Exclusive interview - Red Bulls Mark Webber 24 Jun 2010
Mark Webber is a title contender - and hes got there the hard way. After his pre-season injuries last year, few had expected him to bounce back so forcefully in 2010. But there he is, taking advantage of what has generally been the fastest machine on the grid, even if Montreal showed that the RB6 is perhaps not a car for all tracks. This weekend he plans to take the fight back to McLaren on the streets of Valencia
Q: Mark, last year your team mate Sebastian Vettel was fighting for the championship while you were struggling. This season youve developed into a serious title contender, staying ahead in the standings. What has changed?
Mark Webber: I dont know really. I tried to give my best every year - and so far this season is turning out pretty well for me. Ive been fast - that helps - and it is nice that some races have been straightforward and Ive been able to win - also due to hard work. True, with the same amount of work and passion other races have not been that successful, but overall, yeah, its been a pretty good go so far. In 2009 I was never really in the situation to have such dominant weekends like that, so this year I feel much more consistent and faster at more venues. I dont know why this is the case, but it is a nice problem to have.
Q: How important was it having had proper preparation for the season, unlike last year?
MW: Last year it was a mentally tough season for me because I had some surgery in between races and that didnt help a lot. I wasnt so much in pain - the conditions werent so bad - but mentally it was quite tough. On top of that I didnt have an off-season because I broke my leg in November and had to work to recover. So January and February 2009 were the toughest months of my life actually, to get ready for the season - to get ready mentally. It was very rewarding to get back in the car, but the season went on and on. It was a long year! This year in between races - if I want to - I can do different things and dont have to plan around medical stuff.
Q: Last year sometimes it seemed you had problems with the tyres. This year appears quite the opposite: you seem to be using them well - arguably better than Sebastian
MW: I dont know too much about that. I havent been a big fan of high-fuel qualifying - this year I like qualifying better. This might sound like a small thing, but it can make a difference. Tyres might have a little to do with that, but in the end its a drivers job to cope with this. And nowadays there is a change in rules almost every week and a driver needs to get used to these changes. It is the challenge of the drivers to get used to new regulations each year. This is how it is.
Q: Would you say that it is still an advantage for you that you are older and have much more experience than Sebastian?
MW: Well, experience is always something that you get when you get older. You cant buy it or go into a shop and grab it - and you cannot work harder to get more experience - it just comes with time. Sure its a difference if someone has done 200 Grands Prix or if someone is coming from GP2. Its a completely different situation. We drivers have to learn the ropes along the way. Whether experience helps me, who knows? At least it doesnt do you any harm.
Q: How would you rate your chances of becoming the next Australian Formula One champion?
MW: I would say: reasonable. I have a chance, no question about it, but there is still a long way to go and we have to see how the next couple of races go. It is way too early to start predicting who is hot and who is not for the title. There are several drivers who could pull it off.
Q: Who do you see as your main opponent?
MW: The five or six guys who make up the front places of the standings. They are all in my considerations.
Q: In the situation Red Bull are in, wouldnt it be helpful to have a clear structure like Michael Schumacher had with Ferrari?
MW: Those days are over. You cannot run a business like this anymore. I dont think that the fans would accept it and I dont think that the people in the team would do it. It was very, very unusual what happened with Michael and Rubens (Barrichello) to be honest. There obviously was an agreement in place with Rubens. But think back to Austria- did we like that? What happened there was ridiculous. No, as I said, those days are gone.
Q: When you look at a photo of your crash with Sebastian in Turkey, what caption would you give that photo?
MW: Ah, that is an easy one: At this point think of Milton Keynes! It was the whole team that suffered.
Q: What was your first thought after the collision?
MW: Think of the team. Jesus, we are hitting each other - that cannot be positive for the team. But of course you think about yourself pretty fast after that
Q: The RB6 has generally been the fastest car on the grid - at six out of eight races a Red Bull driver has been on pole - and yet youre leading neither the drivers nor constructors championship. What is the reason for that? It cannot just be bad luck
MW: You could say that some reliability issues have cost us some points, for sure. But if you look it from another angle you could say that I am the only driver who scored points in every race. Is this the key for winning the championship? There are many points that add to the title win. One of them is winning races - you cannot say, hey, Ill just take fourth or fifth places - that will not do.
Q: Do you think that McLaren have now closed the gap?
MW: They have done pretty good in the last races, but to be honest it was not a huge surprise for us to see them shine in the races they won. We expected that. But we also have been very satisfied with our pace in Montreal - a track not too much to our liking. Sure they had a nice momentum with finishing Turkey and Montreal one-two, but we know - and they know - that they are not going to finish first and second at every race.
Q: Do you think that Montreal was the worst track for Red Bull?
MW: Probably one of them. Put it like this: McLaren would not want to go to Monte Carlo every week; Ferrari probably dont want to go to Turkey again - ever - because it didnt work for them; and for us Montreals a bit that way.
Q: You recently signed for another year with Red Bull Racing. Why only one year?
MW: This was heavily driven by me and my management, because I am taking it each year as it comes. This doesnt mean that I am wasting one thought on finishing my career after that year. If people think that a one-year contract will put pressure on me, forget it.