What is life like after Racing?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Australian former professional racing driver, Mark Webber, about life after racing.

Introduction: What is life like after Racing?

Ross Greenwood:  Welcome back to Manly News right around Australia. I want to take you back. This program, it’ll be nine years ago, I reckon, when we played this for you.

Announcer: Mark Webber, you are a Grand Prix winner. Well done, you deserve it. Brilliant drive.

Ross Greenwood:  The first of nine victories at the very sharpest age of competitive sport in the world today. There is no doubt about that. If you’re a Formula 1 driver, you’ve got to put up with not only the commercial strains that come with trying to be a part of a racing team that’s got many tens of millions of dollars behind you. You got to be part of the cutting edge of technology that can see vehicles actually being transformed into something that has that slight edge that can win. You’ve got to compete against some of the biggest egos and great talents in the world, and to succeed at that level as Mark Webber did for such a long period of time shows that you can compete at that edge. We spoke to him today after he won his first race, the first of nine, just a day or so afterwards, when that excitement, because it shows you the release of it and just what it means to be competing at that edge. I’m very pleased to say nine years later, he’s on the line right now. Mark, many thanks for your time.

Interview with: Mark Webber, former professional racing driver

Mark Webber: No worries at all.

Ross Greenwood:  It’s incredible to think nine years ago, for me it’s flashed by, would have for you also I would have imagined.

Mark Webber: It has, yes. It’s gone quick. It’s almost like a different person to be honest, back then. What I was up to, it was an absolute honor obviously to race that level and work with tremendous people. It drove me to levels I never knew I had, which is great. Yes, I really was fortunate to achieve some great success at that level.

Ross Greenwood:  What you’re talking about here is succeeding in an ultra competitive environment. Now, lots of people in their everyday lives, doesn’t matter whether they’re a public servant or whether they’re working at the cutting edge of banking or finance, wherever they might be, most people recognize that there is competition from fellow employees, from the competitive forces that are out there. In regards to what you had to do as a driver, when you came in there, Sebastian Vettel came in as a teammate, you had to try and work out the deals. How personally involved were you in many of the deals that you had to cut with the racing teams?

Mark Webber: At that level, at the end in Formula 1 obviously, it’s really my skill set, I suppose, in driving that does a lot of the talking. Obviously I had people looking after those negotiations for me in terms of contracts and getting those deals done, but when you’re going through the junior categories I lost. You are your own brain. You’re trying to get in the shot window to display to the teams how hungry you are, how disciplined you are, and how you’re going to make a difference to their business, and a difference to their operation. You have to be in the mindset of prepared to do something that other people aren’t in terms of the stamina level, I suppose, and the sacrifice you’ve got to put towards showing them you want to go from being amateur to professional, and they don’t want you to be with anyone else they want to be with you. You’ve got to do whatever you can to make that happen.

Ross Greenwood:  Strange thing at that level. How do you try and figure out in your own mind and with your management as to how much you’re worth at that level? Clearly, everybody would understand that a Formula 1 driver is being paid as much as any racing car driver on Earth, but how do you actually figure out what your worth is?

Mark Webber: You’ve got, obviously, a rate which is generally, if you’ve had points before, if you’ve had podiums before, if you’ve won races before, so obviously the further you go up, if you’re a World Champ, a Triple World Champion. If you’re getting yourself further up the train, that has to be considered. You’ve got a feel for the market, and what people are being paid for in and around that bracket, and it does move pretty aggressively, obviously, the further you go up. Yes.

Then, how long is your contract? How much is your worth going to change while you’re in that current contract? Now, if you do a long deal obviously you’re looking for security then, but also the rules might change while you’re in that contract. Either way, you might be struggling to perform or the team might be struggling to perform but you’ve locked into a good commercial range, which is good for you. Or you yourself, and your form is on fire, and the share prices is rocketing, and your price is a bit low if you’re in a long term arrangement. You’ve got to look at how long the term is, and what you want, how much flexibility you want. Also, bonuses right? There’s also bonuses in the base contract which is clearly up for negotiation before you go in.

Ross Greenwood:  I’ve often spoken to other elite sports people about this, but as you move further forward in your career, you had 2015 Formula 1 Grand Prix Racers, you won nine times, you had 42 podium finishes, so this is, in hindsight, a very celebrated career. The one issue I could understand would be, if you’ve got more money attached to you, you’ve got more expectations upon you, and as you go further through your career do you tend to feel more pressure, the pressure of those that are necessarily reaching for your position and the fact that you’ve got to keep performing to maintain your position?

