Should Webber leave Red Bull or join Ferrari?
Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing drives during day three of Formula One winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on March 3, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Like it or lump it, Mark Webber is Red Bull’s ‘other’ driver. He’s the guy who drives the second car, alongside the teams star driver and prized asset Sebastian Vettel.
Fair enough, Vettel is a double world champion and has earned the right to be the team’s number one. Most drivers in Formula One would, if in the same team as Vettel, have to play second fiddle.
Webber is not exempt just because he was there first, or because he is Australian or any perceived bias. His teammate has a better proven track record. It really is that simple.
Webber is an incredibly talented driver and boasts the sort of testicular fortitude that makes the rest of us look like bed wetters.
After being launched into orbit in Valencia back in 2010, the sort of accident that would leave many of us crying under a blanket, Webber promptly went on and won the next race at Silverstone. Not bad for a number two driver at all.
But that’s all Webber is. He is an immensely strong second driver in the way Ronnie Petersen or Gilles Villeneuve were, but he is missing that something extra that Vettel has.
It’s no slight on him whatsoever, there are precious few people in the world who have whatever ‘it’ is.
Vettel has it, so does Fernando Alonso. Michael Schumacher once had it, and might be on his way to finding it again, while the jury is out on if Lewis Hamilton really does have it, but that’s another discussion for another day.
Being a second driver to a double world champion at a team that can produce winning cars is a pretty handy place to be. There is less pressure, less expectation while at the same time so much potential.
Webber can’t lose. If he beats Vettel he has impressed us all, but if he doesn’t it doesn’t really matter. The second driver isn’t expected to beat the team leader, his role is to turn in strong, consistent performances to bolster the teams constructors’ championship aspirations.
In that respect, Webber is the perfect second driver. Better than Rubens Barrichello during his Ferrari years, given Webber can genuinely give Vettel a run for his money in the way Barrichello was rarely able to challenge Schumacher (again, let’s leave that discussion for another day) couldn’t.
Recently of course Webber has been in the headlines as a result of links to Ferrari. The Webber camp has downplayed and even denied these however this writer understands a draft contract has been signed, with an opt out clause should the Aussie win the title. Whether that plays out remains to be seen; Alan Jones once signed for Ferrari.
A move to Ferrari does make a great deal of sense. Unless Felipe Massa can find more of his most recent form, it seems likely he will be dumped at the end of the year, while the Italian squad’s current protégé, Sergio Perez, still needs another year to mature. That leaves Ferrari with a vacancy for 2013, and Webber perfectly placed to fill it.
For any Formula One driver to turn down a Ferrari contract would be like having Scarlett Johansson in your bed but choosing to walk the dog instead. It’s the sort of offer one should consider carefully, at the very least.
Webber is fast approaching the end of what has been an immensely successful career. He’s won races, which is more than what most Formula One drivers ever manage, and has enjoyed the taste of constructors championships with Red Bull, even fewer drivers experience that. It may be the only chance Webber has of driving one of the scarlet cars.
For most red blooded males that decision making process would be a relatively short one, and I would suggest it’s a similar situation for Webber. He has achieved everything he could have hoped for at Red Bull, and with the opportunity to drive a red car for a season seemingly on his doorstep he stands to lose little by taking the plunge.