Mark Webber set the fastest time on the first day's running in the final preseason test at Barcelona.
The Red Bull man sat down with the press afterward to explain why he's happy with the car, how he sees the Formula 1 season shaping up, and other subjects.
Q. You looked quick today...
Mark Webber: Yeah, it's going pretty well today. New aerodynamics on the car today, and this will go to Bahrain obviously, so it was nice that it went the right way. We're continuing our program, but you never know what everyone else is doing.
Q. More updates coming this week?
MW: Not really, pretty much that was it today.
Q. People are calling Red Bull one of the favorites – will that alter your relationship with Sebastian Vettel?
MW: Well, we had a pretty decent rivalry last year and we have still a very good relationship. As I've said before, we have one of the best team spirits – I find it hard to believe that there's a better team spirit anywhere in the pit lane. The way we're both wired up, of course we're very competitive, as everyone in each side of the garage is because we all want to get the best result. But we both know that we're driving for Red Bull.
Last year there were times where one driver did one thing and one did another, and the team went with us. It was totally fair for both of us, and that gives us confidence and helps us push each other. I've got the same relationship with Sebastian to when I wasn't his teammate, which is also a good sign. You 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. It also comes from Dietrich, and everyone else at the team. We still have that small team feel, but we're a massive team, and we've been successful last year, so it's a great mix.
Q. How do you think Fernando Alonso will do at Ferrari?
MW: He's 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.
Q. Does Massa have a chance against him?
MW: Massa is fast, we've 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 they have a good lineup.
Q. Which team is going to be your biggest rival?
MW: There's so many things that go into it. Ferrari as a team is very strong, as is McLaren. You can never discount them. Mercedes has quite a lot of changes so it's a new ball game for them – two new drivers so it might take a bit of time for them. It's hard to pin down one, but I think we will have big battles at every venue, and sometimes the teams you are fighting with might change. But I think that with Ferrari and McLaren – everything they have – they are very powerful teams.
Q. You were nearly a second faster than anyone else – what was that down to?
MW: Obviously we put some new parts on the car which helped a lot, and, of course, the car wasn't in it's heaviest form in terms of fuel, but we have gotten the information we needed to get, and we are continuing to learn. But we still have problems, we are not going on holiday tonight, we have more work to do.
Q. Were you really low on fuel?
MW: We could get back to the pits... It's between zero and 50-60 kilos, so that's up to you.
Q. Today you had a problem with the gearbox. Is reliability a concern?
MW: OK, we had one problem today. But apart from that one we were faultless, so we were very close to pulling off a beautiful 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. Also, to learn about the car sometimes you have to run parts close to the limit on mileage, and obviously that wouldn't be the case on race weekends.
Q. So today's package is the final one?
MW: It's close.
Q. Is there any area that needs to be improved specifically?
MW: We're always working on the tire situation. We're still improving the car – OK, we used a lot of performance today to get the lap time, but we're still looking to improve before Bahrain.
Q. Pedro de la Rosa has said he will probably stand down from the Grand Prix Drivers Association because he's now a race driver – how do you see the GPDA developing this year?
MW: Fernando and I had a little chat in Jerez. Pedro's been in touch a bit by e-mail, but we'll probably have a chat this week with how we go forward. It should be pretty straightforward, to be honest. The GPDA is very strong at the moment, and we will always have good solid directors and a chairman. We did a good job with a few things where if we stood back we would have gotten nailed, so I think we did quite well as a group.
Q. And the relationship with the new president of the FIA, do you think that will develop well?
MW: It can only go the right way in terms of where we were. We want to deal with Jean [Todt], not other people, and that's the impression we're getting. The first few meetings we've had with him – at Singapore last year – have been very positive. Jean had his finger on the pulse with a lot of things as you'd expect, and the GPDA is looking forward to working with him. If we don't have much to do that's a good sign.
Q. What about the new teams – do they bring something to the competition?
MW: Well, competition is about racing people. It looks like with the limited testing as well it's been tough for them. And I'm a massive believer that you need quality, not quantity. We would never have three or four GP2 cars on the grid with us. We want it to be like Spa last year where the cars were all very close and we had a good race, and this is how we want Formula 1.
We need to keep the quality up, but I'm all for new people because the people in the sport will not be around forever. These new teams can't run before they can walk, but it's a huge challenge, because how do you learn if you can't test? It's clear that some of them are not ready to go to a grand prix – it's going to be a huge test for them. I am totally with the small teams; it's just so hard for them.
It took Red Bull years, so how do you fix the problem? Customer cars was the obvious thing that would make this much easier. That idea was much easier for the small teams – to start from scratch is difficult.
Q. What's the difference between your mentality now and before you were winning?
MW: I'm still hungry, but it's a massive difference to your motivation to be fighting for wins week in week out. Also I'm very very lucky to drive for this team. I love driving for these guys, and it's easy 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 need to raise the bar even higher. We need to achieve more this year, so that's the mentality.
Q. Is reliability a concern for you?
MW: I've been in situations where you have an amazing winter then you retire from the first three races. What's important is that you analyze 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 today. That would never be on the car for a race. So today 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 where we can get away with DNFs. Sometimes it might happen through driver error – but the things that we can control, i.e., the mechanical stuff, we're going to do our best to make the car bomb-proof. Last year we had the same guys, so I'm very confident that we can get on top of any issues we've had in the last few weeks. Non-finishes are not great, but we are mindful of that, we don't need to be told.
Q. How is your leg after the bicycle accident?
MW: Very good. It's not 100 percent but it's getting close. I'm surprised, in the last few months I've made some big steps. I'm starting to get back into running.