Melbourne: Red Bull’s Mark Webber has blown his chance of becoming the first Australian to win the Formula One title in 30 years and will not get another, according to compatriot and triple champion Jack Brabham.
Webber crashed out of last weekend’s South Korean Grand Prix while leading the championship and now lags Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by 11 points with two races remaining and just 50 points to be won.
“It would mean a lot to me and it would mean a lot to Australia, but unfortunately I think his real opportunity has been blown last weekend,” the 84-year-old told the AAP news agency.
“I’m really there behind him in the hope that he gets there but if he doesn’t do it this year, I don’t think he ever will,” added the man who won the title in 1959, 1960 and then in 1966 with his own team.
Alan Jones, in 1980, was the last Australian champion.
Brabham, a big supporter of 34-year-old Webber, said the Australian would find it hard next year to match the likes of 23-year-old German team mate Sebastian Vettel and double champion Alonso.
“People like Alonso are young and Mark’s getting a bit too old really now,” he said.
“He can probably go one more year but every year that goes by now he’s getting older and this is a young man’s sport. He’s racing against 21-year-olds or 22-year-olds and he’s got the job in front of him.”
Webber has won four races this year to Alonso’s five. Vettel has won three and is 14 points behind the Australian going into next week’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
Former world champion Jacques Villeneuve, a winner with Williams in 1997, also felt the moment was slipping away from Webber.
“Until the last race it looked good for Mark but the way Alonso has been driving, and he’s always a hard one, now that he’s in the lead it looks tough for anyone else to get to him,” the Canadian told BBC radio.
“I’ve always been a big Alonso fan because he is such a hard fighter, he doesn’t make many mistakes,” Villeneuve added.
“But lately (McLaren’s) Lewis (Hamilton) has improved a lot, it looks like he’s matured and doesn’t make the mistakes he used to make and he’s still the aggressive racer he was. So I think he’s a much better competitor right now.”