Mark Webber qualified on pole for the first time this season, but could not turn the top starting spot start into victory at the Japanese Grand Prix, but nevertheless finished second and helped his Red Bull team to a one-two finish at one of the sport’s most demanding venues. He spoke about his afternoon’s graft at Suzuka.
Your last grand prix in a Formula One car at Suzuka, one of the great all-time tracks. Tell us about it.
Mark Webber: Yeah, it’s an amazing circuit. The race today was pretty good, I’d say. Obviously I would have liked one more step on the podium but there were different strategies going on. Seb went longer in the first stint and then it unloaded his race a bit better than mine at the end. So, in general, pretty happy with second but, yeah, hey, you always want a bit more but we got the best out of what I could today. Both of us had very poor starts, which put us on the back foot a little bit and then after that it was just really trying to pace the car again on the tyres and making sure they survived to do the sort of strategy we wanted to. In the end we went to three-stop, which put us a little bit on the back foot but still we got back to where we were.
You were hoping you were going to be able to challenge Sebastian during the closing stages. That’s what the engineers suggested to both of you in fact – but you just couldn’t get past Romain.
MW: Ah, no. I don’t think the battle was going to be with Sebastian at the end to be honest. I think that it was pretty much done when we didn’t do enough damage on the three-stop against Seb’s pace on the two. I think we tried to race Romain at the start and then in the end we switched to the three. So I was the meat in the sandwich, trying to beat Romain on a two and then all of a sudden we decided to do a three. I was a little bit surprised. I asked was it the right thing to do because I felt we could get to the lap we were looking to get to. Of course Seb was two or three laps longer, four laps maybe but in terms of the target lap that we looked to get for the two-stop I thought was achievable but in the end Seb did a good race, the strategy worked out perfect and yeah, the three was… not absolutely ridiculous but it’s a bit more high risk we know, and you have to clear people obviously, so yeah, piggy in the middle, trying to do both. In the end, we got back to where we were in terms of position but Seb jumped both of us. But a great result for the team, a sensational result for me in my last time here in Japan in Formula One. The fans are incredible. I enjoyed the grand prix today, it was nice to have fresh tyres a bit more, which is always enjoyable around Suzuka. So that was today’s race.
It was drama-filled for Sebastian Vettel, one or two things happened to him, what about yourself?
MW: Apart from the shocking start for both Seb and I, that was really it. After that we could plan our race accordingly. It wasn’t what we expected to be honest, both of us didn’t do anything off the front row. So that put us on the back foot already and Romain was quite strong on the option but I don’t think he was that strong on the prime. Anyway, as I say, I did everything I could today. It’s not too bad a result obviously. It’s nice to be back on the podium after the last few races where I think we could have certainly have been there but we weren’t. All in all, I leave here happy and off to Oz tomorrow for a bit more surfing.
You spoke about the second stop but the first one was already pretty early for a two stop strategy. Was it just to do an undercut on Romain, or do you feel that you were in the role of a rabbit to challenge Romain to follow you and then obviously it paid out for Seb?
MW: Yeah, we were obviously looking to get in the lead, to put some pressure on Romain. I don’t think the option was easy to handle for any of us. I wanted to put some pressure on Romain towards the end of that stint. We were more or less in the window for a two stop. As soon as I pitted after the prime, the guys said ‘yeah, we’re on a two stop, it’s no problem. Look after the tyres and we’ll stay on two.’ And then I was on two and then we switched to three so I think they just saw that it was just a quicker way for me to do three stops. That’s what they thought, that was the reason they did it. That’s the reason for that.
In those laps, you were trying to get Grosjean but you couldn’t quite get him down the straights; what was happening through the chicane and down the pit straight?
MW: Well, at the end of the race, the DRS is not as effective because you’re on the limiter, basically. We managed to get off the chicane a bit better on the… when you arrive on someone you want to get the job done pretty quickly. First sector is obviously not that easy because… Romain is a bit low on tyres but they also had more downforce than us. I was quite low on wing. When I arrived on him, I was obviously hoping to get it done a little bit earlier but it was also knowing that his tyres were going to be quite tired, getting towards the end of the race as well. The backmarkers didn’t work out for Romain, it’s a bit of a nightmare when you catch so many guys; they all want the DRS, they all want to fight and in the end, it was beneficial for me to pounce when Romain got not the best run with the backmarkers, which was no fault of his own.
Last year you had an incident with Romain here. Did you change your mind about him during this year, especially in this race, but also the whole season?
MW: No, I think it’s very clear that Romain has a very different mental approach to the job at the moment this year. He’s driven some quite strong races, putting together the whole weekend which is a sign of a driver starting to get a bit more relaxed and confident. A lot less mistakes, not just in races but in practice so it’s not… you know, we’re not here to blow smoke up his arse but in the end he’s doing a very good job this year and it’s a big step for him because last year, in F1, also the first year against Fernando in F1 wasn’t easy for him and to come back… yeah, he’s doing a good job. It starts and stops with him. [I] hope [that] he doesn’t improve too much more before the end of the year, and we can keep going. (FIA Media)
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