McLaren’s 2008 world champion had a tumultuous season on and off the circuit last year, but has returned having reunited with his girlfriend and with extra support in the form of Mika Hakkinen’s former manager Didier Coton.
“It’s normal for a sportsman or woman to go through some headwinds in their career — particularly someone like him who had so much success so early, and he’s black, and he’s got interest, and he’s got a girlfriend of profile,” Red Bull driver Webber is quoted by the Sun newspaper.
“Let’s hope he’s strong but not too strong. As a competitor you hope he can realise his potential but clearly we still want to beat him,” added the plain-talking Australian.
Despite winning the season ending Brazilian grand prix last year, Webber also had a less than ideal 2011 as his teammate Sebastian Vettel utterly dominated.
The 35-year-old, however, has lost a couple of kilos over the winter and insists he is ready for 2012.
F1 chief executive Ecclestone backs Webber to succeed.
“I think Mark will be the guy who will threaten him (Vettel) if anybody,” the 81-year-old told The Australian newspaper.
“The last time I spoke to him about it, he was really motivated.”