Walking away is hard

Walking away is hard
Mark Webber, Red Bull F1 driver, during an interview. He is retiring from Formula One at the end of this season. Next year (2014), he will go into endurance racing with Porsche.

For close to 16 years, he has dedicated his life to the endless pursuit of going faster.

So when time came for Mark Webber to wave the chequered flag on his Formula One career, it went against everything the sport ever taught him.

"Being a sportsperson is about being driven, wanting to push and keep going," the Red Bull driver, who is retiring from F1 racing after this season, told The Straits Times yesterday.

"When you make the decision to stop, it goes against a lot of things which you inherently have in your psychological make-up."

Nevertheless, the Webber who met 80 OCBC Premier Banking and Bank of Singapore customers at OCBC Centre yesterday evening was clearly a man at peace with himself.

Having arrived in town at 10am for this weekend's SingTel Singapore Grand Prix, the 37-year-old even took the time to drive two Assumption Pathway School students to the event.

The pair - Muhammad Irsyaduddin and Muhammad Mikhael, both 14 - had won a helmet design competition organised by OCBC as part of its corporate social responsibility efforts.

"I never imagined that I would be able to go on a ride with one of the world's top F1 drivers," Irsyaduddin gushed.

"I'll never forget this wonderful experience." Unsurprisingly, as Webber looked back on a professional career that began in GT car racing with Mercedes in 1998, he also had some fond memories to share.

"Winning is a beautiful feeling," said the native of New South Wales, who has nine F1 career wins to his name.

"Winning my first grand prix in Germany (2009) and twice in Monaco was all very special and something I never thought would happen when I was growing up."

But there have also been low points - ironically, none more so than at the end of arguably his best season in F1.

"Losing out on the championship in 2010," Webber said of his biggest career disappointment.

"I was super proud with so many races I did that year, the level of consistency was so high."

With 10 podium finishes to his name, he went into the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi as one of four drivers still in with a shout of claiming the championship.

But having lined up fifth on the grid, Webber could only come home in eighth while Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel clinched the race and the first of his three successive world titles.

That year, however, also saw the beginning of a strained relationship between the pair which stemmed from a perception that the German was receiving preferrential treatment from the team.

At Silverstone, Webber was left aggrieved after he was forced to give up his new front wing to his colleague who had damaged his car during practice.

Meanwhile, Red Bull officials were left red-faced at the Malaysian GP earlier this year, when reigning world champion Vettel ignored team orders and overtook his team-mate to claim victory.

But when asked if he had any words of wisdom for fellow Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who will take over his seat next season, the veteran was non-committal.

"Daniel knows what he's up against and also what opportunities," said Webber, the most experienced driver on the grid.

"He wants to go his own way and I believe he'll be successful."

fabiusc@sph.com.sg


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