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Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 09:04 UK

Mark Webber column

Mark Webber
By Mark Webber
Red Bull F1 driver

The Formula One season is long and hectic and the heaviest part is right now, smack bang in the middle.

There are 18 races (19 next year), tests between most of them, PR appearances - and it can grind you down.

You probably think Formula One drivers fly everywhere in private jets but that is not quite true.

Lewis Hamilton in a private jet
Hamilton checks out a private jet built by the company he uses
Although I use Red Bull's plane to get to most of the European races with my team bosses Christian Horner and Adrian Newey, I still fly commercially about 60% of the time.

Most of the F1 drivers do pretty much the same, although some do like to go on private jets more - and some even have their own planes.

But I have always struggled to get my head around the idea of sitting on a plane on my own.

I think that when I am 60, I would look back at the 5,000 an hour and think: "That was a little bit over the top."

In Turkey this year, some of the other drivers tried to get me to go in with them on a private flight back to Nice after the race.

We had testing on the Tuesday and Turkey is always a horrible place to get out of on commercial flights because the main airport is on the other side of the Bosphorus and the traffic on the bridges back over to the European side of the city is a joke.

By the time you have done that, it is more efficient to stay the night and fly out on Monday but, when you have to be back in the car again on Tuesday, that isn't the best kind of preparation.

Fernando Alonso
Fernando and Kimi are very good at getting themselves around under the radar - the way they dress, backpack, sunnies, move around, job done

Mark Webber
So they had this direct flight back to Nice but originally it was going to cost something like 13,000 or 14,000 a head.

They got the numbers down a bit in the end but even so... It's a nice luxury but the best thing you can do in that situation is tell the team you are not driving until the second day of the test!

I do, though, see why Michael Schumacher used to use a private jet.

For a start, he was on massive money but it is more that. If you have his profile, it is a problem because you cannot travel around normally.

He was always playing that role. Imagine, everywhere he goes - check-in, baggage, security - everyone was asking for something. That is a bit of a bugbear. It wears you down.

Avoiding that is what you pay for with a private plane. It is less demanding of your time.

There are no drivers at the moment who have the kind of profile Michael had - not even Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.

Fernando and Kimi are very good at getting themselves around under the radar.

The way they dress, they have not got a thousand people with them, backpacks, sunnies, move around, job done. That is the way to do it. Sometimes more security can create more fuss than it is worth.

After the British Grand Prix, I went straight to Hockenheim for a three-day test, then it was back to the UK and then back to Germany again for last weekend's race.

Mark Webber's Red Bull trails smoke prior to his retirement from the German Grand Prix
Webber's German hopes were dashed when debris punctured an oil line on his car

And I am testing in Jerez in Spain this week in preparation for the next race in Hungary.

We started work in December, the cars were out in the second week of January, all the testing, off to Melbourne, Malaysia, back to England, testing, Bahrain and so on. It is pretty impressive.

We do something like 100 flights a year and sometimes budget airlines are the best way to get to certain locations.

Obviously, the whole experience can be a bit of a pain but there are things you can do to smooth it out a bit.

Because we travel so much in F1 and have such a full schedule with pretty random hours, we have to be hyper-efficient with our travelling.

If I am on a budget airline, I always try to get the earliest flight I can because they tend to get more delayed as the day goes on.

And there are all sorts of other tricks - travel when the traffic is light, put keys and change in your backpack to speed up security, try not to check in any baggage so you can get out quicker at the other end, get on the plane as late as possible and so on.

We have two weekends off after Hungary and that will be useful to recharge the batteries a bit.

The safety car rules are a joke - F1 is more professional and better than the rules we have at the moment

The racing consumes a lot of my life. I love it and I could easily do another five or six races a year. But it is nice to have a weekend off so you are fresh enough to go and compete again.

You are still pushing pretty hard in testing and there is a limit to the number of Grands Prix you can do in a year, mentally.

You cannot do 150 Grands Prix a year on the edge and you have got to work out that balance.

So whether it is going for a run with my dogs, or whatever, you need something to give you a step back - back-to-back races every weekend I do not think is a good idea.


The British and German races did not go that well for us.

In Silverstone, the car was quick - I qualified second - but the wet race got off to a bad start when I spun on the first lap. It was a mistake but there were extenuating circumstances because I got a very bad upshift when I was on the limit of the tyres and as soon as I shifted, I lost the car.

Nelson Piquet and Lewis Hamilton on the podium after the German Grand Prix
Piquet's podium in Germany raised questions about the safety car rules
The first stint went OK, I was one of the quickest on the track, but then we made the same call on the tyres as Fernando and Kimi and it was a mistake. And in hindsight, we should have gone on to the full wet tyres like Honda's Rubens Barrichello when the rain came down heavily.

Germany was an odd race in a lot of ways and Red Bull were not as competitive but we still might have nicked something because we were running a second stint a little bit longer than the guys around us.

But then Timo Glock shunted and the whole race exploded with the safety car. Some of the debris from the crash got into my car's oil cooler and that was that.

The safety car threw up a bizarre result and I think the rules are a joke.

I was happy for Renault's Nelson Piquet that he finished second, given the start to the season he has had, but F1 is more professional and better than the rules we have for the safety car at the moment.

It looks very amateurish when the guy who nearly wins the race starts 17th and only overtakes one car, Kazuki Nakajima's Williams, because he spun. For me, that is not what Formula One is all about.

Nelson would be the first to agree that it was not a fully deserved second place. None of the drivers like the current system - we don't like to get flukey results.

The teams and the FIA are trying to find a better way with the safety car but they are making heavy weather of it.

The result of all that is that the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship is very tight now.

There are only two points separating Toyota, Red Bull and Renault. One of us will get that place - the best of the rest behind Ferrari, McLaren and BMW - at the end of the season but it is going to be close.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson

see also
Mark Webber column
02 Jul 08 |  Formula One
Vettel to join Webber at Red Bull
17 Jul 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
22 May 08 |  Formula One
Mosley scandal 'has disgraced F1'
19 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
26 May 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
28 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
19 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
25 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
12 Mar 08 |  Formula One

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