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Webber: Verstappen ‘a bit flaky’ in build-up to F1 races

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Ex-Red Bull Formula 1 driver Mark Webber feels that Max Verstappen has been “a bit flaky” at times this year in the build-up to race weekends, making unnecessary mistakes through practice and qualifying.

A rough start to the year marred by reliability issues and a couple of on-track incidents has seen Verstappen amass 50 less points than Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, leaving him sixth in the drivers’ standings with just one podium to his name.

Reviewing both Red Bull drivers’ seasons in an interview with the energy drink giant’s official website, Webber felt Verstappen’s main weakness had been earlier in the weekend rather than the race itself.

“Both of the guys have driven well this year, but Max has probably been a bit flaky in terms of the build-up to the races through the weekend,” Webber said.

“He’s been going off the road a lot on Friday and Saturday, which puts pressure on mechanics getting the car ready. I’d like to see him on the road a bit more, but he’s pushing the limits.

“When it comes to Sundays, he hasn’t made many mistakes at all, it’s been a lot of high-profile reliability retirements where he’s lost a truckload of points, so that’s been hard for him to swallow.”

Looking at Ricciardo’s campaign, Webber said: “Daniel is just so solid on Sunday afternoons, he’s the most reliable driver in F1 in that you know what he’s going to deliver week-in, week-out.

“He’s always got the most out of what they’ve given him and it’s hard to see how he could have done much more.”

Red Bull has been marooned as the third-fastest team for much of the season so far, and Webber puts its inability to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari on a regular basis down to the power deficit of its Renault engines.

“We all expected such great things from this car this year, but it came out the box very poorly. They had a lot of catching up to do.

“With Renault, it’s unfortunately a little bit of a broken record, ‘we haven’t got this, we haven’t got that’ – it’s been going on for five years. [Red Bull] have to make a car a second faster than everyone else, maybe.”

Webber: Vettel has ‘found himself again,’ Red Bull needs to do same

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Mark Webber says his old teammate at Red Bull Racing, Sebastian Vettel, is back on the proper form that won him four consecutive World Championships from 2010 to 2013.

With Ferrari having put together one of its best cars in years, it’s allowed Vettel to reassert himself at the front of the field.

At the same point, Webber hopes Red Bull can make the necessary upgrades it needs to make it a three-team fight at the front of the Formula 1 grid. Red Bull is pinning some hopes on upgrades this weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, but concerns exist that the Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged power unit simply isn’t up to the level of the Ferrari and Mercedes power units at the moment.

The Porsche ambassador and 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship World Champion who’s now retired from driving, and has no plans to revert course on that front, addressed both topics during a meeting with reporters in Spa this weekend for the WEC 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps.

“They’ve done a great job. They’re very strong, reliability looks strong,” Webber said of Ferrari.

“Sebastian has found himself again. He smells the victories so now he comes alive. Between him and Lewis, Melbourne and some of the first few races, in Bahrain Lewis had to come back from a bad start. It’s very nicely poised. And fair play to Ferrari, they’ve done a good job, they’ve done their homework. They dropped on to the regulations very nicely.”

As for Red Bull?

“Red Bull need (to)… and they know that… they’re as hard on themselves as anyone. They’re a very realistic team,” Webber explained. “They never dream about results, they work hard, they get the job done. At the moment they’re on the back foot, they know that.

“Whether Max and Daniel can get the product… the thing is, there are individual races that might come into the window, but for the whole campaign now, it’s looking extremely challenging of course. Even a swing a little bit between Mercedes and Ferrari track to track, and Red Bull are still watching this from a distance.

“They don’t have the base. Reliability-wise, there are a few flaky moments, so this also brings some frustrations. Never, ever count them out, but they’ve got a big challenge ahead.”

Webber also downplayed talks that Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will reach a boiling point in their relationship as teammates, same as Vettel and Webber occasionally did – most notably in the “Multi 21” team orders disobeying Vettel did at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Australian said that is not likely to happen until Red Bull’s car is back on form, winning races at the front as they did with regularity from 2009 through 2013.

“It’s not an issue until they start winning consistently,” he said. “When you’re fighting for third, fourth, fifth, sixth, doesn’t matter, because you’re both trying to get the team up there.

“But when you’ve got one more branch on the tree and you’re both trying to land on that branch, that’s an issue. They haven’t been really tested yet. So non-topic at the moment.”

The Spanish Grand Prix runs from 8 a.m. ET on Sunday morning, on NBCSN, with pre-race coverage beginning an hour earlier at 7 a.m. ET.

Webber never considered chasing Triple Crown, entering Indy 500

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Ex-Formula 1 and sportscar driver Mark Webber says he never considered entering the Indianapolis 500 and chasing motorsport’s Triple Crown, having been put off by racing on ovals.

Webber’s former colleague and long-time friend Fernando Alonso shocked the motorsport world last month by announcing his entry to this year’s Indy 500, opting to skip the Monaco Grand Prix.

Alonso’s decision to race in the ‘500 was fuelled by his desire to win the Triple Crown, having already taken the Monaco leg in 2006 and 2007. The Spaniard remains keen to race at Le Mans as well.

Webber is one of the few drivers in recent years who has been within striking distance of the Triple Crown, winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice and having a number of near-misses for victory at Le Mans.

Speaking to reporters at Spa over the FIA World Endurance Championship race weekend, Webber said he had no desire to race at Indianapolis despite having a chance to enter CART for 2000.

“I would have liked to of course won Le Mans, I went very close. Led every year I was there, pretty fast as well in certain years and it didn’t line up for us,” Webber said.

“But I wasn’t interested in Indy. I wasn’t overly interested to go there. I have absolute respect, my heroes like Rick Mears and Mario and Al Unser, these guys, Roger Penske, Dario’s a good friend of mine, Scott Dixon, Will Power. I have maximum respect for those guys but it’s something I didn’t want, I never really wanted to go and see.

“There was a chance I could have gone to IndyCar in ’99 with Forsythe, because Greg Moore was going to Penske. That was a period. After that I wanted to stay in Europe.

“I think I would do well in oval racing. Rocky, who was Sebastian Vettel’s engineer at Red Bull, he said ‘you would go really well on ovals’, because he did a lot of work with Sebastien Bourdais at Newman/Haas, and he said ‘look Mark, you would be perfect for ovals’. I said ‘thanks, but I’m probably not going to try’.”

Webber did admit that there may have been more pressure on him to race at Indianapolis had he won Le Mans, with Alonso even asking him to come and join him for the race this month.

“That’s a close shave because if I did get to the next step, I had pressure. Maybe it’s good I stayed on the second step,” Webber said.

“Fernando still asked me to maybe try to do Indy.”

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Mark Webber named grand marshal for 2017 24 Hours of Le Mans

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Ex-Formula 1 driver and 2015 FIA World Endurance Championship title-winner Mark Webber has been named the grand marshal for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

Webber, 40, retired from racing at the end of the 2016 season after spending three years in the WEC with Porsche, claiming the drivers’ title the previous year alongside Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley.

The Australian failed to win Le Mans in any of his five attempts, but will return to the Circuit de la Sarthe in June to preside over the race as its grand marshal.

Webber sent a video message to fans tuning in to the press conference that confirmed the entry lists for both the 2017 WEC season and Le Mans.

In recent years the duty of grand marshal has been carried out by the likes of Alexander Wurz (2016), nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen (2015) and Allan McNish (2014), putting Webber in good company.