In a startling admission that might lead some to re-assess his performance over the closing stages of the campaign, Red Bull Racing ace Mark Webber has revealed that he competed in the final four grands prix of F1 2010 with a fractured shoulder.
Having come to the fore mid-season with a run of strong results and sublime victories in Spain, Monaco, Britain and Hungary, Webber's momentum seemed to nose-dive just when he needed it the most, as he found himself both out-qualified and out-raced by Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel effectively from Singapore onwards – with the upshot being that in the Abu Dhabi finale, the German pinched the title from right underneath the Australian's nose in one of the most extraordinary and unlikely conclusions to an F1 season ever seen.
Having been hampered over the first half of 2009 by the right leg he had broken in a mountain-biking accident the previous winter during his Pure Tasmania Challenge, Webber had kept quiet at the time about the fact that he had also broken his left shoulder – with even his employer unaware of the injury. It now transpires that he subsequently fractured his right shoulder, too – again whilst riding a mountain bike – after returning to his homeland in the wake of this year's Singapore Grand Prix.
'On the Sunday morning before Suzuka, I got on a mountain bike for the first time since my accident in Tasmania at the end of 2008,' wrote the 34-year-old in his newly-published book reflecting on 2010, Up Front: A season to remember
'I was riding with a great friend of mine. Suddenly, he crashed right in front of me and I had nowhere to go but straight through the ears of the horse! I suffered what they call a skier's fracture to my right shoulder.
'Suzuka is a brutal track, so it was a blessing that the Japanese weather gave me an enforced rest day on the Saturday (when qualifying was rained off), and a pre-race injection helped, too. In the end, we got through the weekend alright.'
Skier's fractures are notoriously difficult to treat, and with Webber again electing not to inform RBR team principal Christian Horner – with only his trainer Roger Cleary and FIA doctor Gary Hartstein aware of the injury – cortisone injections in Japan and Korea helped the six-time grand prix-winner to overcome the pain barrier.
Whilst some might attribute his loss of form over the final few races to the break – and holding an eleven-point advantage over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and 21 over Vettel at the time makes a strong case for such an argument – Webber himself insists he does not blame the fall for his missing out on the drivers' crown come season's end.