While fighting for the 2010 world championship, Mark Webber could only managing to qualify 5th, over half a second behind his pole-setting teammate Sebastian Vettel. So why then, given the crushing form Vettel has executed over the opposition this year, has Mark finally managed to trump the Wunderkind on a track he’s never really been in sync with?
Speaking with Skysports directly after qualifying, Christian Horner’s prognosis for Webber’s strong form was simply down to being relaxed and in simplistic terms, he’s probably right. Taking your eye slightly away from the page, as it were, does sometimes allow you to see the bigger picture – and at Abu Dhabi it’s easy to get mired in the minutiae.
After asking for more front wing on his final run in Q3, one might have expected a higher rotation from Webber’s RB9, but it was the section that requires a quick change of direction that Mark was looking at when the request for more front-end was made. Webber’s ‘soft’ entry into turn 7 was the first indication he was executing a master plan given there was more time to be made up on Yas Marina’s long straight. Likewise, his short-shift through through turn 8 and 9 was another subtle compromise; a trade off in getting the power on early for the long run through the turn 10 kink and to turn 11. From here, the same can be said right through to turn 16.
Looking ahead (as most great race drivers do) on the replay, you could almost draw a line from point 11 to 16 and see where Mark was balancing the compromises against executing controlled aggression. He was well and truly ahead of the car, just as he was through the Esses at Suzuka just three weeks ago.
Being more relaxed might be a succinct way of explaining Webber’s qualifying form at tracks where Vettel has been traditionally stronger, but they’re tracks that have been playing on Mark’s mind – as evident with his comments at Singapore back in September.
“Monaco has been very good for me; Singapore a bit less so although I had some podiums. The circuit is very 90 (degree) left, 90 right, 90 left, 90 right so it’s a little bit like Abu Dhabi, just a different time of the day.” said Mark. “It’s very easy to get frustrated with this type of track. You can only take a Formula One car around a first gear corner at a certain speed so that’s what you’ve got to try and deal with.”
It seems you can still teach a Rhodesian lover a few new tricks.
Image courtesy of Pirelli Media