Mark Webber ready to play support role in final WEC race
Mark Webber believes the best way to help Porsche teammates Neel Jani, Romain Dumas and Marc Lieb claim the World Drivers’ Championship is to win Saturday’s season-ending Six Hours of Bahrain, as the Australian draws his driving career to a close.
The 40-year-old ex-Formula One ace and co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley ride a remarkable string of success into the Middle East, having won four of the last five races, but hold no chance of winning back-to-back World Championships.
A race-ending accident in the season-opener at Silverstone, gearbox issues at Spa and a water pump failure in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a double points-paying round the No. 2 Porsche trio won, left Webber, Bernhard and Hartley with only 3.5 points on the board following the first three races of the season.
However, wins at the Nürburgring, Mexico, Circuit of The Americas and most recently in Shanghai, has saw them rally to forth in the championship.
“For us, it shows the form car of the year,” Webber told FOXSports.com. “It’s not in an arrogant way, I just think we’ve always been there when the results have been on the table for us to grab.
“Obviously Le Mans was tough for us, but apart from that, I think it’s been a very special year for Timo, Brendon and myself in car No. 1. All three of us are very proud of that.”
While the No. 1 Porsche has been on a roll since Le Mans, it’s been quite the opposite for the championship-leading No. 2 car, which hasn’t scored a podium finish since its triumph in the French endurance classic in June.
Webber admits that their sister Porsche’s lack of pace in recent races has prevented them from helping them more in the drivers’ title.
“We’ve been trying since Nürburgring,” he said. “The best thing we can do is win, which we’ve been doing a lot of. That’s been the best thing that we’ve been able to do, and get pole positions.
“[In Shanghai], there might have been a chance we may had to assist, which to be honest, I thought would have been harsh for one point in Bahrain.
“They’re more than capable of going to Bahrain and getting the job done. It’s up to them to go and do it. If they need support, we’ll be there.”
With a 17-point lead in the Drivers’ Championship, Jani, Dumas and Lieb enter the weekend in a similar position, at least points-wise, to Webber and co.’s 13-point advantage last year in Bahrain, which saw them sneak out the title after engine and hybrid-related issues in a nail-biting race.
The only difference comes with Webber, Bernhard and Hartley’s four victories in 2015, compared to their teammates’ only two wins this year, and both arguably having been lucked into, following Audi’s exclusion at Silverstone and Toyota’s last-lap engine issues at Le Mans.
“It’s been a slightly different championship for the drivers this year,” Webber said. “I think last year, obviously we had quite a few wins.
“They know they need to go there and get a few points. We’ve been supporting them since then with our results. It’s a win-win. We take points from other teams and we win.”
Bahrain also marks the end of an era for Webber, who hangs up his helmet this weekend after a 25-year driving career that’s included 217 Grand Prix starts, nine wins, as well as eight wins and a World Championship in WEC competition.
“I don’t know if [Bahrain] is a very strong track for us,” Webber said. “It traditionally hasn’t been. We’re going to go there and it would be nice to go away with a victory. But honestly, the [Shanghai] victory was right up there.
“There’s one to go for me personally and I’m just so, so happy to be having these feelings at the back of my career, to have these winning moments with Timo, Brendon and Porsche.
“They’ve given me such a great opportunity to go out on a high. That’s what I’m trying to do.”