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Exclusive Interview - Red Bull's Mark Webber 24 Jan 2008

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing Red Bull Racing RB4 Launch, Jerez, Spain, 16 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB3 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 16 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB3 Formula One Testing, Day Three, Jerez, Spain, Wednesday 16 January 2008. World © Bumstead/Sutton David Coulthard (GBR) Red Bull Racing and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing Red Bull Racing RB4 Launch, Jerez, Spain, 16 January 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB3 Formula One Testing, Jerez, Spain, 15 January 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton

Climbing out of Red Bull's new car in Valencia on Wednesday, Mark Webber seemed pretty satisfied with the machine that will be his home for this season’s 18 races.

However, there are several unanswered questions - not least whether the RB4 will finally be the bold design that everybody expects from an Adrian Newey car - and whether it can fulfill Red Bull chief Dietrich Mateschitz’s equally bold vision of finishing third in the championship…

Q: The team experienced their fair share of reliability issues last season. Are you confident they have been solved for 2008?
Mark Webber:
It was pretty hard for us last year due to reliability problems, but this year we will improve. Whether we will resolve them, I don’t know - no one’s 100 percent reliable. Last year Ferrari had some mechanical retirements and I’m sure we will have a few this year. But I hope it’s just one or two, three maximum. Once you start getting to four, five or six, that’s disappointing, so hopefully it’s going to be better than last year, but we don’t know by how much yet.

Q: You are fresh out of the RB4. Thumbs-up or thumbs-down? Is it the car the team are desperately waiting for?
I’m happy with the new car. It’s been encouraging and a big step forward from last year on reliability, which is great. It’s faster than last year’s car as well, which is also good. So now we need to work with what we’ve got and get it as fast as possible before Melbourne. We’ve got a big four weeks coming up, but there’s a good chance we can do that.

Q: In what areas does the RB4 differ to last year’s car? You have done little mileage but have talked to your team mate David Coulthard and seen the data…
It’s similar in some areas and very different in others, which will be similar for many teams up and down the pit lane. Teams run their cars differently each year to try and chip away at the weaknesses from the previous season. The biggest thing I hope we have changed this year is reliability. Regarding performance, we’re seeking to improve the aerodynamics of the car and make it lighter, things like that.

Q: Looking at the times done in the tests so far it is either that David and yourself have not been pushing it to the limit, or that there are some teething problems that need to be eliminated…
There are two reasons that we’re not topping the time sheets, if that’s what you mean. We’re probably not quick enough, but some teams go to abnormal positions, as they’ve taken the fuel load out of their cars. There are certain teams in certain positions that are under pressure and they might want to a) get more sponsorship or b) look after their own positions in the team - they get a good result in testing by dropping the fuel level and therefore keep the pressure off for another week. Fortunately we don’t have politics within Red Bull so we’re just trying to chip away, do what we’re trying to do and try to learn where we’ve come from, so racing’s where we’re measured, rather than testing.

Q: On his way home from last week’s Jerez test, where the car was launched, Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz very confidently envisioned the team ending up in third position in the championship in 2008. How realistic is that?
That’s a tough goal considering the competition we’re up against. It’s not absolutely impossible if we hit the sweet spot with the car and get off to a good start. We would need to be consistent at all venues to operate at that level. Whether we’re ready for third overall remains to be seen, but I hope he’s right.

Q: Your team mate has expressed concerns about the dangers of driving in the wet without traction control. What are your feelings?
There will be some races that we will have to be careful on if we compete in wet conditions. When visibility is very low, that’s one thing, but when it becomes very difficult for us to control the cars and there are a lot of accidents with cars spinning, then obviously the correct decisions will need to be made at the time. It’s going to be harder this year for us to compete in Grands Prix in wet conditions because we don’t have traction control. The drivers have the talent to be able to handle their cars in difficult conditions, but they don’t have the talent to be able to control them in impossible conditions, so we just have to find the balance.

Q: In what other areas will you pushing for safety improvements this year?
We’re going to a few new street circuits, which is exciting on the one side but we need to make sure that the street circuits are as challenging, yet as safe, as possible. All the drivers are looking forward to the street circuits, so that should be fine. I think the biggest unknown this year is the conditions that will be regarded as acceptable for us to race in without traction control.