Robb Interview: Mark Webber
Ahead of lights out at Albert Park, the former F1 driver opens up on life away from the track, timepieces and working with Oscar Piastri.
A legend amongst legends and truly one of the nicest men you could meet, Mark Webber was also a fierce F1 competitor — as seen in his nickname Aussie Grit.
Today, beyond his ambassadorial work for Rolex, the 46 year-old is proudly mentoring Aussie young gun, McLaren driver Oscar Piastri.
We spoke to Webber ahead of he and Piastri’s homecoming for this Sunday’s Melbourne Grand Prix.
Let’s discuss Melbourne – beyond being the Australian F1, what makes this such a special event?
Everyone [in the Formula 1 paddock] enjoys going to Australia, and likewise, the locals absolutely love hosting international events, whether it’s the tennis or the Grand Prix. Melbourne always puts on a fantastic show and yes, I might be a bit biased, but it’s one of the best races of the year, in terms of organisation, the vision, the pre-race activity.
This year, I’m particularly looking forward to the being there with Sir Jackie [Stewart], who has been my friend and mentor since early in my career. As a Rolex Testimonee, I’m also very proud that Rolex is returning as Title Sponsor of the race for 2023 – it always makes it feel extra special seeing the green and gold of Rolex around Albert Park… There is always so much anticipation for the race and I’m sure we will not be disappointed when the starting lights go out.
This year’s race calendar sees the debut of Las Vegas and a season comprised of a record-breaking 23 races. How important is it for Formula 1 to push into new territories?
Formula 1 has been a tremendous success story in the past few years, it’s been fascinating to watch. I think that the rivalry between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton in 2021 was pivotal in opening up the sport – we have never had such a wide demographic, across so many regions and ages, watching the sport as we have today. It’s wonderful to see the growth and enthusiasm as Formula 1 travels to new regions.
Rolex has been the Official Timepiece of Formula 1 since 2013. In your opinion, what makes this partnership such a natural one?
This year marks 10 seasons of Rolex and Formula 1, which is a wonderful milestone and showcases loyalty and is something that both parties can be very proud of. Rolex is a pioneer in watchmaking and Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motor sport, so everyone understands how the two worlds have become intertwined. Timing has always been crucial to success in Formula 1 and to see this partnership continue highlights the strength and longevity of the relationship.
What does it mean to be a Rolex Testimonee?
As a Rolex Testimonee, I’m fortunate to be able to talk about two of my great passions – watches and motorsport, and their strong association – with equally passionate people. Rolex has always supported the most dedicated, high-achieving athletes and the legacy that these great people stand for endorses the fact that Rolex is clearly world-class. Personally, to be involved with Rolex is a privilege.
This year is particularly notable for you with Oscar Piastri joining the grid for McLaren – how is life managing the young Australian driver?
It’s quite extraordinary, when you finish your career you receive lots of requests to try to support or guide young talent coming through the sport. It’s incredibly important that you find the right level of harmony with the people you work alongside, so that you can all get the most out of the relationship. When you want to have good results, you need to take higher risks to achieve great things, that’s part of the business we are in. When I started working with Oscar, I could see that his focus was sharp and he was extremely determined to compete in Formula 1. We saw his success in the junior categories and it’s wonderful to see that he’s achieved his dream of racing in Formula 1 this year with McLaren. There’s a fine line when mentoring young drivers because they must test their self-discipline and find their own way to navigate the sport themselves. At the end of the day, it’s of course Oscar’s career, but I’m pleased to be able to share the knowledge that I have built from my career with him.
Away from the track, any advice for those of us who perhaps need to decelerate a little in life?
I’m a great believer in benefiting from one’s natural surroundings. I spend a lot of my time outdoors – it’s where I’m at my happiest, whether that be running, cycling, walking the dog or swimming. Nowadays, we all have the tendency to heavily rely on technology, so sometimes it’s crucial to switch off and disengage. It’s incredibly important to prioritize oneself and take care of your body and mind.
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