Mark Webber has said goodbye to Formula One with a typically gritty drive to second place in the Brazilian Grand Prix and without shedding a tear.
The 37-year-old Australian, who overcame a variety of obstacles on his 12-year journey from Queanbeyan to Interlagos, via Silverstone, Monaco and Milton Keynes, did his best to retain his dignity after claiming the 42nd podium finish of his career.
His boss, Red Bull team chief Christian Horner, said: “We spoke before the race and I said hopefully you’ll be there on the last lap — and told him to enjoy it and take it all in. It was a great finish for him.”
Not only did Webber enjoy it, he recorded the fastest lap of the race and then pulled off his visor and balaclava to make sure he absorbed the frenzied atmosphere at the season-ending race.
“Fantastic race, it’s been brilliant working with you,” shouted Horner on the team radio. “You can be proud of what you’ve done, we certainly are – very proud.”
After 215 races, Webber departed with nine wins and a host of memories, but without the world title he may have taken had he not been partnered at Red Bull by the exceptional four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
“It is inevitable you are going to have adversity in your career and some decisions you should have made differently,” admitted Webber.
“But you have to go with the flow and the decisions you make at the time.”
Webber’s final day started and ended with a flavour of Australia. He was welcomed into his garage with applause from his Red Bull team with Waltzing Matilda playing in the background.
The team also draped an Australian flag above his car, bearing the number two, with a pit board alongside reading “Thank you Mark”. On the final podium, the flag was lifted again.
“He has had a tremendous career and it has been great to see him achieve what he has,” added Horner.
“The part he has played in us winning four constructors championship has been tremendous for him.
“He is tough, determined, brave and a gentleman racer and one of the old school racers.”
For Webber himself, the most difficult emotional moment came in his final drivers’ briefing on Friday.
“The guys gave me a very good reception and I had a little chat with them, and that was nice,” he said.
“Colleagues are the ones that you work so hard to compete against over 17 years and it means a lot to you so that was quite touching.
“It was so good to get a good reception off those guys. That was a bit of a wake-up call, I suppose.”
He added: “I wouldn’t want to be having my last weekend every weekend, in terms of the interest it gets, but it has been quite touching.
“A lot of the messages have been quite incredible from all around the world. That has been very, very special for me.”