NOVEMBER 20, 2000
Benetton confirms Webber
THE Benetton team has finally confirmed that Australia's Mark Webber is to be its test driver in 2001. The 24-year-old will be the third member of the driving staff alongside Jenson Button and Giancarlo Fisichella. He will also compete in FormulaŹ3000 with the Super Nova team and backing from Benetton's new sponsor Elf. He will start the Formula 3000 season as the clear favorite to win the title.
Webber impressed the team enormously when he tested a B200 at Lurcy-Levis and Estoril in September. The first test was aerodynamic mapping work for get Webber comfortable in the car but in the second test he was faster than Fisichella after just a couple of days in the car.
Webber, who finished third in the Formula 3000 Championship this year with the European Racing team, will begin his testing work with the team at Jerez at the start of December. With the new Renault V10 engine and with Benetton expected to use Michelin tires next year, there is going to be a great deal of work for Webber in the months ahead.
"It is a dream come true," said Webber. "It is a great buzz for me to be involved with the team next year in testing and developing the car. I just can't wait to get into it. With the manufacturers now so heavily involved in Formula 1 and the testing schedules, the development of the cars is so intense that the race drivers just can't do it all, so they are looking for a reliable third man."
Webber's appointment, which was announced at the launch of the 2001 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne last week, has caused much excitement in Australia which has not had a Grand Prix driver since David Brabham left F1 five years ago. The Australians are hoping that Webber will be start of a new era of frontrunning Australians in Grand Prix racing and with James Courtney having won the British Formula Ford 1600 series this year and looking for a drive in British Formula 3 next year that is not an impossible dream. There is also considerable interest Down Under in the developing career of 18-year-old Will Davison. The grandson of four-time Australian GP winner Lex Davison won the Victorian State Formula Ford Championship this year, scoring 119 out of a possible 120 points and over the weekend won the FF1600 race at Mount Panorama, Bathurst, in the wet after starting seventh on the grid.
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