Exclusive Q&A with Red Bulls Mark Webber 20 Sep 2012
Mark Webber is fifth in the driver standings. In many previous years at this stage of the season what would have ruled him out of title contention. Not so in 2012, when at least half a dozen names are still in the hunt. Much will depend on Red Bull raising their game, particularly in qualifying, but Webber is optimistic, predicting strong showings for the team in at least five of the remaining seven races
Q: Mark, how does a driver cope with such a season? Unpredictability all round and no clue as to who will win the next race, let alone the championship
Mark Webber: Yes, we have had some quite big swings of form between teams - and even drivers. But, of course, I am not so much focusing on other peoples ups and downs - you need to focus on your own performance. Indeed, we have had some pretty good results this year and have been very consistent at the start of the season. Yes, the last couple of races have lacked consistency so we need to get that back. And with consistency comes victories - and that is where we need to go again.
Q: But what about yourself? Last season two main title contenders emerged relatively early in the season - and that was it. This year, there are at least half a dozen drivers in the game - and one of them is you
MW: I have no problems with this unpredictability. For me it doesnt make a huge difference. The only thing that really matters for me is to get the best result out of each race. I certainly finished the 2011 season very strongly - and I want to do it again. (laughs) To be honest, I dont even know who is second or third in the drivers standings right now - I only know that Fernando (Alonso) has a gap.
Q: At the moment it seems that diligently scoring points is triumphing over winning races...
MW: Didnt I just say that consistency is key this year? We all know the rules, but it is very hard to have that consistency - from the teams perspective, to pit stops, to reliability, to driver errors. All these situations can unfold in 20 races. These things can all happen and we should not lose sleep over it but instead look forward.
Q: We could end up with a champion who hasnt won a race - Kimi Raikkonen is third in the standings and is still a hot contender. What do you see as the reasons for that? Is it only down to tyres?
MW: No, regulations have played a big role as well. The cars are pretty even. I would say that regulations have played the biggest role, not the tyres.
Q: So what has been the downside of the regulation changes for Red Bull Racing?
MW: Ha, well, it is up to every team to squeeze the maximum out of the regulations. And we have done so in the previous seasons. Obviously there have been quite some rule changes for this year which have tightened the whole field up and made it more difficult for us to be as successful in the past. But then its the same for everybody. We are big enough and ugly enough to know that we have to work with what we have and we are not sitting and crying. (laughs)
Q: At the last couple of races the slump in Red Bulls form was obvious - or were the last two seasons just too good to be true and now all is back to normal?
MW: Could be. Obviously weve been on an exceptional level. Very, very often weve been winning - and very often with both cars on the podium - for two and a half years. But then you look at this season and there havent been too many occasions with two drivers from the same team on the podium, so it is hard to do that this year - for any team. Right now nobody is the real new benchmark, but rather everybody is pretty close together.
Q: How difficult is it mentally to lower your expectations?
MW: We can still win both championships, so there is no lowering at all. The situation - and probably the style - is different, but we still can win both titles.
Q: What about qualifying? It seems to be a tough time for you and Sebastian
MW: True, Saturdays have been a bit more challenging for us - particularly in the last few events - so that leads to the assumption that we havent got the maximum out of the car.
Q: What would be the maximum? Where would it come from?
MW: Lately we almost always finish qualifying unsatisfied. As our level in the team is very high, we naturally want to be at the front and so when we finish qualifying in Q2 this is not what we aim for. So yes, we are disappointed with our qualifying performance - but, again, if we had the answers we would fix them straightaway. There is no silver bullet. There is no such thing as one switch and then all of a sudden we are back on the front row. The success that we had in the last two years was not done by moving a switch either - it was a case of steadily getting there. At the moment we are not strong in qualifying, but we have the chance to turn that around.
Q: What about your personal situation? You seemed to be a hot candidate for the title some weeks a go - and now? Whats your guess?
MW: Sure, I have not been satisfied with the last couple of events and of course dont want to continue like that. If you want to challenge for the championship you need to get bigger points. We had some gearbox penalties, which doesnt make it easier getting there, and Monza was not great either. In the end it was my mistakes that caught me out, but remember my last DNF was Monza the year before, so the fact is that my driving has been very consistent and right now I need to have stronger results. But that only goes together with the whole team. We are in the boat together- and indeed we had some very special victories together at Monaco and Silverstone, two iconic tracks. That was sensational in difficult conditions.
Q: You have yet again renewed your Red Bull contract for just one more year. You repeatedly said that the one-year route was to your liking and it probably suited both sides equally - but isnt that benefit shifting towards the advantage of the team as you get older?
MW: Look, I know that I am not at the start of my career - I realize that. I also realize that I love competing in Formula One. I have a great opportunity to prove to myself, to challenge myself every second week, to be the best that I can be. I am waking up with a purpose and this is exciting. If I were sitting here with a two-year contract I would still operate in the same way. For sure it has nothing to do with extra security, as I have more than enough security in my life, so I dont need an extra year in my contract. I wouldnt get carried away with a five-year contract, not at the age of 36. Probably at the age of 18, yes.
Q: Seven races to go. Where will you best be able to seize your chances?
MW: Lets focus on here first. We are back on high downforce and the track temperature is quite hot, so it is hard on the tyres. My prediction is that we will be very competitive in Suzuka and Korea. In America and Brazil we should be strong. The uncertain candidates are here and a little bit in Abu Ahabi, but at the rest we should be strong.
Q: What about this weekend? Any clue?
MW: Champagne - and ideally the position in the middle!
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