Mark Webber among Australian F1 greats

July, 11, 2012

Mark Webber's lengthy Formula One career has seen both heartbreak and elation, and this season could very well be a high point for the veteran.

His second win of the year certainly has put the competition on notice, and he no doubt has his focus on joining Jack Brabham and Alan Jones as Australian F1 champions.

Webber does have an edge in one category, though. With his victory in Great Britain, he earned his 32nd career podium, passing Brabham for the most by an Australian driver in the sport's history. Webber has benefited greatly from his pairing with Red Bull, as 30 of those podiums have come in the past four years, and he has become a supreme example of what can happen when a talented driver is paired with a capable squad.

His drive at Silverstone showed patience and poise, as he took advantage of Fernando Alonso's ailing tires late. Overall, Webber's performance was impressive, considering Alonso appeared to be the man to beat for much of the grand prix. The Spaniard again displayed his ability to get the most out of his machine, but in the end, he was virtually powerless in stopping Webber from overtaking.

It's been a busy week for Webber, as he has extended his stay with Red Bull by another year. Webber explained his decision, saying, "I'm high on confidence at the moment and firing on all cylinders. I know the team well, and I'm very comfortable here. We have grown together over the years, and it feels like absolutely the right thing to stay with Red Bull for another season."

While Webber is excelling this season, other stars, such as Jenson Button, have continued to suffer through a down year. Button collected just a single point in Great Britain and has finished eighth or worse in six straight events. He has earned less than 40 percent of leader Alonso's point total. To put that in perspective, only one full-time McLaren driver in the past five years has had a lower percentage compared to the leader over the course of a full season (Heikki Kovalainen in 2009).

Typically, the winner of the first grand prix of the season has fared well the rest of the year, but Button is eighth in the standings. Since 1975, David Coulthard, in 2003, has the worst finish in the standings by the winner of the season opener (seventh), so if Button holds his position, it would certainly be an unusual occurrence.

Button is much too talented a driver to be so far down in the championship battle, and it is likely that his fortunes will take a turn for the better over the remainder of the year. For now, Button's assessment to reporters recently was rather alarming.

"It's not just the Red Bulls that are stronger than us," he said. "It's the Ferraris, it's the Lotuses, I even think the Williams and the Saubers."

McLaren has begun to fall off the pace this season as a whole, a rather surprising development considering the constructor appeared to be the strongest early in the year. A single upgrade can turn things around quickly, however, and this team in no way can be ruled out over the remainder of the year. After all, this season has been full of surprises, and there likely are many defining moments lurking in the shadows.



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