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Webber: We mustn't let F1 become like IndyCar

Mark Webber has warned against making overtaking too easy in Formula 1 and risking a situation like that which prevails in the IndyCar Series – 'where they pass people six times per lap' – which he argues is no more exciting than the current lack of action in grand prix racing.

The Red Bull Racing star returned to testing at Jerez last week following a nigh-on three-month lay-off caused by his mountain-biking accident whilst taking part in his annual, charity Pure Tasmania Challenge back in November.

The outing gave Webber his first taste of F1's new KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology, as well as the opportunity to pronounce his verdict on the drastically different, 2009 aerodynamic regulations – and in an assessment that will provide scarce comfort to viewers increasingly frustrated by the lack of on-track entertainment in the top flight, the Aussie fears the changes will do little to improve the show.

“We only ran KERS a little bit at the end of the last day,” he explained, speaking exclusively to Crash.net Radio. “That was okay; it wasn't anything groundbreaking, but it was okay. You press the button and you go a little bit faster; there's nothing surprising there, considering everyone will probably press the button at the same time.

“I think they [Renault – Red Bull engine-supplier] are having a pretty good run with [developing] it. Whether we use it in Melbourne we'll probably find out in another two or three weeks, because it's early days, but they're working obviously very hard on it and trying to understand the system as quick as they can like every other team is.

“I drove on the slick tyres a little bit last year to get a feel for them. They give us more grip, definitely in the medium and low-speed corners, but the downforce is probably the biggest thing [that has changed]. The aerodynamics of the cars are very different to previous years; you can't attack the fast corners as much as you used to purely because you don't have the grip, and we have to brake a sniff earlier than usual – not much, but a little bit.

“We're still braking very late, though [in the general scheme of things], and I feel by the time we go to Melbourne people will be braking not far off the points where they were braking in the Australian Grand Prix this time last year, so to try and get down the inside of someone is still going to be very, very hard.

“If you're talking about overtaking in terms of someone just passing someone else on the straight, then that is an overtaking move but it's not very exciting. If that's what we want and we want people to not get held up behind other drivers and be able to pass on the straight then that might well happen, but we see in IndyCar racing that there are some times where they pass people six times per lap – and that's not that exciting either.

“Whether we have exciting overtaking moves because we can pass people on the brakes and with good slipstreaming remains to be seen, but I don't think it's going to do much for the racing, no.”

by Russell Atkins

Related Pictures

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Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull RB4, Monaco F1 Grand Prix, 22nd-25th, May 2008
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marc - Unregistered

February 19, 2009 6:38 PM

I've never turned off an F1 race because of too much passing either. But I still want to be amazed and excited when I see an F1 pass, rather than just seeing it as a bog-standard occurence in the race. I agree with Mark - give us quality over quantity any day... (By the way, I do not mean that a little more overtaking wouldn't help the sport - it would - but overcompensation IS possible too.)

Jenny - Unregistered

February 19, 2009 4:29 PM

I can see what Webber is getting at, but I can't agree. Overtaking is the basis of competitive circuit based motorsport and this is something that is a huge credit to Indycars in my view. F1 is different it's true, but it's still called motor 'racing', and the on track action should be just that. F1 in recent years has been nothing more than Chess played at 200mph. Second guessing fuel strategies and pit lane tactics is no substitute for ballsy on track passing - something that F1 needs to rectify and fast.

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