In 2003, Mark Webber scored 17 out of Jaguar Racing's 18 championship points and along the way demonstrated his blistering pace with superb qualifying results including third on the grid in Brazil and Hungary. Webber joined Jaguar Racing from ...
In 2003, Mark Webber scored 17 out of Jaguar Racing's 18 championship points and along the way demonstrated his blistering pace with superb qualifying results including third on the grid in Brazil and Hungary.
Webber joined Jaguar Racing from Minardi, his rookie F1 team in 2002. Before graduating to the top level he was a test driver for the Benetton F1 team in 2001, the same year that he finished runner-up in the FIA International Formula 3000 Championship with the Super Nova team.
Prior to F3000, Webber was a member of the official Mercedes-Benz sportscar team from 1998 to 1999 during which time he finished runner-up in the FIA GT series. Webber began racing in karts in 1991, progressing through Formula Ford and Formula 3 before moving to sportscars.
Q: Expectations weren't high for Jaguar Racing when you joined in 2003. You must have been delighted with the way things went?
Mark Webber: "It was a great opportunity when I got the chance to move from Minardi to a bigger team like Jaguar Racing. I wanted to make it work for me but I still had to have trust and confidence in the people I was going to work with. That was the thing that gave me most satisfaction at the beginning - the way I settled in and became friends with everyone in the team."
"Now, in 2004, our reputation has been restored and we have the chance to move forward. We have to work on our race performances - they have been a weaker area for us. In qualifying we did pretty well and I really enjoyed that part of it but you have to take that on to the race if you want to score good points and that is going to be as difficult as ever. The teams we are are likely to be competing against - BAR, Toyota and Sauber - are going to be very strong in 2004, so we have to show them some respect and accept that they will be trying to do just as good a job as us."
"We have to score more points earlier in the season. The rule allowing just one engine means that people may struggle for reliability in the first few races and we have to be ready to capitalise when those opportunities come along. A good start will also give us momentum throughout the year, which we will need if we are to keep moving forward."
Q: At least your very strong qualifying performances in 2003 showed that the speed was there. That must have been a boost?
MW: "The one-lap qualifying rule was fun because it meant you had to step up to the plate and perform without any excuses. They are very intense sessions and you can't hit the rewind button and have another crack if something goes wrong. The whole weekend is at stake when you roll down the pitlane for your qualifying run and that can put pressure on the driver's shoulders. But it worked well for us and I got a big buzz out of the way we handled it in 2003."
Q: This year F1 travels to new circuits in China and Bahrain. How easy is it to adapt to completely new tracks when you have so little driving time over a race weekend?
MW: "It's always good to go to new venues - it spices the whole championship up. I had a chance to learn Chinese when I was still at school but never took it up. Perhaps now's the time... With regards to learning the circuits, I think that most drivers at this level should be able to jump in and go quickly from the start. If you can't, you've got ask questions about what you're doing, to be honest."
Q: You have a new team-mate in Christian Klien. How do you think he will get on in his first year in Formula One?
MW:"I think he is the real deal. He has adapted to the car incredibly quickly and that is good. I have never looked to duck a challenge - F1 is about racing against the best in the world - and the ultimate fight is beating the guy within your own team with the same equipment. I'm a pretty competitive person and I love the battle. "It's also healthy for the team as a whole. If I have a bad day hopefully he will be able to pick up the points that I missed out on. Last year I scored all bar one of the team's points and that killed us in the championship. We need to have two drivers capable of regularly scoring points and Christian could be the guy to help me do that."
Q: So what do you hope 2004 will bring?
MW: "I would love to see my first podium but I wouldn't be totally distraught if it didn't happen. Basically we need to see good progression and grab more points than we did in 2003."