There are many who believe Red Bull’s Mark Webber could have been 2009 world champion had he not broken his leg during the winter break. This season looks like it may be shaping up to be an even tougher challenge for Webber, with Ferrari and McLaren determined to bounce back and Michael Schumacher returning with Mercedes. According to the Australian, however, his RB6 is very much a frontrunner, as he explained exclusively to Formula1.com…
Q: Mark, you had the honour of driving the RB6 for the first time? How did you mastermind it?
Mark Webber: Gee, there was no masterminding behind it. Actually I was always going to drive the car on the first two days. Of course it was nice of the team to give me that privilege, but we are such a close unit – me and Sebastian (Vettel) – we know what we want to try to achieve together with the team and everybody knows his responsibility. Of course there were tricky conditions, with all the rain and the cold temperature, and the last thing a driver wants to do is to cause more work for the mechanics, but so far everything went very well.
Q: If I could read your thoughts, what would they tell me about the RB6?
MW: It would probably be that we aren’t surprised by anything. We are on target – that is what it would say.
Q: You had a small oil leak on the first day, but racked up 100 laps on your second day in the car. Are you leaving Jerez satisfied?
MW: Yes, the mileage was a little bit above average. It wasn’t sensational but we made a pretty good start, and we are pretty satisfied with the mileage we did, as it tells something about reliability.
Q: With full fuel tanks, the mission for everyone will be to watch their rear tyres at the start of the race. Does your driving style help preserve tyres?
MW: We will find out. Normally my ability is not so bad, but my last stint in Abu Dhabi last year was not so great. I think it is a challenge for the drivers to get hold of the new regulations. But we have had changes all along in the past – traction control, no traction control, V8, V10. We have had so many changes over the last ten years in the sport, and this is another one, and I am sure all of us will adapt very quickly.
Q: Which car do you think will be the biggest threat to the RB6?
MW: There are a lot of teams doing a similar job at the moment. It is hard to read any more into it than that. We have a lot of variety in performance at the moment because of the different fuel loads obviously. We will see a difference of something like five seconds per lap from the start of the race to the end of the race. That is massive. And what I see is that people are testing different parts of a race, so it’s almost impossible to say who is doing what. We are focusing on ourselves at the moment. I would not want to predict who is really on top. Kobayashi was doing fantastic times on Thursday, and the (BMW Sauber) car looks amazing, but how much fuel was he on? What is his time worth? It’s the fuel that makes the car look so different.
Q: Are you still worried about the leg you broke before the 2009 season?
MW: No, the leg is very good. I had some more surgery on November 19, so I had a further six weeks off. I got a little bit fat, but now that has all gone thanks to the training I did lately. I am in a much better position than I was last year.
Q: Would you call yourself an intellectual driver? You sometimes give the impression of being bored by being asked the same questions at race after race …
MW: Sometimes it tests your patience of course, but I wouldn’t say that I am massively intellectual. Sometimes I like to look at other things and not just what is happening in here. Sometimes. But I do understand that this is a specialized environment focusing on racing. I understand that.
Q: Last year you came close to the title. This year it looks as if eight drivers could be in the running for the championship, are you worried?
MW: I don’t think that it will be eight. It will become a bit less than that quite quickly. Sure there are some very strong teams this year, but by halfway through the season I don’t think that you will have eight people in contention for the championship. There will be less. Of course both of us are in it – that’s my personal opinion. We all have it in our heads that Michael Schumacher is with the championship-winning team, and they are of course looking to win the championship again. McLaren have two world champions, Red Bull was very strong last year and got a lot of points, Fernando (Alonso) is with Ferrari and Felipe Massa is also doing very well. That’s what everybody is thinking – that you’ve got these four teams who will decide the championship amongst them, but as always we will have some dark horses who will pop up here and there. Those drivers I just mentioned are just the logical candidates you might think of.
Q: Who do you see on the podium in Bahrain?
MW: I like to believe that we are going to be there. Let’s make it that I win, Sebastian is second and Fernando third!