The best (and only) F1 driver to emerge from Australia in nearly three decades, Webber has the experience, the determination and, most importantly, the car to take him to the top of the drivers’ podium this season. Sadly, he doesn’t have the luck, although his battles with Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel and spectacular crashes into the wall have made him one of the most watchable drivers in years. We caught up with the affable Australian ahead of the big day.
What did you learn about Yas Marina Circuit at last year’s Grand Prix? Is it a circuit you look forward to?
The track has a little bit of everything and I learnt last year that the last part of it is quite repetitive. But it is unique to race under changing light as it turns from day to night. It’s in a very nice part of the world, which adds up to make it an enjoyable place to race.
What goes through your head when the car flips over completely, as happened to you in Valencia this year?
I had a mixture of thoughts, but first you’re checking you’re okay. I was trying to recall if there were any bridges at that section of the track that I might hit. I had a lot of adrenaline running through my body after the crash – it took me some time to realise how lucky I was. But I quickly put it out of my mind as there’s no point dwelling on something like that, so I came back to win the next race at Silverstone in the UK.
What are your thoughts on Schumacher’s return? Do you think it was a mistake for him to come out of retirement?
I think it’s a good thing for Formula One to have Michael Schumacher back and it was a courageous move for him to make the decision. You can’t really argue with seven world titles – it’s a bit like Michael is having two careers in Formula One.
It’s said that F1 drivers are some of the fittest people around, despite just sitting in a car for a living. What’s your daily workout routine like?
On race day I do some occasional stretching before breakfast; race preparation includes massage and stretching. Post-race management changes according to any problems that may have occurred while driving. Away from the track, it’s important during the season to keep to my fitness regime. I have a strict daily routine regarding food and activities – such as cycling, swimming and running.
How have the new rules about refuelling changed your approach to races?
We still make pit stops to change tyres, so not that much. The weight of the car at the beginning of races means you have to think about tyre wear more, but that’s something we are always managing. The timing of pit stops has now become crucial, so it’s something the team practise a lot.
Monaco – the most boring race, but the best party afterwards. Correct?
Monaco is far from a boring race – it’s a classic. You drive right up to the concrete barriers so there is no error for margin there like there may be at other circuits with run-off areas. It’s not a boring race at all.
In your lifetime, how many speeding tickets have you picked up on the roads?
I haven’t picked up too many speeding tickets. I live in a village in the UK and I don’t like seeing cars speed through it. Racing is for the race track, not for the public roads. For me, driving on the roads is just about getting from point A to point B safely.
If you weren’t racing fast cars and dating/marrying beautiful women, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be involved in a sport some way or another. Sport is a big part of growing up in Australia, and when you’re young you get to have a crack at nearly all of them. The only ‘proper’ work experience I did while I was still at school was some plumbing. Maybe I would have had a career as a plumber!
Which of the new races due for the next few seasons excites you the most? Austin? Rome? India?
I haven’t thought that much about them at all. There’s a good chance that I’ll be racing in India next year, but I don’t know if I’ll be racing beyond 2011.