His points-scoring Formula 1 debut with Minardi aside, Mark Webber has rarely enjoyed much good fortune in front of his home fans in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne – and, sadly for the Red Bull Racing star, 2009 turned out to be little different.
In eight appearances in the race, Webber has only twice finished inside the points – fifth place on his maiden outing back in 2002, and the same result with Williams three years later. Starting from eighth on the grid this time around and with an undeniably fast car underneath him in the shape of the Adrian Newey-designed, Renault-powered RB5, he justifiably believed he had a good chance of adding to that tally. Up until the first corner, at least...
“That was frustrating at my home race,” the New South Wales native reflected afterwards of having effectively seen his chances torpedoed only seconds into the grand prix when he was implicated in the turn one mêlée. “I was so disappointed to drive round with a damaged car. I wanted a good result for the fans, but we'll do our best to recover from the next race on – it would just have been nice to have got a good result here.
“My start wasn't too bad. I got to turn one and was making sure I got through there clean, but then Rubens [Barrichello] came into the side of me pretty hard and that was it really. I lost a huge amount of downforce; we had a lot of damage and I wasn't going to be a threat to anyone after that. It was a tough day for the team but we'll be back. I'm happy that Malaysia is in only a week's time.”
With team-mate Sebastian Vettel's late-race accident with Robert Kubica costing the energy drinks-backed squad a podium finish, it was indeed 'a tough day' for RBR, but team principal Christian Horner is confident that the encouraging pace displayed around Albert Park can be maintained season-long.
“Mark was unfortunately involved in an incident on the first lap which effectively destroyed his home race,” the Englishman remarked. “We elected to keep him running in order to put more mileage on the car. It was a great shame after such strong teamwork here and in Milton Keynes. The team didn't deserve the finish we had, but we'll fight back next weekend.”
“What a disappointment!” exclaimed Renault principal track support engineer Fabrice Lom. “We had been so quick. Mark had a shunt at the first corner and lost his race there. That was a shame, but I have such hope for the season with this pace. We are down, but ready to bounce back.”