Webber to celebrate his 200th Grand Prix in Bahrain

Webber celebrates winning in Brazil, 2011
Webber celebrates winning in Brazil, 2011

From scoring points on his debut, to coming within touching distance of winning the world championship, Mark Webber has done a lot in 200 races.

The popular Australian lines up for his 200th start on Sunday, becoming only the 12th F1 driver to reach the landmark.

GEPA-2207076188 - NUERBURG,GERMANY,22.JUL.07 - FORMULA 1, MOTORSPORT - Formula One Grand Prix of Europe, Nuerburgring, Sunday. Image shows Mark Webber (AUS) and David Coulthard (GBR/ Red Bull Racing). Keywords: action. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Bildagentur Kraeling

GEPA-2207076188 - NUERBURG,GERMANY,22.JUL.07 - FORMULA 1, MOTORSPORT - Formula One Grand Prix of Europe, Nuerburgring, Sunday. Image shows Mark Webber (AUS) and David Coulthard (GBR/ Red Bull Racing). Keywords: action. Photo: GEPA pictures/ Bildagentur Kraeling

Few could have predicted the heights his career would reach given his debut season in the sport back in 2002.

Driving the unfancied Minardi, Webber would go on to record a dramatic debut at his home race in Melbourne.

Minardi team boss Paul Stoddart said: “I never in my wildest dreams imagined what would happen. We got news through that Mark’s car was terminal.

“But as the race developed, Mark was running up in fifth place with five laps to go. At that point, we were hoping and praying!”

NURBURG, GERMANY - JULY 12:  Mark Webber (C) of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates with third placed Felipe Massa (R) of Brazil and Ferrari and second placed Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and Red Bull Racing on the podium after winning the German Formula One Grand Prix at Nurburgring on July 12, 2009 in Nurburg, Germany.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber; Felipe Massa; Sebastian Vettel

NURBURG, GERMANY - JULY 12: Mark Webber (C) of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates with third placed Felipe Massa (R) of Brazil and Ferrari and second placed Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and Red Bull Racing on the podium after winning the German Formula One Grand Prix at Nurburgring on July 12, 2009 in Nurburg, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber; Felipe Massa; Sebastian Vettel

Webber brought the car home to pick up two points for the Italian minnows - their first points since 1999.

Stoddart added: “The whole of Albert Park made their way down to the pitlane. It was one of the most unique moments and what a way to start your Formula 1 career.”

The season was an arduous one for Webber, struggling to get anything out of the car.

But his debut made an impression on the Jaguar team, then based in Milton Keynes, and he was snapped up for 2003.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 30:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing reacts as he crashes out after colliding with his team mate Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at Istanbul Park on May 30, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey.  (Photo by Malcolm Griffiths/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sebastian Vettel

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - MAY 30: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing reacts as he crashes out after colliding with his team mate Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at Istanbul Park on May 30, 2010, in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Malcolm Griffiths/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Sebastian Vettel

In an uncompetitive car, Webber managed to pick up 17 points on his way to 10th in the standings.

It was a disappointing 2004 season though, but his qualifying performances saw him sign for the Williams team for 2005 and 2006. Jaguar would become Red Bull Racing.

In his sixth race with Williams, he picked up his first podium at the Monaco Grand Prix - a place he’d thrive later in his career.

But points reliability issues cost him during the latter part of the season, and he finished 10th once again.

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 16:  Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates by diving into the Red Bull Energy Station swimming pool after winning the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Monte Carlo Circuit on May 16, 2010 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 16: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates by diving into the Red Bull Energy Station swimming pool after winning the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Monte Carlo Circuit on May 16, 2010 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber

The 2006 season sparked Williams’ decline as they lost BMW funding. Webber finished just seven of the 18 races that year, bringing home just seven points.

He re-signed with the Tilbrook team, now Red Bull Racing, for 2007 alongside veteran David Coulthard.

“He was an immediate candidate,” said team boss Christian Horner. “We needed a quick driver, a front runner.”