Mark Webber: Yes, that’s the biggest thing. Formula 1, obviously when you’re in the top teams, the top teams can employ whoever they want. I never drove around and thought, “They’re paying me this and I’ve got to perform in terms of the revenue component.” I’ve got to perform just because the amount of work that’s going in. There’s 800 people working for the team and there’s an immense amount of effort going into making sure that car is going to be put absolutely on the limit of what it’s capable of doing, and that’s what they’re paying me to do. That’s where the pressure comes, or that’s where the excitement comes and the expectations, delivering for the whole team is that they want you to exploit that part of your skill set. Where there’s many other people on the team who have their sets of skills which clearly I can’t do and that’s why they’re paid to do their job. I rarely was in a race, if not ever, thinking, “I’m being paid to do this.” It’s more about the performance element of delivering for the team.

Ross Greenwood:  Okay, but then there comes that point, 2013 for you, where you’ve got to retire as a relatively young man, although having been well compensated on the way through, but then you’ve got to think about, “Okay, I’ve got to do something with the rest of my life.” So that itself is almost a sense of leadership. You, for a period of time, went to Porsche. You lead their Le Mans style international sports car, and the World Endurance Championship came your way, but it’s still one of those points where you’ve got to think further ahead, don’t you?

Mark Webber: Of course, yes. The exit is very important to get right, and I made a clear decision that I want it to be on my terms. I was still driving all the time. Could I have then gone back through and had contracts with smaller teams? Absolutely. Did I want to do that? No, I wanted to stop at the top which I pretty much did in terms of how I was the second step of the podium in my last Grand Prix ever with getting the fastest lap of the night and standing with Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso who the two of the best guys in the current generation we’ve had in the last 15 years. That was a nice way to go out.

Then I had a Porsche long term contract in place for me to drive their cars, in which they return to endurance racing which was sensational and I still enjoy a tremendous relationship to this day. I look back at that decision as a very positive one, proactive one. I look at a lot of other sports where people don’t get to- I stopped at around 38-39. You’re right, I am young in terms of my lifespan, hopefully, it should be. In terms of my professional career that’s a long- apart from golfers, there’s not many other sports where you can go- golf you can play till you’re 98 right, but in terms of most other sports you will have to stop sooner than that. That could also be tragically with injury or careers were cut short through really no fault of your own through outside influences. Tennis, for example, their bodies break down. You’ve got football and all sorts of other sports where it stops earlier than that. I think motor racing’s been very good to a lot of drivers and like I’ve told personally in my own experience, been positive for me. Yes, what now? You’ve got to find new challenges, you’re always going to have goals, and you’ve got to find new ways to make a difference and have a goal. I’ve got Aussie Great Apparel, which is an outdoor apparel brand which we’re doing for some great clothing and mountain biking and running space which I’m really-

[crosstalk]

Ross Greenwood:  Which have been things you’ve done. You had the Mark Webber Tasmanian Challenge, or that type of thing. Indeed, the outdoor experience, which is where your fitness for Formula 1 came from, that’s always been a passion of yours so that’s something you could also embark upon as part of your post-racing career.

Mark Webber: Yes, which I do. I love the outdoors. It’s very important to my well being. I love to get outside. I’m not a gym guy, I’m not going to be going to gyms and hanging out in there. I want to be out in the elements. I love getting out and about and doing those sports, so that’s important to me. I fly aircraft, I fly helicopters when I can, so that’s very good for my mind, for the discipline, and focus, and concentration which is important. It’s not for adrenaline. I never drove racing cars for adrenaline, believe it or not. It was really the competition and the satisfaction of squeezing everything out of myself against the best guys. on the hardest tracks in the world. So it is an adjustment. Is it something you can always have? Of course it’s not. Formula 1 is the military of motor sport. You can’t always do it for as long as you’d like, but that’s just reality. You have to move on and get into the next phase of your life, which is a complete change of gear, but you have to do what you can to find the next challenges within your life outside that. It’s going to be very, very hard to keep those heady heights of formula 1, and when you’re at your peak, obviously you’re young, everything’s better when you’re young. You know, “Back when I was young-.” Whatever. You’ve got to look for the future challenges and look forward, not backwards.

Ross Greenwood:  Mark, we’ve been great to have you on the program this evening talking competition at the highest cutting edge level. We appreciate your time.

Mark Webber: Thank you, Ross. No worries mate.

[00:10:47] [END OF AUDIO]

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