RIYADH: Former Formula One driver Mark Webber, said he was excited, confident and optimistic about the ABB Formula E Championship race in Diriyah this weekend.
Speaking to Arab News, the Porsche ambassador also said the German team’s entrance into Formula E at the season-opener in the Kingdom was a huge opportunity.
“Everyone is watching Porsche's arrival into Formula E this weekend in Saudi Arabia. It is a huge opportunity for us to show what we intend to do going forward and where we're optimistc, but we're very respectful of the opposition,” he said.
“The driver level is extremely high, let’s see if we can get a podium, but I think it might be a little step too far this weekend,” he added.
Webber, who is also an International Automobile Federation (FIA) World Endurance Champion, said that it was an exciting time for Porsche to enter a new championship and that he was impressed with the maturity of the Formula E championship.
“It's established and it's going all around the world racing and taking races to the people. So, it's really under their nose to watch what Formula E has to offer.”
However, Webber said Porsche were under no illusions about how tough Formula E was going to be and that it would be a tough championship for them to compete in.
“We know we've got some top rivals. Porsche absolutely loves to come in with their eyes open, respectful of the opposition.
“But, ultimately, we want to have success as soon as possible. That's why we go motor racing. We have a great team of people in place to get the job done. we're confident that we can do a good job by itself. Of Course, it might take a bit of time and a bit of patience, but we're excited to be here” he added.
Webber spoke to Arab News after driving the new Porsche Taycan, the firm’s newest all-electric model, with Saudi driver Aseel Al-Hamad from Dubai to Riyadh ahead of the city's Diriyah E-Prix this weekend.
And the experience of the car cemented his views about the electric motoring evolution, saying that motorsport has been a key facet to driving technology.
“That's something which the automotive companies have rested on for a long period of time, particularly at Porsche. They're very consistent with racing on track and then taking their best products and their best materials into the street section and have the opportunity for the customers to use that type of product. So, it's an exciting time.”
Driving fully electric sports car like the Taycan is a transition for him.
“We went from combustion engines into hybrid, which we were very successful with at the Le Mans 24-hour race, with a record number of victories Porsche have won there, it's something we're very proud of.
“Then the obvious question was when are we going to go fully electric? And that answer arrived with the arrival of the new Taycan,” he said.
The Taycan is among the most powerful production models that the sports car manufacturer currently has in its product range, and Webber is a fan.
“It's fully electric, and yes, it's a Porsche sports car. Obviously, the days of the combustion engine in terms of racing are coming under pressure because of this new technology and everyone's very excited about that.”
The Porsche Taycan is manufactured in Zuffenhausen, Stuttgart, the heart and soul of the Porsche brand and will be available in the Middle East in 2020.
Webber said that his arrival into Riyadh was his first time driving in Saudi Arabia and in a Taycan, and explained how groundbreaking it was to be using such technology.
“When technology comes along and these manufacturers and their clever engineers want to find a new way to get people around in a sustainable way and in their eco-friendly way, then it's a great opportunity for me to drive the Porsche here and bring the Taycan to town.
“The synergy between racing with the Formula E this weekend and the Taycan arriving, trhe timing is perfect. It's a nice marriage this weekend for the on track and off track.”
Webber explained his role in the Porsche Soul Journey with Al-Hamad, a showcase of Porsche’s first all-electric sports car and the brand’s inaugural season in the Formula-E series.
“We've been going through the regions through different, very significant locations, and I've been getting a bit of an education process along the way because it's her region, which has been great,”
He said that he too has been trying to educate her on the technology of the car.
“I know the car pretty well and I know it's been exciting times also in the area for women to drive cars (in the Kingdom).”
Speaking ahead of the Diriyah E-Prix, when asked whether he might venture back into competitive racing in Formula E, the Australian was philosophical.
“I am very old now, it’s a young man's game, and I’m very happy with my Formula One career and I'm watching Formula E with interest.”