Mark Webber is leaving Formula 1. After 215 races, the Australian has decided to hang it up—on F1 that is…not racing. There’s story in that fact if you care to look for it.
Mark Webber is one of the more endearing characters on the F1 grid. His penchant for telling it like it is isn’t just brash mind vomit, it’s well-phrased insight and often times, cunning truth that bites like your neighbor’s Jack Russell Terrier.
Add to that list of superlatives that fact that the Aussie can hustle a car with the best in the world and holds his own in any fight. He’s a rare commodity in the F1 “show” and it is too bad he’s leaving at the young age of 37-years-old.
There is a reason for his departure as Sky Sports F1 found out:
“I think towards the end of your career, you probably find little things that convince yourself that you’re not enjoying it as much as you were,” said Webber.
“You’re not 22 anymore and that’s obvious; I’m 37 and I’ve done over 215 races at the end of the year, so the juice goes out of the tank a little bit.”
Webber reckons the high degradation tires are also a contributing factor to his lack of interest in F1:
“That hasn’t helped I don’t think – the top-flight edge of getting the most out of yourself week in, week out.”
Webber isn’t ready to stop racing, he’s ready to stop racing in a series that has lost the plot. A series that is focused on the “show” and the entertainment value instead of recognizing that good racing is entertaining regardless and doesn’t need gimmicks. NASCAR should have taught them that.
Webber obviously sees the Porsche factory effort at Le Mans as true racing and I would agree with him. That series is not beyond reproach, however, for its ham-fisted attempts at making the cars all work on equal terms but it hasn’t reduced itself to comical levels by asking a reputable company like Pirelli to take the hit for pragmatism run amok.
The elephant in the room is aerodynamics. The FIA has regulated many other areas of the car, including the aero to some extent, but it can’t seem to simply place a limit on the aerodynamic-induced downforce created by the chassis design. If you adopt a spec rear wing, that would solve a lot of the issues (and yes, potentially create others but you have tried the gimmicks, why not face the elephant and take a bite at a time?)
There is one moment in the entire grand prix weekend that we get to see the cars really show what they can do—that’s Q2 during qualifying. That’s it. Everything else is paced, regulated, and occasionally brilliantly fast for a brief time.
Mark has a great opportunity with a factory Porsche ride and no one is suggesting that he didn’t take the opportunity out of self preservation but I suspect you’ll find that drivers such as Button, Alonso, Raikkonen and Massa all hate the current format of F1. They, like Mark, knew what F1 was and while they are younger than Webber, retirement, at this point, isn’t in the cards.
Martin Brundle mentioned a few weeks ago that he flew to Japan with several of the drivers and he told the Sky Sports F1 audience that the drivers categorically hated—his words not mine—this format of F1. That is why Mark Webber is leaving and I’m not sure I blame him.
Formula 1 has done a lot to sever its own foot and if Le Mans and the ACO were smart, they would capitalize on this by putting a marketing push on the concept of real racing by real F1 drivers such as Webber, McNish, Di Grassi, Heidfeld, Davidson, Buemi, Gene, Wurz, Chandhok, Kobayashi, Fisichella, Magnussen, and Senna. Truth be known, if this were like the old days when F1 drivers drove in many different series, I think you would find many of them in the Le Mans race.
Webber will be missed for his candor, insight and vocal view of the series but more than that, he will be missed for his driving talent and the sheer thrill of seeing him hustle a car like he did the first day he climbed into a Minardi. F1 will miss him, I doubt the feeling is mutual.