December 2nd, 2013 (F1plus/ Jacob Polychronis).- For Australians, Mark Webber is a quintessential representation of their country.
The man embodies an array of qualities which are highly regarded by Australians. Webber is; honest, determined, industrious and modest. Above all, Webber was an over-achieving underdog throughout his Formula One career, an instant gateway to the affection of all Australians.
This was evident from the beginning considering his miraculous Formula One debut. Awarded a chance by Minardi owner and compatriot, Paul Stoddart, Webber ascended above all conceivable expectation to finish fifth on home soil. This allowed Webber to establish a career in the sport, competing in a further 216 Grands Prix over 12 years - an achievement in itself.
Not like in the movies
Nonetheless, no matter how it is spun, there was no happy ending to Webber’s Formula One career. All the Australian’s claims of contentment and “no regrets” provide little comfort on his conclusion. Webber, the “good guy,” was comprehensively defeated by the villain in the end. After all, nice guys finish last (or second or third in this case).
Many Australians have chosen to take solace in the fact that Webber was able to end his career on his own terms. This is debateable though.
Sure, Webber was not forced out of Red Bull. The team had every reason to retain his services. He was quick enough to contribute to four consecutive Constructors’ titles, not quick enough to create too many managerial headaches in title deciding races. Regardless, the psychological damage inflicted on Webber by being reduced to a mere “number two driver” was more than a proud Australian could bare. For this reason he had to quit, there was in fact little choice involved.
The legacy of Webber
So what legacy amongst Australians will materialise from the humble statistics of Webber?
Nine wins, 42 podiums, 13 pole positions – only one realistic title winning chance which ended on a soaking, miserable Korean afternoon.
The fact is, unlike drivers such as Schumacher and Prost, Webber’s legacy will not formulate from statistics - his Formula One career meant much more than that.
In a time where interest in the sport began to fade, Webber’s success gave Australians a point of association within the sport, sparking a resurgence in popularity.
He may have never achieved the feats of successful world champion Australians; Sir Jack Brabham and Alan Jones. Nonetheless, the attention Webber brought to the sport in Australia was unrivalled by either of the former.
Now, the baton is passed onto Daniel Ricciardo who acquires his coveted seat at Red Bull. Ricciardo will now drive a competitive car after just three seasons in the sport, a privilege which didn’t come to Webber until his eighth season.
We now say farewell to Mark Webber – a modest man whose modest career will leave behind a monumental legacy for Australian motorsport.