Q and A with injured Mark Webber Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber was injured recently when he collided head on with a four wheel drive while undertaking the cycling section of this year’s Pure Tasmania Challenge. The Aussie racer broke two bones in his right leg and is currently recuperating down under before heading back to Europe in a few weeks to begin his rehabilitation in preparation for next year’s Formula One world championship.
Speaking to the Australian media, Mark explained what actually happened, his recovery schedule and his plans for getting fit for 2009…
What actually happened in the accident?
I steered to try and avoid the car but if I went too far I would end up in a ditch. I did a pretty good job preventing my upper limbs and head from taking an impact but there wasn’t much I could do about getting my legs out of the way because my feet were clipped into the cleats so they took the hit. The pain was pretty bad and I knew straight away that my lower leg was broken.
Who was the first person to reach you?
There were three of our Challenge paramedics on the scene within a few minutes as they had been following the stage. It was just by chance that dad - who was volunteering on the Challenge - was close by. He was aware that there had been an accident and went down to see if he could help out; he had no idea it was me until one of the other volunteers told him.
Do you think it's ironic that you were injured on a bike and not in a racing car?
Well, I guess the general perception is that I risk my life every day I step into a racing car whereas the reality is the safety levels in Formula One these days are incredibly high and you have to be very unfortunate to be seriously hurt. By contrast, there’s hardly any protection when you’re on a bike, especially when you collide with a 4WD. Yes, it’s ironic I was injured on a bike rather than in a racing car but then again, I’m out on my bike virtually every day when not in a F1 car so the odds are higher.
What 'repairs' were made at the hospital?
The only surgery was when I first came in after the accident and they operated to insert the rod and two screws.
When do you think you will be heading back to the UK?
I’m hoping to head to Canberra or Melbourne for two or three weeks before going back to Europe. I’d be back there tomorrow if I was allowed but the doctors here have advised against doing a long-haul flight too soon after surgery.
How much disruption will the injury cause?
F1-wise I was only testing for two days in December and Sebastian Vettel and I weren’t due in the new car until next year. So my time in the car hasn’t really been disrupted. The past few days have been a bit of a disruption being laid up in hospital but I guess I haven’t had any time off since the end of the F1 season so a week’s enforced holiday isn’t going to do too much harm. As soon as I’m up and about, I’ll be focused on my rehab. Christmas should remain as planned – at home in the UK. Mum and dad had already booked to come over to spend it with us, so we’ll stick to the original plan.
What is the prognosis on recovery?
At the moment we’re arranging for my medical reports to be sent to Europe for assessment by Red Bull’s medical experts. They have some of the best rehab resources and facilities in the world available to them as they deal with high profile ski injuries all the time and getting professional sports people back into competition.
Will this have any impact on your preparations for the 2009 F1 season?
Winter testing is being kept at a minimum so I’m not missing too much in that respect and having a broken leg doesn’t stop me visiting the Red Bull Racing factory and being on top of what’s happening with the new car. Fitness-wise, I’ll be fine too, there’s something like 83 days before the first test in 2009!
Schumacher won five world titles after breaking his leg. Does that boost your confidence?
I hadn’t really thought about that really. I’ve got lots of other people such as Mick Doohan, Lance Armstrong and Troy Bayliss who have always inspired me to do my best.
What is the message to your fans?
I was amazed about how big the news of my accident, particularly back in Europe where I think just about everyone I know in the UK has contacted either Ann or me. Ann told me it was on the BBC News headlines on Saturday morning. The messages of support and best wishes from people from around the world has been very touching so I’d like to thank everyone for those and to say that rest assured, I’ll back in plenty of time for the Australian Grand Prix at the end of March. I’ve had some great e-mails and text messages too from some of the other guys on the F1 grid as well as MotoGP and Superbike riders.
What can we expect from you at the first 2009 Australian Grand Prix?
It’ll be business as usual. Hopefully the RB5 will have come out of the box as we hoped and we’ll be able to challenge for points right from the start of what promises to be an interesting year with all the new rules and regulations.