It’s an anecdote you may probably be aware of. But it can be revisited. It has, after all, unfolded in front of Mark Webber so frequently that it could be the story of his eventful F1 career, which will come to an end this season after 11 years.
After five years of underachievement, the Australian, rated as one of the most gifted but unlucky drivers on the grid, finally looked poised to end the drought during the rain-drenched 2007 Japanese Grand Prix as he closed in on race leader Lewis Hamilton. Having qualified eighth, Webber worked his way up, his cause helped by a few crashes, but a churning stomach made the Red Bull driver throw up in his helmet. Nevertheless, he soldiered on and at the start of the last third was running second.
But just as the top step of the podium, after just two third-place finishes to show for in 100 previous starts, looked imminent, a young Toro Rosso driver, in a suicidal move, crashed into him. Both cars out of the race.
“It’s kids, isn’t it? Kids with not enough experience, doing a good job, then they f*** it all up,” said Webber laying into the 19-year-old driver. That overzealous ‘kid’ was Sebastian Vettel.
Teammates and rivals
Webber had to wait two more years for his maiden win, and while the Aussie went on to replicate it on a number of occasions, he never could get rid of Vettel. They became teammates in 2009 and Vettel was to overshadow Webber for the next four years. The Australian missed out on the 2010 title on the final day as the German sensationally lifted the first of his three back-to-back titles.
Webber never came close again. To be fair, few did.
Curiously, Webber and Vettel, despite being teammates — or perhaps because of it — perfectly represent the rest of the grid vis-a-vis Red Bull, respectively. The latter’s domination has been complete, the former’s desperation, despite all efforts, utter.
“Obviously he had an incredible run,” Webber said of Vettel on Thursday. “Some of the championships have been tight, but 2011 and this