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Mark Webber

Australia’s Formula One sensation stops driving fast to talk fitness, fatness and acting the fool.

How are you feeling about the season so far?
My start was better than 2010 but things didn’t go to plan quite like they did in Spain and Monaco last year [where Webber won]. I’m hoping the next few races see me racking up more points – ideally from the top step of the podium.

The season is more than halfway through. Do you still feel the title is up for grabs?
Definitely. The Championship isn’t over until it’s mathematically impossible to win. Seb [Vettel, Red Bull Racing teammate] did a good job of proving that in 2010.

What’s your diet like?
I try to keep lean. The weight of the car includes the driver’s weight. I’m pretty tall for an F1 driver [185cm – the average is 174cm], meaning I have to be more careful that most. A typical day involves a low-GI breakfast cereal, toast, eggs, salad sandwiches, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish or chicken, a bit of pasta, yoghurt, water and fruit juice. During a race, you can lose up to two kilos in sweat, so hydrating correctly is also incredibly important.

How much does your weight affect the car?
When you’re talking about gaining hundreds of tenths of a second, everything counts, so my weight is an important consideration. For handling, ideally what you want is the freedom to distribute weight around the car, and when the driver is lighter, it means you’ve got more to play with. For speed, anyone watching can see the big difference in lap times when the fuel goes down over a race distance.

Do you ever just sit on the couch watching re-runs of Knight Rider and demolishing pizzas?
I can’t sit still for too long. It’s not in my nature. I love cycling and being outdoors. Chocolate and crisps are my vices but the off-season is only a couple of months, so there’s not a lot of time to get fat!

Unlike many athletes, you like to voice your opinion. Does that ever land you in hot water?
Some of my public comments are made tongue-in- cheek but it is really hard now for an athlete to give their opinion when asked, mainly because it will get taken out of context or blown out of proportion. I’ve had this conversation with Mal Meninga. Trust has broken down a bit because of the internet – it’s so much more competitive for all the journos. Like, back in Mal’s day, there was more trust and mateship between athletes and journos because it was just a couple of papers. Now everyone is chasing headlines.

Does that worry you?
Well, when I was asked earlier this year if we should hold a Grand Prix in Bahrain, I said, “Probably not.” Then, because nobody else really gave an opinion, I ended up looking outspoken. I think you should, at 34, try to have an opinion on certain things. But it gets quite frustrating sometimes. If I’m asked about something race-specific, it’s like a journo saying to Lleyton Hewitt they think the court is like this and Lleyton saying, “Nah, it’s like that.” If the guy disagrees with him, it’s like, “Mate, I just got off the court!” If you’ve never done it [racing], how can you question Michael Schumacher or whoever?

There’s this perception of you as a serious guy. Is that really the case?
I am a serious guy on game day, but all of us have got a side to us where we can relax a bit, too.

Go on…
I recently pushed [BBC F1 presenter] Jake Humphries into the Red Bull Racing pool in Monaco, which gave him a bit of a surprise. I grabbed him and dove, and we both ended up in the water. I don’t think it did his mic kit much good! I never plan to do anything – that would just take the fun out of it. That comes from my dad, actually. And my granddad. He was one of my biggest heroes. Even when he was an older boy, him and dad were constantly playing practical jokes on each other, and that obviously rubbed off on me.

We’ve done some digging and discovered you used to be a bit of a menace as a kid, too.
A dead-set terror, mate. But as long as I never destroyed anyone else’s property, I could have as much fun as I wanted. I’d be in trouble if I wrecked other people’s property because dad knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of that. He said my punishment would be a purple arse – if I was lucky. I certainly had a really good time back then but dad’s warning was always in the back of my mind.

Besides not trashing people’s property, what other advice can you give us?
Be true to yourself, work hard, play fair and tell it like it is. If you’re passionate about what you want, work your arse off to make it happen.

photos: aap image, big australia, getty images, red bull, snapper media

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