Webber hoping to be a serious player

Interview with Jaguar driver Mark Webber. Q: What are your first impressions of the regime at Jaguar Racing? "Well, it's still evolving, of course. But the key thing is that people understand their roles a bit better, which is very important.

Interview with Jaguar driver Mark Webber.

Q: What are your first impressions of the regime at Jaguar Racing?

"Well, it's still evolving, of course. But the key thing is that people understand their roles a bit better, which is very important. But all the changes are very positive, even if no-one is pretending we've got it all sorted yet."

Q: An F1 driver is much more important than just a hot-shoe these days. What areas of engineering input do you anticipate having to get involved with throughout the year?

Mark Webber.
Photo by Jaguar Racing.
"It's undeniable that the days of a driver just turning up, getting changed, jumping into the car and trying to do the white-knuckle bit to the best of his ability are long gone. First, the team-building side of a driver's role is vitally important. The engineers and mechanics and so on are every bit as passionate about achieving success as the drivers are, and I'm very much aware of the enormous contribution they all make. I mean: the guy who makes the hoses on my car's radiator, to pick an example at random, is absolutely vital -- because if that hose fails then I could be out of the race. But guys like that work bloody hard to make sure stuff like hoses don't fail -- so it's only fair that the drivers should work bloody hard, too. And, of course, I'm already working, testing and getting involved in technical development; a driver should be able to give valuable input to that process, and that's what I'd hope I'm doing. In addition, we must not forget that we are in the entertainment business and the marketing and PR is just as critical. Ford Motor Company and Jaguar Cars must get a healthy return on their F1 investment and we have to perform just as well outside the car as we do in it."

Q: What are your early impressions of the R4?

"It looks good, certainly. As always, you get a few little snags early on -- and R4 will be no different. That's inevitable. But I'm confident that it's a sound design. I think the research that's gone into finding out why R3 wasn't as good as it should have been was rigorously carried out, and the lessons have been learned for R4."

Q: What are your targets for 2003?

"Well, I'm not going to get out my crystal ball and start making predictions -- but I want to go racing, let's put it that way. Last year, at Minardi, I was in a team that, largely through no fault of its own, was stuck at or near the back throughout the season. I'm not saying we're going to be challenging the big boys in 2003, but I'm certainly hoping we'll be serious players in that tight competitive bunch immediately behind them. That's my goal, and if we could begin to move towards the front of that bunch towards the second half the season, that would be a very good performance, I think. So I'm looking for points finishes, especially in the second half of the year."

Q: Do you think you could bag a sneaky podium or two?

"Well, I'm a great believer in aiming conservatively high, if that isn't a contradiction. So, yes, it could happen. If, at a certain Grand Prix, Michelin has done a much better job than Bridgestone, and if we get a bit of luck and a few runners in front of us get a bit of bad luck, then, yes, why not? It worked out like that at Monza last year, didn't it [Eddie Irvine finished third in a Jaguar R3 behind the two Ferraris]? But it might easily not happen, too. I'm not going to make predictions either way."

Q: Are you excited about the new one-lap qualifying?

"Well, it's going to be a question of controlled aggression, isn't it? It's going to be arguably the most important 90-odd seconds of the Grand Prix weekend. An awful lot of pressure. You're going to be rolling down the pit lane with a fresh set of boots [tyres] and there's going to be no hiding place. You're just going to have to nail it, and you'll know that. One chance. Obviously, you're going to have a few lock-ups on a few of those laps, and it's then going to be a question of keeping your head down and not mentally relaxing on the lap. And that's going to be a new experience. Some drivers might approach it as they've approached qualifying in the past -- in which case they could have a big off and end up at the back of the grid. On the other hand, they might get all three sectors absolutely spot-on -- in which case they'll come out looking pretty brilliant. It's swings and roundabouts. As I say, I think it'll come down to a question of how you control your aggression. It's going to be really interesting."

"To be honest, I think it's going to be a learning experience for all of us -- even the most experienced guys. For the drivers, of course, but also for the engineers and the tyre manufacturers. In fact, the whole team present at a race weekend will have no choice but to change and adapt very quickly to the new regulations."

Q: You've got a reputation for being one of the very fittest F1 drivers out there. How have you been preparing, physically, for the season ahead?

"Obviously, a driver's body is under a lot of g-loading when you're driving an F1 car, so it's my job to make sure my body is prepared to cope with those loadings. Then there's the heat, the pressure and the adrenaline to cope with. It's a tricky cocktail! But I'm a great believer in the theory that, the fitter you are physically, the better you'll be able to operate mentally -- especially in extreme conditions. So I've been doing a lot of endurance training, to make sure my body can cope with two hours of intense activity. In fact, I've trained to beyond that, so that my body is still operating at near-peak efficiency at two hours, and could in fact continue to operate efficiently enough for much longer than that. Lots of running, cycling, gym work, even cross-country skiing... all sorts of things."

Q: How are you getting on with your team mate Antonio Pizzonia?

"We've had a really good testing period together. He's come from a team [BMW-Williams, for whom Pizzonia tested throughout 2002] that was obviously operating at or near the top of the tree, whereas I've come from a very different kind of operation [Minardi]. But then I was racing, whereas he was only testing. So we're trying to mould our previous experience for the common good of the team and each other. Other than that, we get on very well -- and he's very quick."

-jaguar-

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Mark Webber
Teams Ferrari , Williams , Minardi , Jaguar Racing