Despite losing the mantle as last the Australian to win a Formula One grand prix, Alan Jones has admitted that he was 'delighted' to see Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber succeed him following his victory in the German Grand Prix at the weekend.
Defying a drive-thru' penalty for contact with Brawn GP's Rubens Barrichello on the run to the first corner on Sunday, Webber bounced back through a combination of shrewd strategy and the pace of the RB5 to reclaim the lead at half-distance and pull away to a comfortable win. With team-mate Sebastian Vettel claiming second, RBR enjoyed its third 1-2 of the season, and second in successive races, edging closer to Brawn and Jenson Button in the title race.
Webber's maiden win was also Australia's first since Jones won on the parking lot at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to claim the 1981 USGP, and the 1980 world champion - who retired (for the first time) after his Vegas success - was quick to pay tribute to his countryman's efforts.
“We tuned in to watch the race and were having a BBQ at the same time - and the BBQ ended up running a fair bit longer than anticipated,” Jones revealed, “It is great news, Mark has been in something like 130 grands prix and, while he has led races in the past, he hasn't been able to convert it - often through no fault of his own - so it is great to see him breakthrough for the win. I am sure it isn't going to be the last, and it will give him a big confidence boost for the rest of the year."
Jones, who made fruitless returns to F1 in 1983 with Arrows and 1985-86 with the Beatrice-backed Haas Lola team. admitted that Webber's win was unlikely to kick-start a challenge for this year's world championship - despite the younger Australian closing to 22.5 points - but insisted that it boded well for the future.
“I am absolutely delighted with the result, I love to see any Australian perform well overseas in any sport, and particularly in motorsport," the veteran, now heading up Australia's A1GP effort, continued, "To see Mark win his first grand prix, and be one of only three Australians who have done so, is just great. Hopefully, he can become the third Australian to win a world championship in the near future.
“While a championship this year isn't probable, as Jenson Button would have to make some pretty big mistakes and Webber string together quite a few wins for it to happen at this point, it will certainly set him up well for next year."
Webber remains notable as one of the few Australians to have made it to a flagship category, and did it largely without the help of a major backer or development scheme. Having run numerous rising, but under-funded, stars under the Team Australia banner since A1GP's arrival, Jones is also hopeful that his countryman's success will encourage both talent and backing into the country's motorsport arena.
“It is great news across the board, and I hope it will encourage more young racers in Australia to give it a go as they can see that Mark Webber has been able to do it,," he commented, "And, just as importantly, I would hope that Mark's achievement would encourage more of corporate Australia to get behind the young racers trying to make it....."