Exclusive Mark Webber Q&A: Still hungry for success 27 Feb 2012
No team has sailed through the opening two test sessions without at least one technical issue, with even defending world champions Red Bull suffering the odd blip. Driver Mark Webber, however, is far from perturbed. Confident the RB8 has what it takes, Webber believes he and the team will be at the top of their game when the season gets underway in Melbourne in less than three weeks time
Q: What can we expect from a lighter, leaner Mark Webber this season?
Mark Webber: Am I lighter? I am no light version - Ive just lost some kilos, thats all. I am really looking forward to racing and have to say that I have prepared very well. I want to pick up where I left off in Brazil! (laughs)
Q: Eight of the 12 allotted test days are gone. Aside from the teething problems every car has, where would you say Red Bull are at the moment?
MW: I would say that the RB8 is pretty well prepared. Sure, having only 12 days of testing before we head into the season means a condensed programme, but that goes for all of us. Having had such a winner with the RB7, our biggest challenge is to get on top of the regulation changes this year, which mean that the cars have less grip. Apart from that it has been reasonably smooth, apart from the reliability niggles that are constantly there at this time of the year.
Q: Are you where you wanted to be after two of the three pre-season tests?
MW: Its impossible to know. We are a world championship-winning team so we know the bar is very high. But in good Red Bull spirit we are again very hungry - and I am very hungry - and of course Austria is very hungry for more of the same.
Q: The exhaust-blown diffuser - the centrepiece of Red Bulls dominance in 2011 - is history. So how can you be faster than the rest this year?
MW: I dont know about these things. (laughs) That is a question for (Red Bulls chief technical officer) Adrian (Newey).
Q: But when will you know if the RB8 is a winner or just another car?
MW: You know that at the first race. Thats the time for the true colours. Until then, we have to do anything to make these true colours to our liking.
Q: When you look at your immediate competitors from last season there seem to be difficulties everywhere. Ferrari seem to be underperforming, Mercedes have only just launched so it's too soon to judge and Lotus had to pull out of the Barcelona test. Does that just leave McLaren?
MW: Well, we know that Mercedes need to win races this year, Ferrari would like to win races this year, McLaren want to win and we want to win. So lets go to Melbourne to find out.
Q: Could it be down to just you and team mate Sebastian Vettel?
MW: Well, of course there will be competition because we are speaking here of strong outfits. Last year it was never just the two Red Bull drivers. Its true Sebastian had a fantastic season last year, but in 2010 everything was much closer. And I think it is the goal to bring it back to that at least.
Q: For 2012 the FIA have clarified that you can change line only once when defending your position. This will not bother the guys further back on the grid, but those near the front will have to think twice at the start
MW: Well, there will still be hard racing. But everything is getting safer. Its just like when youre on a construction site and you have to wear those hi-vis jackets. (laughs) It will be hard and fair, thats my guess. You move once and thats it - you had better be in the best position by then.
Q: Youve never won your home Grand Prix. Will you be luckier at this years Melbourne event?
MW: You have some candidates who have never made it good back home: Sebastian, Jenson (Button), and Rubens (Barrichello), you name it. Irrespective of where the first race is, I want to win it and I am really excited to start the season. Sure there is a bit more tension at the home race, but in the car you do your thing wherever you are. I am not going to let anything distract me in Melbourne. That is the plan.
Q: Toro Rosso decided of get rid of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari and replace them with rookies Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. What impact could that have on your career, as surely neither of the youngsters will be eligible for a Red Bull seat in 2012?
MW: I dont know. The most important thing for Mark Webber is that I perform. The rest I cant control, so Ill just look after myself. When you are in front in Formula One you are always under intense scrutiny. Every corner is analysed. If teams dont like a drivers style or discipline it does not matter who is waiting in the wings - you are out anyway. Teams will always look at whats best for them as drivers are a huge part of the team. I respect that and will focus on 2012 in this fashion.
Q: That sounds like winning the championship is still on your agenda
MW: Absolutely! I had a pretty strong finish last season but unfortunately it was not the best of starts. So for 2012 I want to have a good start, keep it together in the middle part and have a good finish. And then lets count up the points!
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