For immediate release
Sunday April 6, 2003
Despite a major crash from which he escaped unscathed on lap 53 of the Brazilian Grand Prix, Jaguar Racing driver, Mark Webber, nevertheless opened his world championship points account by snatching two points for seventh place. Appalling weather conditions saw the start of the 71-lap race delayed by 15 minutes and the race was further punctuated by several Safety Car periods as cars and drivers alike, fell foul of the wet weather and standing water on the track. Webber’s team-mate, Antonio Pizzonia, Juan Pablo Montoya (Williams BMW), Jenson Button (BAR) and Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher were amongst the victims during the early stages of the race.
The first eight laps of the race were run behind the Safety Car and when it did finally pull in, Webber maintained his third place starting position through the first corner but lost a place to Montoya a lap later. Webber maintained fourth until lap 15 when he passed by Michael Schumacher and was then demoted to sixth by Rubens Barrichello who had slipped down the order from pole.
Webber made his first pit stop when the Safety Car was deployed on lap 18 and rejoined the race in 10th spot. When the race went back to green, he moved up the order and by the time the Safety Car was sent out again on lap 26, he was into a comfortable fourth place behind David Coulthard, Barrichello and Ralf Schumacher. Another SC period on lap 34 gave Webber the chance to pit for his second and final time and although he rejoined at the tail of the field, he started to make solid progress up the order again.
Comfortable in the knowledge that several of those ahead of him were still to make their second pit-stops (and in the case of Heinz-Harald Frentzen his first), Mark was in seventh position when he ran wide on the last corner on rapidly deteriorating tyres and slammed hard into the barriers on the outside of the track. The car bounced back across the track before hitting the armco on the other side and slithering to a halt but Webber was able to release himself from the car uninjured. A mass of debris from the destroyed car was strewn across the track and although some drivers managed to avoid it, the unfortunate Fernando Alonso struck one of the wheels and crashed heavily. Although he was able to walk away unaided from the car, he was later taken to hospital with a number of cuts and bruises.
There was confusion immediately after the stoppage with the Jordan team celebrating in the belief Giancarlo Fisichella had won. However, in the event of a race stoppage, the result is taken from two laps prior to the stoppage, and this handed the win to Kimi Raikkonen who was due to refuel on the lap the race was stopped! Fisichella took second while Alonso was third. Webber was placed seventh place and with it, two hard-earned points.
“Well, obviously a very bizarre race under very difficult circumstances,” said Webber afterwards. “I managed to stay out of trouble for the first 10 laps or so after the Safety Car start, which wasn’t easy given the conditions. We made our first stop under the Safety Car and that went well. Then we ran strongly until the second stop when we made the decision to run until the end of the race. That meant we were carrying a lot of fuel in the car from thereon in, so we were giving the tyres a very hard time. I tried to keep the tyres cool at every opportunity and I thought I had enough grip and downforce to cool them in that particular section of the circuit, but they literally became slicks and they brought me undone. It wasn’t a nice way to finish what had been a very good weekend for the team but at least there was the bonus of two championship points which we can’t complain about.”
- Ends -
N.B. Formula One fans will have the opportunity to chat on-line to Mark Webber about his Brazilian Grand Prix weekend at www.markwebber.com on Tuesday, April 8 at 7pm AEST when he participates in a 30-minute webchat session. Check out the chatroom section at www.markwebber.com for more details. For fans in Europe and the UK, the corresponding times are:
UK – 10am Tuesday, April 8
Europe – 11am Tuesday, April 8
Mark Webber is the Team Principal of MW Arden, a three car team in the new GP3 series supporting European Grands Prix.