Mark Webber is to undergo further surgery on his broken right leg following next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, as F1's newest winner admitted that he had been 'a long way from healed' and 'kidding himself a bit' when the 2009 season got underway back in March.
After storming to his breakthrough triumph in the top flight in the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring following more than 130 appearances, the Australian has marked himself out as a very real championship contender this year, lying just 22.5 points off long-time leader Jenson Button in the title standings with 80 points remaining up for grabs – and the momentum very much on the side of Red Bull Racing.
According to former F1 star Hans-Joachim Stuck, however, it is 'a miracle he (Webber) can work with full power' at all in the wake of the New South Wales native's leg-breaking mountain-biking accident whilst on his annual pure Tasmania charity adventure challenge last November. That left the 32-year-old facing a long convalescence, with some doubting whether he would even make the starting grid for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix in front of his home fans Down Under in Melbourne.
That he did was an achievement in itself, but Webber has now confessed that the injury did prevent him from performing to his full capability over the opening half of the campaign, when he was generally outpaced by young team-mate Sebastian Vettel – a driver unable to hold a candle to him on his own home turf around the Eifel Mountains circuit last weekend.
“I think I was kidding myself a bit,” the man from Queanbeyan is quoted as having said by the BBC
. “It is absolutely clear that the leg was a long way from healed and it was still broken. It was just the metal holding it in place, so it has come a long way since then.”
Some of that metal was removed prior to the Nürburgring outing in the form of two locking screws, and more pins will be taken out after Hungary, allowing him four weeks to recover and regain full fitness before the following European Grand Prix in Valencia on 23 August. The major operation will then come at the end of the year.
“The titanium rod is coming out only after the season,” Webber told German newspaper Bild
, “and then the bump [on his lower leg] will disappear.”