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F1 drivers are not 'real men' anymore, rues Webber

10 March 2010

Just as Loris Capirossi joked that compared to hardened road racers, MotoGP riders are 'girls' [see separate story – click here], so Mark Webber has spoken his mind ahead of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign, arguing that the cars have now become so easy to drive that there are no 'real men' left in the top flight anymore.

Never one to hold back with his forthright opinions, in recent weeks Webber has lambasted the sorry state of some of the 2010 newcomers – and those who failed to make the grade – as 'embarrassing' and liable to lead to a 'Mickey Mouse' situation in which untried cars will be on the starting grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir this coming weekend. He quipped that record-breaking motorcycling world champion Valentino Rossi on his FIAT Yamaha would look less out-of-place in the field than Hispania, Lotus and Virgin [see separate story – click here].

Now, the outspoken Australian has hit out again, contending that technology has transformed the cars to so great an extent that F1 is no longer a sport for the likes of the late Gilles Villeneuve, René Arnoux, Alan Jones and Nigel Mansell, to name but a few – true gladiators of yore – but is instead enabling such as 19-year-old Jaime Alguersuari and some of this year's debutants to join the fray when 20 or 30 years ago they would scarcely have stood a chance.

“The cars are easier to drive,” he told British broadsheet the Daily Telegraph. “You don't look at these guys and think 'they are real men'. They are talented, no question, but there is less in common. There is power steering now, [and] a lot of things that make the cars easier to drive. That's why these youngsters can get away with it.

“I came through the categories with gear sticks and what have you, and that was beneficial for me – but there is no point whingeing about it. They come along and do a good job for the most part. Some don't, but every now and again – whether it's a Lewis [Hamilton] or a Seb [Vettel] – they can, with phenomenal grooming, come in and do a good job.”

To that end, Webber has launched a team in the new GP3 feeder series this season along with his Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner, in an effort to adequately prepare young pretenders for the rigours and demands of the pinnacle of international motor racing – for as the 33-year-old's former team-mate David Coulthard has pointed out, F1 is 'not a finishing school' [see separate story – click here].

“I want them to learn from what I learnt along the way,” the New South Wales native explained, “teaching them that when they get that meeting with [McLaren team principal] Martin Whitmarsh, they haven't made it, because he has had every ****** in there.

“I won't hold their hand. For me, if someone is holding a silver spoon for you the whole way through, when you get to the top someone like Fernando [Alonso] will rip you to smithereens. You have to have been in the back alleys.”

Webber went on, finally, to defend his former manager Flavio Briatore, the divisive ex-Renault F1 managing director whose reputation has perhaps been forever sullied by the infamous 'Singapore-gate' race-fixing scandal, regardless of the overturning of the Italian's lifetime ban by the French High Court earlier this year.

“You know, we have some stale individuals in this paddock,” the man from Queanbeyan reasoned. “Flavio was a character, flamboyant. You need those types in every sport – the José Mourinhos of this world.”


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