The 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship ended on a disappointing note for both Jaguar Racing and Mark Webber, with the 27-year old Australian unable to take the challenge to BAR as they battled for fifth place in the Constructors Championship in the final round at today’s Japanese Grand Prix. Although Sauber failed to score today, they, nevertheless, remained ahead of Jaguar Racing by virtue of their timely result at Indianapolis two weeks ago.
Webber, who finished 11th in today’s 53-lap race, also lost his ninth place in the Drivers Championship. Although equal on 17 points, Jenson Button was officially classified ninth as the Englishman had earned his points through higher race finishes than Webber.
Despite the disappointment, Webber remains philosophical and said, “It’s a shame we finished seventh in the Constructors but you always have to respect your opposition and come back next year even hungrier. Personally, I would have been happy to come away with 20 points this season. Nevertheless, I’m pretty happy with the way I performed this season with the team although there’s always room for improvement.”
The Jaguars of both Webber and team-mate, Justin Wilson, never really got to grips with today’s race – a major surprise to the team given the competitive nature of the cars over the past two days. From sixth on the grid, Webber lost two positions off the start to McLaren duo, Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard, and then lost out to BAR’s Jenson Button at turn one. He held his own in ninth position until lap 10 when he was overtaken by Takumo Sato and then by Renault’s Jarno Trulli.
Webber pitted for the first of three scheduled stops on lap 10 and with the retirements of Juan Pablo Montoya and Fernando Alonso from the race, emerged in seventh position as the race order settled down. Webber closed down on Olivier Panis as they neared the second stint of pit stops and was able to leapfrog the Toyota driver in his stop. However, he ultimately lost the position to Panis and ended up trailing home in 11th place.
“There aren’t any excuses – the simple fact is we lacked pace and we seriously need to look at where our performance went this afternoon,” admitted Webber, “At one stage, I had Michael, Ralf and Jarno (who all had their own dramas during the race and had to charge through from
the back) all over me battling for position and it was very difficult to protect and race without losing too much time to Panis, who I was genuinely dicing with. I ended up losing out all round.
“But once again, the boys on the team did a super job. There were no dramas and the pit stops went off without a hitch. This is a good opportunity to say a big thank-you to everyone at Jaguar Racing for all their efforts this year and I’m looking forward to getting back to Europe and resuming work next month.
“In the meantime though, I’ve got a pretty busy schedule ahead of me. I’m back home to Australia tomorrow and straight into some serious training for my Tasmania Challenge which starts on November 7. I spent last week training in Perth (Western Australia) and enjoyed some scuba driving but this week I’m back on the east coast where I’ll be clocking up some serious kays on my road bike, and trying to improve my technique in the kayak!”
N.B. Further information on the Cadbury Schweppes Mark Webber Challenge can be found on the recently launched Challenge section on www.markwebber.com.
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Mark Webber is the Team Principal of MW Arden, a three car team in the new GP3 series supporting European Grands Prix.