Webber relaxed ahead of final grand prix

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Mark Webber is feeling relaxed ahead of his final race as a Formula One driver this weekend in Brazil (live on NBC from 11am ET), although he admitted that it has not yet sunk in that he is just a few days away from retirement before his move to Porsche’s LMP1 campaign in 2014.

Webber confirmed at the British Grand Prix back in June that he would be walking away from Formula One at the end of the season, but he is not getting too worked up about his exit just yet.

“I think on Sunday it will be a little bit different but it still feels like a normal race at the moment, so looking forward to Sunday in many ways, in terms of obviously pushing for a good result, but also I’m ready to stop and looking forward to the extended winter that I’ll have and the new challenges around the corner,” the Australian driver explained. “Getting out of the car on Sunday, there will be a few things that will be for the last obviously in terms of Formula One, but I’m pretty relaxed at the moment and looking forward to the race.”

Webber is chasing his tenth and final grand prix victory this weekend, and with rain forecast, he could be in with a chance of ending teammate Sebastian Vettel’s dominant streak of eight consecutive wins.

During the drivers’ press conference in Brazil, Webber went on to talk about some of the things he would miss when he leaves Formula One, naming Red Bull’s design guru Adrian Newey as someone who he would particularly miss.

“It’s inevitable that you’re going to miss certain parts, for sure the adrenaline and working with people like Adrian Newey,” he said. “Stuff like that you don’t get to do that often obviously. That’ll be something I’ll miss a bit. But there comes a time when you’ve got to let go and I’ll still have good adrenaline next year obviously with Porsche and that’ll be a good balance.”

This weekend’s race will be the final chapter in a fine career that has seen Webber move from the back of the grid to the very front, and his refreshing attitude and outlook will be missed in the sport.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

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Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.