Much of the gossip of the moment centers on where Mark Webber will be heading for 2007. Frank Williams is in no hurry to sign him up for another season, it seems, and has let his option expire, perhaps with the intention of offering Mark the drive but for less money. Former champion, Alan Jones, has advised Mark to stay put and this might be a good plan, provided he gets the offer. Meanwhile there is the possibility of a drive at McLaren or Renault, although this looks a little unlikely, given the numerous driver options available to those teams.
Much hinges on Kimi Raikkonen’s eventual decision. If he leaves McLaren for Ferrari, Webber’s stock must increase in view of his talent and experience. And, if Kimi goes to Renault, it would make sense for McLaren to take Mark on for the second car alongside Alonso. But, if Kimi stays at McLaren, all bets are off and Mark would do best to stay where he is.
It looks as though Alan Jones is right; Mark should stick with Williams. The chances of a drive with Renault are remote to say the least, especially when we remember Fisichella’s statement that his teammate for 2007 will be a Finn. McLaren already have a star signed up in Alonso and so are most likely to offer the second car to someone they know, Pedro de la Rosa or Gary Paffett. So Mark can do little but wait to see what Frank will offer him.
Formula 1 is perhaps the only sport in which it becomes fairly common for drivers to take a pay cut. I think Ayrton Senna started the trend when he once offered to drive for Williams for nothing. But it is only the stars who can afford to do that; at the back of the grid new drivers are on a pittance and often bring much-needed sponsorship money with them. Webber must have been receiving a good wage at Williams and could afford to settle for less, I would think.
However, if I were Ron Dennis, I’d be thinking seriously about giving the second seat to Webber. Experience counts and his other options can get their experience in lesser teams – their time will come. David Coulthard spent many years with McLaren and always did a sound, competent job for them. Mark Webber could do the same but with the added frisson that he might just prove quicker than we’d thought. His performance in Germany gave some hint at that.
Whatever happens, I hope Mark does not run out of options. It would be a pity if he were to find himself without a decent drive for next year.