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BY CHERYL TAY
This was the man was a strong championship contender last year, with five pole positions and four races, last leading the Drivers' Championship at the 2010 Korean Grand Prix. Mark Webber would have been crowned World Champion if he won the finale at Abu Dhabi and Fernando Alonso finished third or lower.
Alas, it wasn't meant to be and the 35-year-old Australian could only watch as his team-mate Sebastian Vettel went on to win the final race of the 2010 season along with the championship. There was some controversy when it was revealed that Webber was actually driving with a shoulder injury for the last four races of the season — something which he didn't tell the team about.
2011 hasn't been too exciting for Webber as he struggled at the start of the season. He has several podium finishes but has yet to win a race this year, unlike Vettel who is a champion-in-waiting. Acknowledging that last year was probably his last shot at winning the World Championship title, Webber is settling for second best this year.
His contract with Red Bull Racing has been extended for one year to the end of 2012, but who knows what happens after? Regardless of whatever happens in future and as much as he loves racing, Webber told me that he would choose not be involved in Formula 1 once he leaves the sport. Hear it from the man himself…
Q: Will you still stay in F1 after you retire?
A: It's a new chapter after you're done driving in F1. I haven't thought so much of what I would do after F1, but it's definitely not here. Now I enjoy the driving but when the day comes and I'm not driving I'll go and do something different.
Q: Why not?
A: Why? Because of the politics — I really don't like it.
Q: If you were given the chance to own and run an F1 team, would you take it up?
A: No. Why? I told you — politics!
Q: If you could change one thing about F1, what would it be?
A: If I could change one thing about F1, it would have to be the politics and also the media. We have to say the same things over and over again!
Q: Last year you were so close to the championship. How did you feel about it?
A: Obviously the results were close and it was disappointing. It took me a while, a few weeks, to get hold of the fact that I was so close to the World Championship, only for it not to happen. Well, in the end I'm still proud of what I achieved.
Q: Do you think it was your last shot at the World Championship?
A: Yes of course, I do think that last year was my last chance at being World Champion. But I've pushed very very hard and done many many things that other people could not have achieved so I'm very proud of what I did.
Q: Your aim for the rest of the season?
A: Sebastian is probably going to win the championship so the goal for me would be to finish second. The team has not done that before — to finish 1-2 in the drivers' championship.
Q: Is it tough to have Seb as your team-mate?
A: To win the championship you need 100% from the team. I think it's difficult for the team to give 100% to both drivers as we are both demanding. Looking at the start we actually got, it's clear where the support needs to go and I respect that in some way. The team has given me a great opportunity to do well. I ask for a reliable and strong car every weekend and I will give my best. The team knows I always give my best.
Q: What is it like to have the best car on the grid?
A: It certainly helps to have best car on the grid. I enjoy working with Adrian (Newey) and the guys. Obviously the team has come to a very good level and it has been very very enjoyable for me to continue to have the chance to compete for victories and reach the podium and taste the success. That's what I worked so hard for, for all of my career, and to give all of this up would not be that easy.
Q: Your contract with Red Bull Racing has been extended to end of 2012.
A: You can expect a stronger me next season and I hope to get a smooth start like we did in 2010. For now, I just want to finish it as strong as I can and get some good results.
Q: Would you like more night races?
A: I think the Singapore Grand Prix is pretty good and it should still be on the calendar but there shouldn't be more night races. Otherwise it wouldn't be a novelty anymore.
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.