Mark Webber figures he has a chance at winning the drivers championship this season and that the top five or six drivers all are still in the hunt.
Webber makes his predictions in an exclusive Q&A at the Formula 1 site.
Here are some highlights of what’s a pretty solid one of these F1 pieces. Not a surprise when Webber’s the guy answering questions:
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 didnâ€™t help a lot. I wasnâ€™t so much in pain – the conditions werenâ€™t so bad – but mentally it was quite tough. On top of that I didnâ€™t 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 donâ€™t have to plan around medical stuff.
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 canâ€™t 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 itâ€™s a difference if someone has done 200 Grands Prix or if someone is coming from GP2. Itâ€™s a completely different situation. We drivers have to learn the ropes along the way. Whether experience helps me, who knows? At least it doesnâ€™t 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.
So far, so good, right? Well, I’ll skip all the Turkey talk — it doesn’t add too much, there’s a little humor, and you can scoot over to F1 if you want — and get on to the Red Bull car’s future this season:
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 youâ€™re leading neither the driversâ€™ nor constructorsâ€™ championship. What is the reason for that? It cannot just be bad luckâ€¦
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, â€˜hey, Iâ€™ll just take fourth or fifth placesâ€™ – 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 donâ€™t want to go to Turkey again – ever – because it didnâ€™t work for them; and for us Montrealâ€™s a bit that way.
A little classic Webber in that last answer about Ferrari and Turkey.
But Webber’s last answer, I think, may be the most interesting:
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 doesnâ€™t 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.
That runs counter to the conventional wisdom that Red Bull was the one wanting the short-term deal. For sure it could be spin, but interesting spin nonetheless. I really don’t see how not signing a longer deal was in Mark’s interest. Best-case scenario, he wins the championship this year but can’t use that to negotiate (unless it is an extension on his 2011 deal). He could, I suppose, win in 2011 and be well positioned to pull down some serious cash. But I bet a lot of people would say that his Spain and Monaco back-to-back victories might be the highlight of his career.
I hope it isn’t. The way things have gone this year, I’m moving more and more into “I hope Mark wins the title this year” camp. Mostly because it feels like the deck’s stacked against him more than it is the other top contenders. That’s just a gut feeling, though.
Thoughts on his statement about his contract or something else the Aussie mentions?