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Webber reflective after breakthrough year

Mark Webber’s best season in Formula One came to a dramatic end on Sunday night in Abu Dhabi, with the Red Bull driver fending off fast-finishing world champion Jenson Button to take a hard-fought second place in the first-ever Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit.

It was the 33-year-old’s eighth podium of a season that produced his maiden win in Germany and a further success in Brazil, but even in the immediate aftermath of the race, the Australian was in a reflective mood.

Asked for his highlight of the season, one in which he finished fourth in the drivers’ championship with 69.5 points, Webber chose to look back 12 months to his cycling accident in Tasmania last November, and what he learned about himself in his arduous recovery from a badly broken right leg.

“It sounds strange, but the recovery for me was probably the highlight,” he said.

“When I was flying here for the last race, I got thinking that so much water had gone under the bridge this year. You know the human body is a pretty clever thing with the way that it heals and so on, but it was unchartered waters for me – I’ve never been an injured person before. I was impatient, but what I learned about myself was that when you thought you’d dug deeper in your life before, you found new levels again.”

Webber defended superbly against Button in the latter stages of Sunday’s race, and managed to stay ahead of the Brawn driver despite struggling on the option Bridgestone tyre. The Australian relished the chance to fight head-to-head with the Englishman.

“I was happier to have this fight with ‘JB’ than maybe some other guys. I knew it would be fair and hard, and it was. It’s good to have a ding-dong fight with the world champion,” he said.

“It’s never ideal finishing the race on the back foot with the feeling we had with the car. The option (tyre) on Friday, I wasn’t happy with it and struggled with it, and again today, the same happened. Jenson’s car was the opposite – it was completely transformed.

“With the last two laps, it’s always the same when you’re in a fight like that. You try to treat them like they’re the same as any other laps, but the pressure starts to mount. You’ve just got to be incredibly precise with the big stops. Turns 8 and 11 was where Jenson was going to attack me, and I wasn’t going to give it to him on a plate.”

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