HE may be nearing the end of his Formula One career but Queanbeyan’s Mark Webber proved he still has the pace to match it with the sport’s elite after last weekend’s second place finish at the Japanese Grand Prix.
In his final year with Red Bull Racing before he joins Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2014, the result sees Webber maintain fifth spot in the Drivers’ Championship.
After starting on pole position at Suzuka, Webber was ultimately forced to settle for the second step of the podium after being passed by teammate and eventual race winner Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel took the lead while the Australian was sitting in the pits after Red Bull switched Webber from a two-stop to a three-stop strategy mid race.
The change in tactics led to question marks being raised as to whether Red Bull made a tactical error.
Vettel passed both Webber and Frenchman Romain Grosjean in the race’s closing stages while on a two-stop strategy.
Webber acknowledged in the post-race press conference that he had been surprised by the team’s decision after being “in the window” for a two-stop race plan.
“I was a little bit surprised,” Webber said of the change to a three-stop strategy. “I asked was it the right thing to do because I felt we could get the lap we were looking to get to.
“Of course Seb was two or three laps longer…but in terms of the target lap that we looked to get to for the two-stop, I thought it was achievable.
“But in the end Seb did a good race, [his] strategy worked out perfect. The [three-stop strategy] was not absolutely ridiculous but it’s a bit more high risk.”
Webber was also left to rue a slow start that saw him passed by Grosjean into the first corner.
The experienced campaigner however, exacted a measure of revenge when he returning the favour with just two laps remaining to secure second.
The next race on the Formula One calendar will be the Indian Grand Prix on October 27.