|If Thursday’s Barcelona timesheets were anything to go by, Red Bull are looking very strong indeed, with Mark Webber’s best time in the RB6 almost a second quicker than the rest of the field. But while Webber admits he’s feeling positive, he’s keen to point out the team will not be resting on their laurels just yet…
Q: Mark, how is it going?
Mark Webber: It’s going pretty well at the moment. We had some new aerodynamic parts on the car, which will obviously go to Bahrain, so it was nice that it went the right way. We are continuing with our programme, but of course you never know what everybody else is doing.
Q: Are more upgrades coming this week?
MW: No, not really. That was pretty much it.
Q: Your time on Thursday seems to suggest Red Bull are favourites…
MW: After day one, yes. But that changes every day – one week it is Lewis (Hamilton), one week it is Fernando (Alonso), and one week it is us.
Q: If you are favourites, will it change your relationship with your team mate Sebastian Vettel?
MW: We had a pretty good rivalry last year and a good relationship. I find it hard to believe that there’s a better team spirit anywhere in the pit lane. We are both very competitive, there is no question about it. The engineers and everybody else on both sides of the garage want to get the best results. But we also know that we are driving for Red Bull. It was so fair for both of us last year and that gives both of us confidence. We have the same relationship now as when we weren’t team mates, and that is a good sign. But you should never say never. If we start crashing into each other every five minutes then things change, but we had plenty of opportunities to do that last year and it never happened.
Q: Is the team spirit down to just the drivers?
MW: It also comes from Dietrich (Mateschitz). Dietrich, Christian (Horner), and the Renault guys are great. We have a small team atmosphere, even though we are a massive team who were successful last year. I think that is pretty good for us and the continuity over the winter helped a lot too.
Q: What do you think about Fernando Alonso driving for Ferrari?
MW: He is getting too old! He’s slowing down…no, the red car suits him. He’s the perfect Ferrari driver. He’s exactly what they need – he’s a passionate, fiery, but fair racer. It’s good for the sport to have Fernando in a red car. I wish him the best, but not too much, because we want to beat him. It is absolutely right that he is in a red car. All the Spanish fans are so excited about it.
Q: Do you think that Felipe Massa stands a chance against Alonso?
MW: Massa is fast. We have seen him give Schumacher a hard time, and Fernando knows that it’s going to be a good battle that will help the team. But we know Fernando is a top driver as well, so Ferrari have a good line-up.
Q: Who do you believe will be your biggest rivals?
MW: There are so many things that go into it. Ferrari as a team are very strong. You should never underestimate McLaren. Mercedes have undergone a dramatic change and have two new drivers so it might take some time for them. It’s hard to pinpoint at the moment, but I predict we will see great battles at every event, with the teams at the front sometimes changing. I think Ferrari and McLaren are still very powerful.
Q: You were almost a second faster than anybody else on Thursday, what do you put it down to?
MW: Obviously we put some new parts on the car, which helped a lot, and of course the car wasn’t in its heaviest form in terms of fuel. But we still have problems and have more work to do!
Q: So you were low on fuel?
MW: We could still get back to the pits. We were running between zero and 50-60 kilos of fuel.
Q: Your RB6 experienced a gearbox problem. Is reliability a concern?
MW: Okay, we had one problem, but apart from that, we were faultless. We were very close to pulling off a beautifully smooth day. Of course we need to do that all the time, but when testing is so limited everyone has a curve ball which gives you a problem. And also, to learn about the car sometimes you have to run parts close to the limit on mileage. That obviously wouldn’t be the case over race weekends.
Q: So will we see some new parts on the Red Bull in Bahrain?
MW: Some, but the upgrade is done. There will be some bits and pieces, but there’s nothing major that we haven’t tested yet.
Q: What you think about the RB6?
MW: Well, it hasn’t done a race yet. First, we have to go racing and then I will answer your question. I very recently signed a photo of the RB5 for a fan. I have great memories of the RB5, but I hope I will have even better memories of the RB6. To be honest the cars don’t feel great at the moment. They are all pretty heavy and the tyres are different.
Q: Has your approach changed since you won your first race?
MW: Well, I’m still very hungry, but it makes a massive difference to your motivation to be fighting for wins week in week out. Also I’m very lucky to drive for this team. I love driving for these guys, so it’s easy for me to be motivated. The difference between this year and last year? We had a good year last year with podiums and some wins, but this year we need to raise the bar even higher. We need to achieve more this year, so that’s the mentality I have.
Q: Michael Schumacher has returned to Formula One racing at 41 years-old. Can you imagine still racing at that age?
MW: It’s difficult to say. He had the luxury of a break, but I think it is difficult to go all the way from karting as a youngster to racing at 41. A few people have done it but obviously the sport has changed. Michael will have two stages to his career now. Let’s see how it goes.
Q: Will reliability be an issue this season?
MW: I’ve been in situations where you have an amazing winter and then you retire from the first three races. What’s important is that you analyse the testing really well, and you diagnose what’s going on. Sometimes you have parts that are failing because of the mileage, like the one we had. That would never be on the car for a race. So we would have had a smooth run, and we would be sitting here saying it was an exceptional day. You always want to have a car that is as reliable as a road car, but when you’re pushing the boundaries like we are then sometimes you’re going to stop. We have to finish as many races as we can, because we’re not in a situation this year where we can have too many DNFs. Sometimes it might happen through driver error, but the things that we can control, like the mechanical stuff, we’re going to do our best to make the car bombproof. Last year we had the same guys, so I’m very confident we can get on top of any issues we’ve had over the last few weeks. Non-finishes, for any team, are not great, but we are mindful of that. We don’t need to be reminded that stopping on the track isn’t a good habit to have.
Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing. Formula One Testing, Day Four, Jerez, Spain, Saturday 20 February 2010.
Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Testing, Day One, Barcelona, Spain, Thursday 25 February 2010.
Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6. Formula One Testing, Day Two, Jerez, Spain, Thursday 11 February 2010.