Last week, current World Endurance Championship driver Mark Webber announced his retirement from professional motor racing at the end of this season.
Most will recognise the charismatic Aussie legend from his time with the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team, or more recently as an F1 pundit for Channel 4 in Britain, but the 40-year-old has enjoyed a two and a half decade racing career that began in a go-kart, aged 14. During that time, Webber has had a huge amount of racing success, but he was also involved in some spectacular crashes…
After early Formula Ford success in Australia in 1994 and 1995, Webber relocated to Europe to contest the British championship in 1996. Finishing second overall, he then transitioned to Formula 3, where despite having monetary issues he managed to finish fourth overall. Approached by Mercedes-AMG, Webber then competed for the works team in the FIA GT Championship, with a second place finish in 1998. In 1999 however, the team had to quit the championship early after aerodynamic issues forced the car to flip over at high speed, with the Australian driver at the wheel. It wouldn’t be the last time Webber took flight in a race car either.
Whilst participating as a test driver for Arrows and Benetton in 2000 and 2001 respectively, Webber also competed in the Formula 3000 International Championship, placing third in the former and second in the latter. He then started his first season as a true Formula 1 driver with Minardi in 2002, scoring his and the team’s first points. Despite some good drives in the years that followed, it was 2009 when the Australian properly established himself within the F1 circle, with a fourth overall in the championship. In 2010, he led the championship for most of the season, being beaten in the points by teammate Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso in the final round. During this season, there was some incredible duelling between the two, but one of the most notable moments was Webber’s crash in Valencia, where his car rear-ended the back of a Lotus driven by Heikki Kovalainen, forcing it into the air and half completing a backflip before landing and skidding into a tyre barrier. In the three seasons that followed, Webber placed third, sixth and third respectively, with three more wins. Then, at the end of 2013, he announced his retirement from Formula 1 to take up a drive with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.
In his first season, Webber finished 9th with the Porsche Team, but he was also involved in a massive crash in Sao Paulo.
Although an F1 championship eluded him, in 2015 Webber finally won a world championship with Porsche in the WEC, and that same year his team also came second in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
Thanks for the memories, Mark!