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Webber and Ricciardo gunning for home glory 16 Mar 2012

(L to R): Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 (L to R): Stefano Domenicali (ITA) Ferrari General Director and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso.Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 15 March 2012 Pit board for Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 4 March 2012

Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo will be doing their best to ensure that Advance Australia Fair is played after Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Red Bull racer Webber faces his 11th home race, and comes here fresh from victory in Brazil last year and a solid run of pre-season testing that has left the team quietly confident.

“We had a pretty good winter, the team worked incredibly hard so we need to see how it’s going to unravel this weekend,” he said. “Then Malaysia is just around the corner, so we have two big races, we’re going to get a really good snapshot of the performances of the cars, and we feel like we’ve done pretty well but we have McLaren and Ferrari and Lotus and Mercedes, lots of good guys doing well so it’s going to be very exciting and difficult to see who’s going to do the business until we get going.”

Webber admitted on Thursday that the first race of the year brings with it feelings of nervousness, excitement and apprehension. “It’s probably a little bit of all of that,” he said. “I think there’s a little bit of rust in all the teams, obviously we haven’t raced for a while so you’re looking at pit stops and strategy and drivers because we haven’t competed for a while. So, that’s always interesting to get on top of that at the first grand prix. I think we’re all just looking forward to getting our helmets on and getting on with it now. Obviously we’ve been talking about it for nine weeks now, about who’s doing what and we’re just sick of talking about it and want to get out there and get on with it.”

While he’s primed to excel against world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel, Ricciardo faces his first race at home in a Toro Rosso that has also shown good form in testing. But he said: “I think my first Grand Prix, in Silverstone last year, was still pretty hectic. I think not having the preparation as I have at the start of this year probably made it a bit more intense. I’ve had a lot of media attention the last couple of days but I think the on-track stuff was, or will be, more intense in Silverstone. But yeah, I understand what Mark means about the attention here. It’s pretty full-on but it’s been nice, really supportive. And hopefully I’ll just get out on track and do a good job over the weekend.”

Last year he raced with HRT; this season he has a much better chance of scoring points regularly and running in the upper midfield.

“It’s a good opportunity for me this year,” he added. “It’s progress from last year and we’ll be fighting further up the grid. I think it’s hard to know where we are. From what I see the top teams are still going to be more or less the top teams or at least the top two or three but the midfield does seem a bit more tight. So yeah, I think everyone showed signs of potential but until Saturday qualifying and Sunday racing we probably won’t know where we all really stand. But I think realistically we’re still in the group we were in last year but it does seem like it’s closed up. So there’s probably more opportunity to leapfrog a few.”

Both men, of course, hope that their home race will continue for many years. “I think it’s in the top three on the calendar,” Webber said. “I think that we should work hard to keep it here. I don’t think there’s many people who don’t like coming here. Of course the flight’s a little bit long but once you’re here it’s a pretty good place. It’s a very well organised event. It’s one of the few events where Bernie (Ecclestone) actually trusts the organisation to have lots of different categories racing in amongst the Formula One schedule, which you can hear now on Thursday and there’s still stuff going on. It’s the same on Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Definitely one of the best events of the year, so we need to keep the best events because not all the races we go to are like this.”

“Of course, I’m all for it,” Ricciardo echoed. “Yeah, any excuse to come back to your home country but to have a race here is amazing. I think it’s a great city. I’ve spent quite a few years racing karts here as a kid, so it was always a nice event to come to Melbourne. I did drive the track last year in P1. I thought the circuit was very good as well. I’m a fan of street circuits, it’s bumpy, it’s close to walls, it’s got good character, so there’s a lot reasons why it should stay. Now that I’ve given Mark some support on the Australian front, hopefully it will stay a bit longer.”

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