He brings that ‘Aussie Grit’ wherever he goes. He’s the first Australian driver since David Brabham in 1994 to enter the Grand Prix with 36 podium finishes, 11 pole positions, nine Grand Prix victories and now winning his fourth race in a row with Porsche in a battle for the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in Austin, Texas. Lads we’re talking about none other than the boy from Queanbeyan himself, Mark Webber. In an exclusive interview with Hours And Minutes Australia, Mark Webber lifts the lid on the high octane world of motorsport and his relationship with Chopard.
We would love to hear about how it all started for you…
Growing up in Australia I was interested in ball sports like rugby, but I was also always interested in motor racing – two and four wheels. My dad owned a Yamaha garage so I’ve been around motorbikes from an early age. Some of my heroes were firstly on motorbikes, like Mick Doohan, who was an incredible inspiration for me. When I was 13/14 years old, dad bought me a second-hand kart and I began racing. I got a taste for it in the junior categories and I wanted to compete at the highest level.
After 12 seasons on the Formula 1 circuit, 36 podium finishes, 11 pole positions and nine Grand Prix victories, you joined the Porsche Motorsport team in 2014. Choosing that moment to quit F1 must have been tough. How did you know it was time to go?
To compete at the top level, especially at the front of the grid as I’ve done in my last few years in F1, you have to be highly motivated to keep up your tight regime year after year. In the last few years, I felt that it was getting more and more difficult to do things that were always there automatically for me when I was in my twenties, like the travel. When you’re in your late thirties those things become a little bit more challenging and harder and it was starting to get a little bit more difficult for me. When you’re at the highest level it’s not an easy decision for any sportsman or woman, but I got the decision and timing right.
Congratulations on a third consecutive win for Porsche Motorsport in Austin. You’re probably ecstatic now. What are your thoughts on the season so far?
We had a good start to the season this year and the car ran well in the first few races. The 1-2 result at Le Mans was extremely special for everyone. It is such a hard race to put together and so many things can happen over a 24-hour period, but for us this year things worked out. Since the Nu¨rburgring we have won three races in a row which is something we’re very proud of. We’ve not always had a plain sail but the results we’ve taken home are testimony to the hard work the team has put in all year. We have two races to go and are now looking forward to finishing the season off strongly.
What does Mark Webber do when he’s not racing a Porsche LMP1?
Since I left F1, I’ve got a bit more time on my hands and when I’m not racing, I’m trying to spend time with my friends and family which in the past has often taken a back seat. I love the outdoors and doing sports, so when I’ve got time off you’d most likely find me on a road or mountain bike.
I know that some of the guys are looking at the category, that’s for sure. With Nico Hulkenberg we’ve had an active F1 driver competing in a few races this year with great success. The WEC season is much shorter with only eight races this year, but we’re still racing at top level and the cars are beautiful and challenging to drive. It’s the next best thing to an F1 car in my opinion. More and more high profile manufactures are coming into the sport and I’m sure there will be some more familiar faces joining the grid in the future.
OK. So coming to watches… What’s ultimately most important to you in a watch? Are you more interested in the look and design, or the functions and mechanism, or both?
For me it’s a combination of both really. I like a watch to be functional, the face robust, not too cluttered and easy to use. The band needs to be comfortable and something that is practical when I’m indulging in my love for outdoor activities and pursuits.
How did you first get acquainted with Chopard and what are your thoughts on Chopard’s 2015 collection?
I’ve been working with Chopard since last year when I joined the LMP1 program with Porsche. Chopard has become one of the leading brands in the high-end watch and jewellery business. I’ve met Mr. Scheufele a few times, he is passionate about classic cars, loves his racing and is a big fan of Porsche, just like me. I really like the Chopard Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition as it features details and colours of our racing car, the 919 hybrid, which we race in the World Endurance Championship. Only a limited number of watches have been produced and it’s quite special to own one of them.
What complications do you personally enjoy? Did you get a chance to visit the Chopard Manufacture in Switzerland?
I visited the Chopard manufacture in Switzerland last year and I was very impressed by it all. Up until then I had never seen pure gold before and I was fortunate enough to watch the craftsmen at work. It was remarkable to witness the process of building jewellery and watches with all the intricate mechanics inside. There is a lot of precision and quality control involved. It’s an automated process but it’s still very much a hand-made approach.
What parallels, if any, do you feel the world of watchmaking and motorsport share?
The precision of how people approach their work, the passion about what they do – there are many parallels between these two worlds which you can clearly see with Chopard. The brand embraces the racing element and they get inspired by the world of motorsport and incorporate certain elements into the design and development of their watches.
So what was the first model to make it to your wrist?
The Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Edition. It’s made of stainless steel which makes it almost undestroyable. I like the fact it has a rubber strap which adds to the comfort when I wear it while I’m out and about and it also features a stopwatch which I use for training purposes.
As a brand ambassador for Chopard, what is your input in the design process for your current special edition?
The design team at Chopard take their inspiration from our current racing era and Porsche’s great history in car racing. The Superfast Chrono Porsche 919 Only Watch 2015 special edition that we created for Only Watch Auction, is made in titanium but some areas like the lugs and crown are coated with black DLC to give it additional protection – it’s a racing watch but with some rugged edges. It also features grey and red which are part of Porsche’s colours which also feature on our racing car – it’s a beautiful timepiece.
Going back in time, what is one piece of advice you would give a car-crazy kid from Queanbeyan, if you could?
Two things really, you never know who is watching – so with that in mind you should always be yourself and be consistent. And, never judge a book by its cover. You never know who you could be talking to so it pays not to judge people too quickly.