Mark Webber will become the thirteenth driver in Formula 1’s history to achieve 200 Grand Prix starts when he takes to the grid for today’s Bahrain Grand Prix. He will overtake Alain Prost on the all-time starters’ list.
The Australian joins a unique club of drivers in achieving this milestone, and will share the honour with two of his fellow racers – Jenson Button (231) and Fernando Alonso (200) – who have already surpassed 200 race starts.
Those to have already chalked up over 200 Grands Prix include four World Champions (Button, Alonso, Michael Schumacher and Nelson Piquet) and all but one of the half dozen – Andrea de Cesaris being the only exception – stood on the top step of the podium.
To-date, Mark has achieved nine wins, 35 podiums, 11 pole positions and 14 fastest laps. Here’s what some of his former employers and teammates say about his record in the sport:
So will his 200th race mark a tenth visit to the top step of the podium? With a three-place grid penalty, it looks like a tall order. But he can take comfort from the fact that the last two men to hit the 200-race milestone – Button at the 2011 Hungarian GP and Alonso last time out in China – claimed victory on the day.
How did the other members of the 200-Club fare on their 200th Grand Prix start?
Riccardo Patrese became the first driver to crack the 200 Grand Prix threshold at the 1990 British Grand Prix, having previously broken Jacques Laffite 176-race record in 1989.
After qualifying seventh-fastest, he was forced to retire his Williams at one-third distance after copping a whack up the rear from Alessandro Nannini’s Benetton.
Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet became the second driver in F1 history to hit the 200-race mark, although his achievement would come a handful of races before he retired from F1 for good.
* Denotes active racer. Correct to 2013 Bahrain GP
|Riccardo Patrese and Nelson Piquet were the first two drivers to crack 200 Grands Prix|
The Brazilian finished the 1991 Italian Grand Prix in sixth place, one spot behind a certain Michael Schumacher, who had joined the team as his teammate that weekend following a scintillating debut performance at the preceding Belgian Grand Prix. Figuring that Schumacher would quickly ascend to be the team’s new blue-eyed boy, a circumspect Piquet opted to retire from the sport at the end of the year.
Andrea de Cesaris was the sport’s third 200-Club member, and he remains its only member to have had a winless Formula 1 career. The Italian – dubbed ‘De Crasheris’ in his early days courtesy of a spate of accidents – contested his final Formula 1 season with Sauber in 1994, joining the team mid-year to replace the injured Karl Wendlinger. His celebration came at the Canadian Grand Prix, but he retired with an oil leak after 24 laps.
Gerhard Berger became the sport’s fourth 200-race veteran at the 1997 San Marino Grand Prix. Also in his final year of F1 competition, the Austrian spun his Benetton into retirement just four laps into the race.
It would be another four years before the ‘200-Club’ welcomed its fifth inductee in the form of Jean Alesi, who managed the honours at his penultimate Grand Prix outing, the 2001 United States Grand Prix. After being sacked by the Prost F1 team mid-season, the flamboyant French-Sicilian enjoyed a brief and final swansong with the Jordan team before hanging up his helmet after the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix. He finished in seventh place, just outside the points.
Inductee number six was Michael Schumacher, whose career had started way back in 1991. By now, the incredible German had gone on to amass six World Championship titles, and while the 2004 season would see him win his seventh, that year’s Monaco Grand Prix was a lowlight in an utterly dominant year. Schumacher had a bizarre collision with Juan Pablo Montoya in the tunnel behind the Safety Car, ending his race and hopes of breaking Ayrton Senna’s record of six Monaco Grand Prix wins.
Schumacher’s then teammate Rubens Barrichello would clock up his 200th GP start at year later in San Marino. In what was an uncompetitive year for the Ferrari squad, Rubens retired with an electrical failure. His F1 career would last twenty seasons, and he would become the first of two drivers (Schumacher being the other) to achieve over 300 Grand Prix starts.
David Coulthard finally broke the hoodoo of the 200th Grand Prix start by finishing on the podium in his 200th race – and the Red Bull Racing team’s first podium result – with third place at the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix.
With the team sporting a one-off livery to promote the new Superman movie, ‘DC’ wore a cape on the podium to mark the occasion!
Two years later and Giancarlo Fisichella became the ninth driver – and the third Italian – to clock up too Grand Prix starts, doing the honours at Monte Carlo. Unfortunately ‘Fisico’s Force India had other ideas, with its gearbox packing up after 36 laps.
Fisichella’s compatriot Jarno Trulli followed up with his 200th Grand Prix a little over 18 months later. Now driving for Toyota, Trulli finished third ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who was famously disqualified from the standings after lying about passing Trulli under yellow flags during the race.
|The last two men who hit their 200th Grand Prix – Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso – also won that particular race. Can Mark Webber make it a hat-trick?|
In 2011, Jenson Button became the first Englishman (Coulthard is Scottish-born) to chalk up 200 Grands Prix, and managed to celebrate the milestone with a delightful win with a masterful display of driving in a wet/dry race around the Hungaroring. Finally, the ‘200 Club’ had an extra special reason to celebrate!
And last weekend, Fernando Alonso became the twelfth member of the illustrious group, and capped off the achievement with victory in the Chinese Grand Prix, managing tyre wear to perfection to claim his first win of the season.