Mark Webber, who won Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix in dominant fashion in a Red Bull-Renault, reminds me of another late-bloomer, Nigel Mansell, who – once he won his first race – went on to not only win a world championship but to dominate the sport.
It took Webber a little longer than Mansell to start winning races (seven years as compared to five) but after winning his first one last year in Germany, he’s won three more, including the last two – Spain a week ago and now Monte Carlo.
Mansell entered F1 in 1980 and didn’t notch his first win until 1985, at Brands Hatch in England. As was the case with Webber last year (who won in Brazil at season’s end), Mansell won his second race before the ‘85 season ended and then his career took off just like a rocket.
In fact, Mansell was one of three drivers in the running for the 1986 world championship (although he had to wait till 1992 before finally winning it).
Like Mansell the year after his first win, Webber is showing every indication that he’ll be a serious contender for the title this season.
The parallels continue.
– Both are big boned, fit, determined guys. You could see the fire in Mansell’s eyes, like you can in Webber’s.
– Both got their F1 breaks from benefactors who opted for nationality over results – at least in the beginning: Colin Chapman hired countryman Mansell over more experienced offshore drivers, as did Frank Williams later. Ditto Paul Stoddart with fellow Australian Webber.
– Both thrive (or, in the case of Mansell, thrived) when in the company of teammates expected to do the winning. In Mansell’s case, he had to contend with not only the talent but the back-stabbing of first, Nelson Piquet, and later, Alain Prost. Sebastien Vettel was expected to be the Red Bull team leader this season but so far he’s been outshone by Webber (although they’re currently tied for the lead in the world championship standings despite Webber having more victories).
The comparisons could go on and on. The bottom line is, however, that Mark Webber, like "Il Leone," is full of confidence and vision. He’s tough physically and mentally. He’s got his eye on the world championship and, if he’s really anything like Mansell, he’s going to go out and get it and wrestle it to the ground and make it his own.