The much-anticipated tell-all Mark Webber book is finally out, and as you’d expect from the straight-shooting Australian, it’s a cracking read.
There has been a lot of expectation heaped on this book in the build-up to its release. The team must have known that at some point this time would come – according to Webber, Red Bull Racing put a 12-month ‘no books’ clause in his last contract – and now it's here.
And it's pretty spectacular.
Unsurprisingly, Webber doesn’t hold back in his book. He goes into great detail to explain how he slowly, admittedly too slowly, realised that during the RBR days, ‘Team Webber’ as he regularly calls it didn’t have the right people on board. The decision-makers were on Team Seb, he says, and it all came to a head in Malaysia in 2013.
How the f#*k do you get from Queanbeyan to F1?
Save for prologue offering a teaser into the Multi-21 debacle, the book follows a very chronological form. That means there is some interesting insight into the battle that he, his family, and his advisor/partner Ann Neal faced to get a kid from the outskirts of Canberra into a Formula 1 seat.
It’s no secret that Webber made it to F1 the hard way. He had some family money, but nothing like the budget needed to go from national Formula Ford in Australia all the way to Formula 1.
In the book, he describes just how difficult it was. From a tiny shoe box apartment in the UK, he and Neal traipsed backwards and forwards from Europe to Australia looking for money. There were plenty of 11th-hour rescues as well, points where Webber had essentially given up and was packing his bags ready to return to Australia.
The hardships for Webber and Neal weren’t just being felt on the track or in boardrooms looking for sponsorship money, either. The book also details the difficulties the pair faced when their relationship went from professional to romantic, and how Webber’s parents in particular weren’t keen on their son dating a divorcee, 13 years his senior and with a young son.
While Webber and Neal ultimately sorted the complications of their personal relationship out, the book does weave a tale of broken relationships between Webber and the teams he drove for.
The first falling out was with Mercedes, the brand who gave Webber his big break with a paid drive as part of its sportscar programme. Things were going well until cars starting flipping over at Le Mans while Webber was driving them. While that was bad enough, Webber says in the book that the team didn’t believe him at first, and even after seeing pictures always blamed the driver, not the car for the spontaneous lift-offs.
The relationship between Webber and Mercedes never really recovered, and ultimately ended in a legal battle over his contract.
Then there was Williams. What Webber hoped would be the fulfilment of a life-long dream to drive for the famous team ended up being what he describes as “the lowest time in my F1 career”.
After just half a season, Webber recalls being called in to see Frank Williams and Patrick Head. They told him they were ‘massively disappointed’, and that “we’ve got you for another year, but if there’s any way we don’t have to have you that would be fine”.
From there the relationship was done. Webber also felt Nick Heidfeld was getting preferential treatment from the engineering staff… and it wouldn’t be the first time he got that impression about a German working across the other side of the garage.
How are we, as a team, in this situation?
Webber doesn’t hold back when it comes to Red Bull Racing. In detail, he describes just how the relationship between he and the team soured over time after Sebastian Vettel’s arrival, and how Christian Horner, who he describes as essentially powerless within Red Bull, did nothing to shut down Vettel and Helmut Marko’s antics.
Blaming the team, rather than Vettel, is an on-going theme in the book. For Webber, Vettel was just a pawn in the game as well, but on the winning side. Even after the German tells Webber he has no respect for him as a person – part of Seb’s massive backflip following Multi-21 – Webber’s assumption is that he’s working as Marko’s mouthpiece, not on his own accord.
Webber even goes as far as to admit that Vettel was a better driver than him.
“I can say with absolute honesty that he is a better all-round F1 driver than I ever was,” writes Webber.
“Seb was just as much a pawn in the game as I had been, and the pressure on him to deliver must have been intense.”
Behind the scenes
Along with the controversial RBR stuff, the book offers some fun insights into Webber’s life as a grand prix driver. Like how he’d only ever wear one pair of boots all season, his famous “look Webber, I f#*cking talking now” conversation with manager Flavio Briatore, Adrian Newey doing burnouts on Christian Horner’s front lawn, tackling Michael Schumacher head on about his Monaco 2006 qualifying ‘crash’, and wild nights out in Tokyo with the likes of Lewis, Nico, and Felipe.
Between that, the team controversies, and those spectacular Le Mans crashes, there’s plenty of good stuff to keep the pages turning.
Is it a one-sided story? Sure. Is it a one-sided story worth reading? Absolutely.