x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Webber is calm before the storm on Sunday

Mark Webber has surprised even himself with how calm he feels even about the permutations in play as he prepares for the biggest race of his career.

Mark Webber, the Red Bull-Renault driver, admits feeling the nerves but not being sick before any of the races.
Mark Webber, the Red Bull-Renault driver, admits feeling the nerves but not being sick before any of the races.

ABU DHABI // Mark Webber has surprised even himself with how calm he feels as he prepares for the biggest race of his career.

The Red Bull-Renault driver would become the first Australian to win the Formula One title since Alan Jones in 1980 if he scores at least eight points more than Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.

Webber, 34, is contesting a title for the first time in his nine years in the sport.

But the chance to win the biggest prize in motorsport has not rattled him.

Speaking in the Red Bull motorhome yesterday, he suggested that he felt serene about the enormity of what he could achieve. "In a bizarre sort of way I feel like I have been here before, which is pretty ridiculous," he said.

"I don't know if it is because of my odds at the start of the year, [when] no one gave me a chance. I am not taking that for granted, saying that if I don't get it, it is OK, as I do have a sensational chance of winning it, the second-best chance."

Nerves have affected him in the past, he conceded, but he believes those were not caused by the pressure of the situation but, rather, by the fear of not doing well.

"I remember reading about Sir Steve Redgrave vomiting before the Olympic Games," he said.

"I can sympathise with that. That's not pressure; that is a fear of failure in there, a cocktail of so many things - adrenalin, expectations of yourself.

"That's all these things that come into it, and there is an element of pressure, not that you're not going to perform.

"I've not been sick before a race but I've certainly been nervous at hundreds of races. It's always a similar feeling."

Webber does not have a big circle of family in Abu Dhabi, just his parents. He said he does not think The Stag, the pub in Mentmore, in Buckinghamshire, England, that he owns, is doing anything special to mark the occasion. "I don't think so. The main chef didn't even let the race (in Brazil last weekend) be put on TV," he said in jest.

There are all sorts of permutations possible in Sunday's race that could see Webber, his teammate Sebastian Vettel, Alonso or Lewis Hamilton become champion.

Webber said he has tried to put the matter out of his mind.

He said: "What have I got to worry about? I could lose the championship by winning the race and Fernando finishing second, but I could win the championship by finishing fifth. It is not worth really thinking about too much at this stage."

gcaygill@thenational.ae