The Australian driver chats exclusively to Formula1.com about this season’s
changes at Williams, about his regard for rookie team mate Nico Rosberg, and
about his famously amiable public persona…
Q: Last year you said you were confident that Williams would be competitive
in 2006 despite the departure of BMW. The team’s impressive form in the opening
three races has proved you right, but that form hasn’t yet translated into
results. When do you expect that to happen?
Mark Webber: Yes, we were very frustrated by what happened in Malaysia and
Australia as it was obvious the car has plenty of potential and is quick enough
to run near if not quite at the front. We are certainly very encouraged by its
pace. At the moment our biggest priority is reliability and the quicker we sort
that out, the quicker we can look to seeing the chequered flag and stronger
Q: At the end of the year it will be points that decide where you and
Williams stand in the final pecking order. What is your goal for this season -
personally and for the team?
MW: It’s important to set yourself realistic goals. When I came into
Formula One with Minardi, my goal was simply to finish as many races as
possible, and with Jaguar it was to punch above our weight. When I came to
Williams I had high hopes of challenging for wins, but as we saw last year, we
simply didn’t have a good enough package. Clearly Renault are, by far, the best
prepared team at the moment, and after that the competition is extremely tight
for the next eight, ten positions, which is unfortunate, but that’s the way it
is. We have, of course, given a lot of points away at the start of the season -
we can never get those back, but hopefully we can add to what we have in the bag
as quickly as possible. And, at the end of the year, we’ll get what we
Q: Williams no longer have the resources of a major car manufacturer behind
them - what has been the most obvious change? The saying goes that ‘small is
beautiful’ - is this true for a Formula One team?
MW: I’m really enjoying being back with Cosworth as I worked with them in
my Jaguar days and I know how professional they are about their business. I’m
not in the slightest bit surprised that they have produced such a good engine
and it’ll be interesting to see whether the manufacturer-backed teams will edge
ahead in terms of engine development as the season goes on. I don’t think the
actual size of our team is an issue - Renault isn’t the biggest team in terms of
human resources and finance but they’re doing a better job than anyone else at
present. It’s more about how the team is managed and how to get the best out of
Q: This is obviously a transitional year for the Williams team, which
presumably, with BMW’s departure, is a slimmed-down version of its former self.
Is the team more unified this season?
MW: I only came into the team towards the end of their relationship with
BMW, but clearly there was a bit of history there and a feeling that it was a
divided team. That has definitely changed for the better this season as the team
is controlling its own destiny again and I think that alone has given them
renewed vigour and a fresh approach. However, the team isn’t any slimmer; in
fact we’ve actually recruited more staff!
Q: How has this affected your working environment?
MW: The team certainly feels much more united because we’re all pulling in
the same direction with the same objectives in mind. With that kind of team
spirit around you, you can’t help but share in the enthusiasm and that’s whether
you’re factory-based or out in the field.
Q: Williams have changed from Michelin to Bridgestone tyres for 2006 - a
questionable decision, or a shrewd investment for the future?
MW: Frank (Williams) is one of the shrewdest operators in F1 so I think he
knew where he was heading when he decided upon Bridgestone for 2006.
Q: You're the senior driver at Williams in terms of experience, with a
solid history in Formula One racing. What is the most important thing you can
teach your team mate Nico Rosberg this year?
MW: Unlike some of his predecessors, Nico has come into Formula One as best
prepared as he possibly could. He’s done the best apprenticeship he could
through the junior ranks so it’s hard to know what advice I could pass onto him.
It’s probably how to handle some of the off-track pressures and politics of the
sport but then again, he has a former world champion as a father so I think
he’ll be fine.
Q: How does it feel to have such a hotly-tipped rookie team mate breathing
down your neck?
MW: I’ve always been a big fan of new talent coming into Formula One so it
doesn’t matter one iota to me. I know when I started out as a test driver for
Benetton, my biggest aim was to try and do as good or a better job than the
regular drivers, Giancarlo (Fisichella) and Jenson (Button). So, I can quite
imagine Nico having a similar ambition.
Q: This coming weekend Formula One racing starts its European season, with
the first of two races - Imola and Nurburgring - that feature much cooler
temperatures than the flyaway races to date. Could that be an advantage for
MW: If I were to go by pre-season form, then I would say the cooler
temperatures won’t be an advantage to us. However, Melbourne wasn’t at all hot
and we were pleasantly surprised by how well our choice of Bridgestone tyres
performed. It’ll be interesting to see how we get on back in Europe.
Q: The ‘public’ Mark Webber is a team manager's dream - no scandal, quiet
but articulate, knows his own mind and not afraid to speak the truth. But who is
the ‘real’ Mark Webber?
MW: What you see is what you get! I’m not into the showbiz side of the
business at all, but I love what Formula One provides me with - the challenge to
drive the best racing cars in the world against the best opposition. I’m not
comfortable with people treating me differently just because I happen to race F1
cars for a job - I can think of far more deserving people who should be afforded
that kind of recognition.