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Mark Webber Q&A

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Q&A with F1's Mark Webber

Following a sensational climax to the Formula One season, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton became the youngest driver to be crowned champion, beating Ferrari's Felipe Massa by one point.

BBC Sport columnist Mark Webber ended the campaign 11th in the standings and will be joined at Red Bull next season by Germany's Sebastian Vettel, following the retirement of David Coulthard.

The 32-year-old Australian faced a selection of viewers' questions in an appearance on the BBC News Channel on Friday.

Here are his answers.


Q: Your thoughts on the season as a whole?

I think this season was a very, very good one for Formula One.

First and foremost, we can all remember what went on on the track which is the most important thing and, on top of that, the climax in Interlagos, the fact it all came down to that one race, was great.

From a personal point of view, myself and Red Bull started well but we just didn't finish as we would've liked.

There are a lot of midfield teams challenging each other and putting pressure on one another, and as the season went on we found it harder to get the points we would have liked.

But, overall, 2008 was a good season for F1 in general and especially for any British fans, I guess!

Q: Following this season and Lewis Hamilton's Championship win, it would appear he's not the most popular driver among his peers. Is that correct, and if so why?
Phil, UK

I think it's normal that when someone comes in and is successful pretty quickly in any sport, there can be a bit of jealousy, certainly.

We know Lewis is a very, very good driver and, this year, he was the best. He deserved the title, definitely

For me, the way Lewis came through the ranks so quickly, he had a pretty smooth run. He came through the junior ranks quickly but in the best equipment - not many drivers have that option.

However, his acid test came when he was appointed driver of the McLaren team and he delivered.

A lot of people were questioning his appointment having not done a great deal of testing, but McLaren and Ron Dennis deserve all they get from Lewis because they took a chance on him and holy hell has he delivered.

There are always going to be battles within battles in F1 - micro battles if you like - and not everyone can get on famously together, but credit to all the drivers, and especially Felipe Massa, in being so good in defeat.

We know Lewis is a very, very good driver and, this year, he was the best. He deserved the title, definitely.

Q: Is Hamilton's success down to the car or the driver?

A lot of it is down to Lewis, no question. He's done some exceptional races this year.

Lewis has made his patch there at McLaren, showed his skills and galvanised the team around him - though it's a little unfortunate for (second McLaren driver) Heikki Kovalainen, because you could have been forgiven for not knowing he was in the team this year.

Lewis has done an amazing job.

Q: How was the condition of the track on the last lap at Interlagos? Does it make sense that Timo Glock could lose so much speed? Why was it he was so easily passed by other drivers without really seeming to defend his position?
Davey, UK

Lewis Hamilton passes Timo Glock in the crucial last race at Interlagos
Lewis Hamilton passes Timo Glock in the crucial last race at Interlagos
When you're watching on the TV it can be hard to appreciate just how wet a track can get and the speed differential is so extreme when you're on the wrong tyres in the wrong conditions.

I can appreciate it'd be a strange thing to witness if you didn't know what was going on, but when the tyres go wrong it is so tough, so painfully slow, and, by comparison, it's so easy when you're on the right tyres.

Timo did his best to fight for himself and his team, but Hamilton could pick him off in those circumstances so, so easily.

Q: From a fans view inconsistent stewarding undermines the credibility of F1. What is your view on a team of permanent professional stewards who go to each race?
Andy, UK

I agree that poor stewarding is unquestionably bad for us.

As far as I'm concerned, we should have it like it is in football - whoever crosses the line first, wins - outside of technical infringement with the car, someone cheating with their car. We should be calling that a result.

The consistency this season has been lacking somewhat - I'm sure the race officials this season would agree - and I'm sure things will change in that regard next campaign. Have something permanent, and go from there.

Q: Do you agree with Bernie Ecclestone's comments that the action of certain 'fans' in Spain (when they blackened their faces and wore 'Hamilton's Family' t-shirts) last year aimed at Lewis Hamilton were not racist?
Paul Phillips, England

I'll be honest, I did think it was a joke, though the guys who did that obviously went too far.

Racism in our sport is totally in check, I believe. Those guys in Spain certainly overstepped the mark but there will always be popular drivers and unpopular drivers in every race - I don't think it comes down to race at all. We're all on a level playing field.

Q: How good was David Coulthard (who retired from Red Bull at the end of last season)?
Peter, Scotland

To have done what he did and over such a long period, 15 years, is no mean feat in itself but to have done it all without ever having broken a bone is even more incredible.

Motor racing has been very good to him. He's had a lot of great team-mates and I'm sure he would've liked a greater title push, but he won plenty of Grands Prix.

He's had an amazing career but I think now is the right time for him to move on.

Q: Will next season's new regulations level the playing field or will Ferrari and McLaren dominate again?
Nic Redhead, UK

There are many changes next year - slick tyres on the cars and the aerodynamic regulations are very aggressive - and we haven't seen changes like them for many years.

Hopefully we'll have better overtaking but are the cars going to be closer together on the grid in terms of time? I don't think so

The main thought behind them is to make overtaking easier. A few races this season could have put even the most hard-core fan to sleep, such was the lack of overtaking, so changes were necessary.

It's hard to predict exactly what effect they will have, but will it make it a more competitive title race? I don't think so. The differential between the best and worst teams might get even bigger in terms of overall timings so I don't think it'll close that gap.

Hopefully we'll have better overtaking but are the cars going to be closer together on the grid in terms of time? I don't think so but we'll see.

Q: How will F1 be affected by the credit crunch? Will we start seeing perhaps smaller teams forced out of the sport?

The teams will always be in reasonable shape - not that we're immune to circumstances around the world because we're not, we definitely need to keep our own backyard in shape - but team bosses are working very hard on controlling costs and we won't want to show any weaknesses or buckling and I'm sure all will be done to make sure teams survive and carry on.

Q: On Mark's website, it comments that Sunderland Football Club are a favourite of his, how did this affiliation come about?
John Saunders, England

I'm a real fan of watching managers manage players. The likes of Jose Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, and watching someone like Roy Keane transform himself from such a feisty, complex character as a player to a real thinking man's manager is of real interest to me.

I've heard some interesting stories about his approach and so I'm keeping a keen eye on Sunderland - at the moment!

Q: Who would be the toughest F1 driver in a fist fight?
Joe Francis, London

Good question! Perhaps we should all get together and test it out for real one time, all get in the ring with gloves on and have it out! Maybe instead of qualifying one time.

Most of the guys are fit and in shape in the sport, so it'd be hard for me to give a definitive answer. Kimi Raikkonen might handle himself reasonably well, and Lewis Hamilton too. Who knows?

Q: If you could have any team-mate from any time in history, who would it be and why?
Neil Mainwaring

I guess it'd have to be Michael Schumacher. The way he extracted the absolute maximum from the car in every practice, every qualifying and every race was inspiring, so it'd be fantastic to see how he operates in the next garage along as a team-mate.

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see also
Mark Webber column
21 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
02 Oct 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber's 'office' wear
04 Sep 08 |  Motorsport
Mark Webber column
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Mark Webber column
02 Jul 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
26 May 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
22 May 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
19 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mosley scandal 'has disgraced F1'
19 Apr 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber - My Formula One car
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