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Standards are slipping in F1, warns Webber

Aug 6, 2013, 12:00 PM EDT

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Mark Webber says the standard of drivers in F1 has fallen since he entered the sport 11 years ago.

Webber, who is quitting F1 to join the World Endurance Championship at the end of the year, believes today’s grid is not as strong as it was in 2002.

“When I was on the grid at the back with Minardi you had [Eddie] Irvine, [Mika] Salo – all those guys had been on podiums,” he told Autosport.

Now he believes “there are a lot of talented guys out there, but a lot are slipping through the net unfortunately. That’s a sad state.”

Webber singled out Sauber reserve driver Robin Frijns as a “phenomenal young talent” who was struggling to find a place in F1 as he did not have any money behind him.

During the off-season race-winners and podium-scorers such as Heikki Kovalainen and Timo Glock lost F1 drives as their teams had to find drivers who could bring backing.

When Webber made his grand prix debut in Melbourne 11 years ago there were nine race-winning drivers on the grid: Rubens Barrichello, Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, David Coulthard, Juan Pablo Montoya, Olivier Panis, Jacques Villeneuve, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Eddie Irvine.

At this year’s season-opening race there were also nine former race winners among 22 starters. Webber was one of them, along with Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado.

  1. indycarseries500 - Aug 6, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    Oh how I wish there was still Tobacco money in the sport.

    • bmcgrath2 - Aug 6, 2013 at 9:19 PM

      How badass was the Lucky Strike car?

  2. apexassassin - Aug 7, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    I hate to agree with Webber on anything as he’s a proven nutter, but he’s onto something here. I’m not looking forward to 2014, and that speaks volumes.

    Pirelli, DRS, KERS/ERS, low revving hybrids, just don’t excite me the way F1 should… especially the engines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. purplesectornet - Aug 7, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    Well I totally disagree…the new engines are essential for the long term survival of the series, and they have done a fantastic job on the new formula…engines matter again…and I can’t agree the standard of drivers is lower…kimi, alonso, hamilton, vettel, rosberg is mixing it up in there…I’m sorry Mark you are way off base…no way are Barrichello or Irvine the caliber of drivers as these guys are…the back marker teams always go where the cash is…this isn’t new…

  4. indycarseries500 - Aug 7, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    The new engines only work if they entice new manufacturers to play. I’m with you and like the new formula even though I’m not buying the engine will significantly close the gap to aero. Most fans seem to prefer the high reving V8s but I doubt anyone will be turned off, as long as there’s Ferrari (significant emphasis on Ferrari), Hamilton, Alonso, McLaren, Kimi, news stars created along these guys, and Bernie or a very close confidant in charge F1 would be fine if something like Formula Ford became the new ‘Formula 1’

    Webber is totally right, maybe the sharp end of the grid is a little bit better now but top to bottom the 2002 was much much stronger.

  5. purplesectornet - Aug 8, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Honda is back in so the are already working by your definition…a little bit better? Please. There is no way guys like Frentzen, Irvine, Barrichello and Coulthard hold up to hamilton, vettel, kimi, etc. we are talking world champions vs guys who never won a title. A bit better? LOL.

    • indycarseries500 - Aug 8, 2013 at 12:24 PM

      That’s true and I said I like the new formula.

      I said the top end now is probably better now, but if you take 1-22 as a whole then vs. 1-22 as a whole now, 2002 is much stronger.

      It’s tough to really compare, since there was no dominant team/driver from 2005-2010 like Ferrari taking six straight WCCs and Schumacher five straight WDCs when the 2002 guys were in their primes.

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