We caught up with C4F1 Analyst and former F1 driver Mark Webber for a quick Q&A ahead of the restart of the 2020 season
Q: Will the drivers really struggle after being off for so long?
Mark: I think the drivers will find it a little bit tricky. Once the practice sessions get underway that’s fine but the thing you get a little bit rusty with is just the wheel-to-wheel combat. That’s when you realise you haven’t been in the boxing gym for a while. And you might not see some of the moves coming, or that you might not be as confident or brazen to pull off some of the moves you might do after a couple of events. I think with the racing there might be just a sniff more tension but it won’t take them long to get their eye in over one lap, that’s for sure.
Q: Is it advantage Red Bull with the first two races at their 'home' circuit?
Mark: I think if Red Bull could choose to have a couple of races at one venue, certainly Austria would be up there. They’ve had a good form card there previously – particularly Max has been on fire round there. So that bodes well for them. The lay-out of the track and also the way the tyres work on that particular surface is quite unique, so that’s a good thing for Red Bull and let’s see if they can capitalise on the form they’ve had there in the past.
Q: What is the one bit of advice to give Sebastian Vettel ahead of this season?
Mark: If you can, enjoy this season as much as you can because that will put him in the right frame of mind for the decisions going forward if he does what to extend his career. I think it’s easy in a team where you are struggling for the chemistry – and it’s not quite worked out for lots of different reasons – he’s been there for a long time at Ferrari as many drivers have and it’s not quite worked out. So for him finishing with as big as spring in his step as possible and that will put him in the right frame of mind for what I think will be making a decision for 2022.
Q: How exciting is the prospect of Carlos Sainz Jnr and and Charles Leclerd together at Ferrari in 2021?
Mark: I’ve really enjoyed watching Charles really boss it in Formula 1. Sometimes junior category form doesn’t translate into the Everest of the performance levels that you need to have in Formula 1 but he’s done that, which is great. Carlos has had a slightly slower start to his career now this is a huge opportunity – can he match Charles, particularly over one lap? Leclerc is an absolute demon over one lap so it will be fascinating. But, the pressure is on the team. The pressure is on Maranello. Maranello need to deliver for the drivers. That is the big question.
Q: What is it like racing for one team when you have already signed for another?
Mark: It depends on the dynamics of it and when the decision has been made in that particular season to transition across to the new environment but generally it was pretty smooth for me – I went from Jaguar to Williams, I went from Williams to Red Bull. They start to shut the doors up a little bit, so for a driver that is leaving like - Sainz will be, I imagine for a lot of the information for Mercedes next year, clearly he will be phased out of that – he will be phased out of a lot of technical things because he’s off to the absolute opposition and that’s something he will have to deal with.
Q: Who will we see in the empty Renault seat?
Mark: I think Renault will go with a junior driver. They’ve invested well in that. They believe they’ve got a good school of youngsters coming through. And it’s tough for the junior drivers, having come through the ranks when they do take someone from outside – we have seen that in the past in different types of programmes where manufacturers or even Red Bull support junior drivers then take someone from outside. So if Renault are true to their word – and grab someone from let’s call it – internal, a young up and coming driver, clearly not a massive name we know that but it would someone within their junior ranks they can come in and put next to young Ocon. Everyone would like Fernando but I just don’t see how that would work.
Q: Three predictions for the 2020 season?
Mark: I think Lewis will win the Championship. I think that Max is the only guy who really can take the battle to him – I’m excited by that I think it’s going to be a good battle between those two. I’m nervous about Ferrari – on sheer performance staying with Red Bull and Mercedes. And I think McLaren could be a bit of a sleeper in terms of their performance. I think winter testing went well for them so hopefully they can take some of that good form from the winter into this weekend.
For more form Mark and the team and to watch highlights from qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix - tune in to Channel 4 on Saturday 4th July at 6:45pm with the best of the big race at 6:30pm on Sunday 5th July.