Mark Webber flew into Melbourne at 06:30 on Saturday morning – then flew over the city’s landmark Bolte Bridge in a Red Bull-Renault Formula One car as Australia’s own Grand Prix hero began the build-up to next weekend’s 2011 Formula One Qantas Australian Grand Prix.
“It was pretty cool,” said Webber, who completed two ‘laps’ or four lengths of the bridge before driving the car down into the Docklands Waterfront City Piazza to be greeted by a cheering crowd and a large contingent of Australian media.
“I think I saw 102 km/h on the dash,” he joked, “but I hope I’ll be OK at that! You have to be very careful on a public road because the grip is very low and the car gets a bit slippery and skittish beneath you.”
Webber, third in last year’s World Championship, is keen to see the new campaign get under way after exhaustive pre-season testing in Spain.
“We’ve all been itching to get out here and get on with it,” he said. “We need to get the gloves off and go racing.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of action at Albert Park with the new rules and especially because we have a new tyre supplier: there will be lots of pit stops, that’s for sure. In the past we’ve known as early as the first 15 to 20 minutes how some races were going to unfold – not any more! It’s good for the neutrals, but a bit stressful for those of us who expect to be running at the front.”
Webber, 34, stressed the importance of his home race as he reflected on his bridge experience. “I’m immensely proud of the race being here,” he said. “These images will go all around the world and with the Grand Prix season about to start here in Australia the television audience will be even bigger.
“We’re here, we’re proud to be in Australia and it’s a sensational event. I hope the race stays in Melbourne because F1 is a global event and we need to be part of it.”