a shame if that were to happen because the sport needs more drivers like Webber: honest, open, funny and, most importantly, fast.