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Webber is a future champion, says Jaguar boss
October 13, 2003 18:13 IST
While Michael Schumacher celebrated his record sixth Formula One championship, Jaguar hailed their Australian driver Mark Webber as the man who would be king.
Webber, 27, has been one of the revelations of the season along with Renault's 21-year-old Spaniard Fernando Alonso and McLaren's title runner-up Kimi Raikkonen, who is 23.
While the two younger men won races this year, Webber, in his second full season after a points scoring debut with Minardi in 2002, has yet to stand on the podium.
But Jaguar team boss Tony Purnell felt sure that the Australian's time would come.
"One thing that really impresses me about Mark is the same thing that impresses me about Michael," Purnell said as the champagne flowed for Ferrari's record-breaker.
"Michael's world champion because he's talented and he works at it, he just never stops.
"And Mark is just in the same mould. I think they are similar characters. Mark's a fanatic really and he's got a big work ethic. He is going places.
"If I were to nip down to the bookmakers' and say who will be world champion over the next five years I would definitely put his name down. He is a world champion in the making.
"He's a very decent bloke as well, as is Michael.
"People who work for Michael think that he's a top bloke and when you get a lot of adulation it makes such a difference to keep your feet on the ground in that way with the people you work with."
Webber recently joined Schumacher as one of four directors of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, the first of the new wave to take such a position and a sign of the respect he commands.
The Australian has also been linked in paddock speculation to a possible move to former champions Williams, who gave his compatriot Alan Jones the car to win the title in 1980, or Renault.
He has a contract at Jaguar for the next two seasons.
"You never say never but it's not remotely in our plans, we've never talked about it and nobody's ever approached us," said Purnell when asked whether Jaguar might seek to cash in on their rising star.
"It's a good story but it doesn't seem to be based in reality."
Webber scored 17 of Jaguar's 18 points this season and led a grand prix for the first time.