Webber said: “It was such a raw team when I first joined it, and it was a big attraction. Mentally, I needed it at that point.”

He proved himself with a series of points finishes in a car the team struggled to understand.

The highlight of the season came in the rain interrupted European Grand Prix, where he came home third.

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 27:  Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing crosses the finishing line to win the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2012 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 27: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing crosses the finishing line to win the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2012 in Monte Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber

2008 was another consistent season for the Australian, as he finished regularly in the top 8, comprehensively out-scoring team-mate Coulthard in his final season.

But a regulations overhaul in 2009 gave Red Bull a new platform to develop, and it saw them shoot to stardom.

The RB5 proved quick straight out of the box. With new team-mate Sebastian Vettel, the team celebrated their first victory in China, with Webber coming home season.

The Brawn GP car though proved to be the class of the field in the early season, but at the half-way point in the season, a redeveloped RB5 was unveiled and became the car to beat.

After Vettel’s win at Silverstone, Webber finally took his first win at the German Grand Prix - his 130th race.

He said: “In the last few laps it was spitting. I was just thinking ‘leave me alone! I just want to get the win, please!’

“It’s important it wasn’t a jammy win, it was a that was deserved.”

Horner added: “No-one was going to beat him that weekend in Germany.”

Another win in Brazil, along with several other podium finishes, saw him finish fourth in the world championship.

Going into the 2010 season, Red Bull were among the favourites to win the title. But Webber surprised many in the F1 world with an excellent first half performance to lead the way from Vettel, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and the two McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Tension began to build between the Red Bull team-mates though. When battling for the lead in Turkey, the pair collided, eliminating Vettel and dropping Webber out of the fight for the lead.

Wins in Spain, Monaco, the team’s home race at Silverstone and in Hungary meant he was the favourite to win the title going onto the final race of the season at Abu Dhabi.

But a dramatic finish, which saw both he and Alonso unable to pass Vitali Petrov in the closing stages, allowed Vettel to sneak in and win his first world championship. Red Bull celebrated the double, claiming the constructors’ title too.

Vettel dominated the 2011 season though, with Webber seeming to struggle to get to understand the RB7. Vettel won the title with ease scooping 11 races along the way, but Webber could only manage one in the final round in Brazil. His consistent podium finishes though saw him finish third for a second season, with the team making it a double in the constructor’s race.

Webber would win more races in 2012, including excellent displays at Monaco and Silverstone, but he only made it to the podium four times and finished a disappointing sixth. Vettel meanwhile made it three in a row, as did the team in the constructors’ championship.

His 2013 season hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts. Finishing sixth in his home race in Melbourne, Webber looked set to win the Malaysian Grand Prix, but a controversial move from Vettel saw the world champion ignore team orders and overtake his team-mate to snatch victory.

And Webber’s woes were made worse in China when he was forced to start at the back of the field after running out of fuel in qualifying, before crashing with Jean-Eric Vergne. Replacing his front wing in the pits, he’d leave the pits with a loose wheel, which detached as he tried to crawl back to the garage.

But looking ahead to his 200th start, Webber hopes he can go on for many more to come.

He said: “You always want to be 25, but I’ve got more wisdom now. I still feel fit, motivated and hungry and I still enjoy driving the cars.

“Two hundred? Let’s see how many more I can do!”

Horner said there was no reason why he can’t continue for many more years: “The fact he’s reached 200 is no surprise, and he has continued to improve every season.

“We’ve seen, in other sports, people like Ryan Giggs go on for many years because they’ve kept in good shape and applied themselves properly. And that’s exactly what Mark has done.”

Frank Williams, boss of Williams, said: “He has had a great career. He’s gone on to better things since leaving Williams, but everything he has done, he has fully deserved.”

Stoddart added: “Mark is a sporting hero and will stay that way. I think we’ll be sitting down again and doing a 250th celebration.”

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14:  Mark Webber of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing is pictured as he retires early during the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2013 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 14: Mark Webber of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing is pictured as he retires early during the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 14, 2013 in Shanghai, China. (Photo by Vladimir Rys/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber