Webber one step away from greatness

ABU DHABI - Once considered a journeyman driver, seemingly destined to play a supporting role, Mark Webber now stands one step away from becoming the first Australian in 30 years to win the Formula One title.

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Published: Sun 14 Nov 2010, 12:51 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 4:51 AM

Like many a frustrated racer before him, the 34-year-old just needed the tools to get on with the job.

Finally given them, the rugged and plain-talking Red Bull driver has emerged as the genuine contender he always knew he could be.

“It’s a shame that it took a large part of his career before he got himself into a competitive car,” team principal Christian Horner told Reuters at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“He’s a very focused, very dedicated sportsman — not just through talent but through dedication, application, sheer commitment and dogged-mindedness.”

Only a few years ago, observers regarded Webber as a good qualifier, someone who could haul an average car far higher up the grid than it deserved to be.

But they also said he was untested under pressure, often faded in races and was an unknown quantity when it came to overtaking and leading.

Webber did not even carry himself like a typical Formula One driver, preferring to spend most of his time with partner Ann and their dogs in a village in rural England rather than decamping to some millionaire’s playground.

Horner, who lives just down the road from Webber, has rated him highly ever since he tried to sign the emerging talent for his Formula 3000 team more than a decade ago.

“When we were building the team at Red Bull and were looking for a really pacy, strong driver then, despite Mark having a contract at the time with Williams, he became our prime choice,” he said.

“I think he’s evolved and got better and better in the environment that we’ve provided. We’ve given him a race winning car and he’s made the most of it, even after the injury that was horrendous at the end of 2008.”

After a scoring debut with struggling Minardi in front of his home crowd in 2002, the no-nonsense Australian progressed to Jaguar and faded former champions Williams before joining Red Bull in 2007.

Until last year, he had been just twice on the podium with two third place finishes.


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