Exclusive interview - Red Bulls Mark Webber 20 Aug 2009
He may be modest about the significance of his breakthrough win in the recent German Grand Prix, but Red Bulls Mark Webber appears more relaxed and self-assured than ever heading into this weekends Valencia race. With his new-found confidence, the Australian lies second in the drivers standings and is definitely looking for more, both for himself and his team
Q: What a difference a day makes. What has changed for you since July 12 - other than that the quest for that first victory is now history?
Mark Webber: Not a huge amount to be honest. Its nice to get a victory under my belt, of course. And what was also very important to me was that I got the victory fair and square. It wasnt because people had retirements in front of me and I always wanted that to happen when the day came when I won a Formula One race, that it was one that I earned. But life hasnt changed so much. A bit more media, but in general the whole team has had that, with a little bit more attention through both team performance and my performance. Its been all positive. Wheres the trophy? At the factory, actually.
Q: First pole, tick. First win, tick. Seems this season is your now-or-never year - feeling bold enough to go for the title?
MW: Well, if you look at what Ive done in the last five to six races you can say that there have been some good moments and I need to focus on repeating that. The world champion will be a deserving world champion. At the moment it looks like Jenson (Button) is in the right position as he has a two-race buffer in terms of points. Im a bit closer, Sebastian (Vettel) a little bit further away, but its still a long, long way to go. But, of course, when you are second in the standings you have to think about it. Its normal and Im not thinking of finishing fifth, but thinking about going one step better, if I can. Its not going to be easy, but Ill try!
Q: The Brawns have struggled in the last three races. Could that be Red Bulls chance, at least for the constructors title?
MW: What weve been doing since Melbourne is focusing on ourselves and that is what we are going to do all the way to Abu Dhabi. Whatever we do is one thing but we cannot control how Brawn performs. We only can control how we perform and so far, along with Renault, what Red Bull Racing has done as a team is clearly an amazing opportunity for us to have a good season. We still have seven races to close the championship up and, of course, it would be disappointing if we dont win one of them. Of course, I think that the constructors championship will come before the drivers championship, because it simply works like that. Jenson has a lot of points on his own, so lets see! We have two even drivers at Red Bull, which is helping us in the constructors, but you can argue maybe not helping us in the drivers championship.
Q: You are second behind Jenson. When Sebastian was in that position you were asked whether you would be willing to play a supportive role. Now the situation has changed. When would be the moment for you to ask for support from your team mate?
MW: Ah, that particular questions now for me. Honestly, the team has handled it very well up until now and they have realized that they have two guys trying to get the most out of the car at each race weekend. If we are both slowly catching Jenson - which is still a tall order - then its a good problem for the team to have because one of us will get him. If only one of us is catching, then maybe the roles will change a bit in the future.
Q: Lately weve seen some unfortunate race accidents. Youve always been an advocate for safety. What conclusions do you think should be drawn and what changes should be made?
MW: If there are any adversities, or problems, or accidents, you can always learn from that. Whether that is how the spring came off from Rubens (Barrichellos) car, or how the wheel came off, or how Felipes (Massas) helmet was taking the impact of such a heavy item and how he was dealt with after he hit the barrier, we have to look at all these things. Actually it was handled fantastically, but from all these things you learn a lot because fortunately it doesnt happen that often. So the learning process is important and we need to action how and what decisions are made thereafter by the experts. We as drivers will ask them and help them, because its our skin. People might argue, why didnt Felipe see it? But, of course, you cannot see if youre close to 280 km/h and the spring is spinning. Sometimes they are asking us questions of how life is from our world - and they need to do so.
Q: In Hungary we saw Fernando Alonso lose a wheel that hadnt been secured properly. As a result Renault were suspended from the European Grand Prix. That penalty was then overturned on appeal. In the light of the recent accidents was that the right decision?
MW: Yes, I think it was. I think there was absolutely no malice involved. He was going slowy and he was trying to get the car back as safely as possible. There was a chance that the wheel might come off, but theyve lost so many wheels in the 70s and 80s and now we know that this is not a safe thing to happen, but all drivers would have done exactly the same thing as Fernando did. He knew that there was a problem with the car and that the wheel was loose, but he would have never guessed that the wheel would come completely off. You have a locking system and the wheel would just be wobbling, but the locking system would hold it in place. In fact the whole incident was bad timing so shortly after Henry Surtees fatal accident. But you dont have much time at a pit stop and it was a shame that there was a mistake made - and there was a mistake made. It was a bit unfortunate.
Q: Last year Valencia was not a great track for Red Bull. Will that change this weekend and how important is it to be on the first row of the grid here?
MW: Qualifying is always important but we also hope that well do much better here than last year. This was probably our worst track last year. It was a tough race for David (Coulthard) and me. But this year has been so different to last year for so many reasons and I hope its also different here.
Q: Do you like this track?
Q: The championship race really hots up from here - no more room for experiments or mistakes. What upgrades do Red Bull have up their sleeves for this race - and for the rest of the season? Can you map it out?
MW: Of course we will continue to fight as hard as we can, but this is probably a good question for (chief technical officer) Adrian (Newey) and those guys. For sure, we will bring some developments, but, for example, Monza and Spa need different packages and aerodynamically Singapore will be back to this race, so the aerodynamic upgrades will be relevant to each particular track. The low-downforce packages are taking priority at the moment to get them ready for the low-downforce tracks and the standard car on these kinds of tracks we need to keep developing. Hopefully we can stay towards the front as long as possible.
Q: Any dream result in mind for Sunday?
MW: A victory, of course!