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Exclusive interview - Red Bull's Mark Webber 18 Apr 2008

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Preparations, Sepang, Malaysia, Thursday, 20 March 2008 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda RA108 and Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4.
Australian Grand Prix, Rd 1, Race, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Sunday, 16 March 2008 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4. Formula One Testing, Day Three, Barcelona, Spain, 16 April 2008. World © Hartley/Sutton Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Bahrain Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain, Saturday, 5 April 2008 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB4 leads Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren Mercedes MP4/23.
Malaysian Grand Prix, Rd 2, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 23 March 2008

The paddock without Red Bull would now be unimaginable. With parties galore and one of the most hospitable motorhomes, they have quickly established themselves as kings of Formula One lifestyle. On track, however, they remain young pretenders to the crown.

Despite their talented and experienced staff, the team still can’t get their car to perform as well as it should. But, while driver Mark Webber is clearly feeling slightly frustrated, he is convinced that success lies just round the corner…

Q: Mark, even though your balance sheet shows four points, you can’t be satisfied with the season so far - two seventh place finishes and just one Q3 appearance…
Mark Webber:
Well, we knew that it would be tough after what we had seen in the winter tests - that it would be very tight after Ferrari, McLaren and BMW. There are potentially four teams, which means eight cars, fighting for seventh and eighth position. So if you tell me that I have four points after three races that indeed does not sound very exciting. But looking at how difficult it is to get these points - you really have to have a good weekend in terms of Friday, Saturday and Sunday - then these points have some significance for the team that I am with. Red Bull is in a situation where we cannot fight any further up than seventh. Looking back I personally was very satisfied with the races in Malaysia and Bahrain, my form is good and I feel that I am driving very well, so I am happy with what I have done so far. We simply have to make the car faster!

Q: You said the team has all the right ingredients to be successful - it’s well funded, has outstanding engineering and design staff, good management and two experienced drivers - yet you are still chasing results against long odds. Is the frustration driving you up the wall?
MW:
You are absolutely right. And that shows you that we are in a really tough business. It is very difficult to get to the front, to beat the established teams. There are indications that we have closed the gap a little bit to the front teams but we are still in the same position. The overall lap times have been a little closer to Ferrari, McLaren and BMW and still we do not move further up. That is very disappointing but it is evidence that the sport is getting even more competitive. Looking at BMW, they are the most improved team at least over the last two to three years. They have done an amazing job. All the other teams have more or less stayed at the same position with the exception of Renault. They had a tough time when Fernando (Alonso) left. Everybody thought that it was Fisichella and Kovalainen but of course the car is so important and Fernando is facing a hard job this year. It is very easy to look very average. We are looking not too bad, but so are three or four others.

Q: What are the RB4’s positives? Obviously, the reliability has progressed compared to last year’s car…
MW:
Yes, it has and that has a fantastic side effect - during the race I do not have to worry about the car stopping, whereas last year it was permanently on my mind when I was in the points. So this was a crucial step forward.

Q: And what are its weak spots?
MW:
Still development. We have to make the development go faster, do all the things to make the car as quick as possible as soon as possible. So it’s not really a soft spot on the car, it’s the development that has to catch up. But this is a problem with most of the teams.

Q: Next week’s race in Barcelona is almost like a new start to the season, in that it is much easier to make changes to the car with the factory so much closer. Is there a chance you can make a big splash in Spain?
MW:
No, not really. Barcelona is a track which everybody knows very well. I wish we would race in the other direction, as we are all bored driving this way around. And I don’t see anything that would change our performance so soon. We would have to find something massive if we want to close the gap to the three frontrunners.

Q: At this week’s Barcelona test everybody has been working on new aero packages. How big are the changes on the RB4?
MW:
We have changed bits and pieces and my overall feeling is that it has been a quite positive test for us. It looks as if we had made quite some improvements. How good they are we will know at next week’s qualifying and then in the race. In Bahrain qualifying was not great but the race was much better, so from this side there are positive impulses. But in the end we will be fighting with the usual suspects of the second group - the Toyotas, Williams and Renaults.

Q: Do you believe those changes will allow you to find enough missing time to make it into Q3 again?
MW:
Yes, I hope we can get to Q3 but Q3 is not always a big benefit - unless you are easily in Q3. If you are on the fifth row which means you have the ninth- or 10th-fastest time, you know that you have fast guys behind you. In Bahrain we missed Q3 but had a very good race as we could completely concentrate on the front.

Q: How many revamps are planned for the car during the course of the season?
MW:
We plan to have something at each race - as we have to improve at every race - rather than waiting for isolated major revamps. But don’t forget that next season we have totally new regulations - and 2009 is coming fast. At the moment our technical department is not massively into the ’09 development - I would say it’s at about 15 percent of its capacity - but it will go up with every month.