To anyone watching it would appear Mark Webber lost the chance to win the US Grand Prix at the first turn on Sunday, but the Aston Clinton star says his fatal error came 24 hours earlier.
Starting second on the grid, the dash to Turn 1 certainly defined the outcome of Webber’s race. He slipped from second to fourth in the opening 350 metres of the race and was engaged in a fascinating battle for second place thereafter.
The Aussie dearly wants to bow out of Formula 1 with a win and this was one of two remaining chances to get it as he counts down to his last race in the sport at Brazil this weekend.
Despite missing out in Austin, humble Webber was full of praise for the man who beat him to second place, Romain Grosjean – who he labelled a ‘first lap nutcase’ last season.
Mark’s initial getaway was good, but the dust on the inside of the circuit hampered his progress relative to the cars outside him. Pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel got away well, and Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton jumped Mark as everyone hit the brakes for Turn 1.
“The circuit was in better condition than it was last year,” Webber said.
“But the inside was still at a disadvantage because it’s dirty and it isn’t used over the weekend. I then got boxed in by the cars around me, which, in turn, resulted in me not getting a good exit off the corner. But I didn’t lose this race at the start; I lost it yesterday afternoon when I made a mistake in sector 3 that cost me pole position. If I’d started on pole, with all the advantages that brings, the result might have been different.”
Webber’s chance to take the fight to the guys in front had to wait a couple of laps after the deployment of the Safety Car at the end of the opening lap. The race then went ‘green’ on lap five, after the debris from Adrian Sutil’s Force India had been cleared up, and Webber sat on Hamilton’s gearbox for the next eight laps. He eventually forced his way around the outside of the Mercedes driver under braking for Turn 12 on lap 13.
“The car had a good balance throughout the race,” Webber said.
“Lewis forced me around the outside, but I was able to stay off the brakes longer and get in front. Then it was a question of closing the gap to Romain and trying to find a way past, which proved too difficult on this occasion.”
Mark made his one and only pitstop on lap 29, at which he swapped from the medium to the hard tyre. The Red Bull mechanics serviced his car in 1.923s – breaking the team’s previous record of 2.05s, set at the Malaysian GP earlier this year.
“Yep, the boys gave me a great stop,” says Mark.
“After that I closed the gap to Romain, but he drove very well, without any mistakes. He was quick where he needed to be, and off turns 8 and 9 in particular. It’s very difficult to pass here – even with two DRS zones – and I tried various tactics, but couldn’t find a way through. Still, I’m happy to finish on the podium in front of the American fans for the last time – in Formula 1 anyway.”
Webber will now spend a couple of days in Austin with family and friends prior to heading to Sao Paolo for the season and in his case F1 career finale at Interlagos.
He has won the Brazilian Grand Prix twice before and he’ll be gunning to end his career on a high next weekend with a dream hat-trick before leaving to join Porsche’s World Endurance Championship team.