Mark Webber went into the summer break in the World Championship lead thanks to his victory in Hungary, but now faces two tracks in Spa and Monza where his Red Bull team was not at its sharpest last season. Webber discussed his situation and title prospects with the media in Belgium today.
Q. How was the break?
Mark Webber: Good. I didn't really need one, but I think it is going to be needed for the last part of the championship with the travel, the flying, the hotels. That's when the break will come in handy, because the last part of the championship is always pretty taxing with all the travel.
Q. Rubens Barrichello said that he missed Formula 1 after a week and just wanted to get straight back into it. Was it the same for you?
MW: Yeah – the driving. I don't particularly miss much of this [media] stuff but I miss the driving. It's nice to be away from it for a while but the moment that the monitor comes down on the cockpit for practice is good.
Q. There are no prizes for leading the championship at this stage of the season, but does it at least feel good?
MW: It's nice to have a few points. There have been some great memories this year and hopefully there will be a few more.
Q. Did you sit down and reflect on the big opportunity you have got and think that this is what you have been waiting for?
MW: Not massively. I'm mindful of the fact that I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing. I don't want to make a habit of the Valencia weekend with a non-finish and in Melbourne I could have done that race a bit differently, but every driver here could have done a race differently so far. I've had a few victories, which has been good, and I'm looking to try and do more of that.
Q. Spa wasn't fantastic for Red Bull last year and at the last medium-downforce circuit, Montreal, you weren't so competitive. Does that concern you?
MW: Always when you are running medium downforce on these cars, it's for a reason. And that reason is long straights. We know that it's not a strength of the car and hasn't been for quite a few years – and we know why. But we work incredibly hard to make the car strong in other areas and when we go to those venues obviously we are strong.
We can still keep up at these tracks, but whether we have an advantage remains to be seen. We still weren't uncompetitive in Montreal, but we weren't the pacesetters as we were in some other venues. I think if we had to have 17 races in a championship, we wouldn't choose Spa and Monza to have races at, but it's part of the calendar and we have to make the car quick everywhere.
Q. Is it all about damage limitation here and at Spa?
MW: We were worried about Valencia, and Sebastian [Vettel] won the race. Last year, we were very poor in Valencia and got blown away, but this year we were quick. Let's see how the top speeds are tomorrow in sector one and sector three and see where people are pitched. It's going to be interesting for the next two events. At Monza, there's a lot less that you can do, it is probably the worst track for cars that are strong in corners but not particularly strong in straights.
Q. Are you hoping for a wet race?
MW: We are ready for anything. A dry race is always less stressful on the pit wall and in the cockpit. This place has always been like that [wet]. When I raced here in Formula Ford it was like that so you have to be ready for it whatever happens.
Q. Given that the goal is to win the World Championship and you are leading, how do you stop yourself from thinking about it?
MW: It's just so far out, it's easily done. I could finish sixth in this championship yet.
Q. Did you have the chance during the break to work out in your mind exactly what you need to do in the next seven races and have you asked the team how they can help you?
MW: Finishing is certainly something that you think of. With this points system, you need to finish, so consistency is important. That's something you sign up for straight away because you don't want to win races but have non-finishes. You have to capitalize on the days when you are not potentially going to win to get the next best thing, whatever that may be.
That comes down to reliability, the decisions made – when you roll the dice as a midfield team you take a gamble but for us, McLaren and Ferrari there are obviously bigger things at stake. You have to be mindful of the fact that you might not get anything out of it so you need to realize that four points is better than none and gambling.
Q. There are seven races to go, but if Korea doesn't happen you will be one race closer…
MW: It could be a very good track for us. If you look at it that way, if this was the last race then we'd be in a very good position! But it's not the last race. If we had 30 races to go I would be in a weaker position so six is better than seven. But I think that we are going to Korea and it will happen.
Q. Is Fernando Alonso in the best position because the team is fully supporting him?
MW: It's a nice position for Fernando to have, that if there's a chance of winning when he's following his teammate then he might get some relief from that. But if there's a car in between, they can't do that, so there's not a huge amount of support that he can get. That is a little feather in his cap that might help him a little bit but whether it's enough for him to go on and win the championship, it's hard to say.
Q. Given how close it is at the top with five drivers covered by 20 points, how big a part will luck play in the destiny of this championship?
MW: It can do, yeah. Whoever wins it is going to need some of that as well. In all forms of sport, sometimes you need a little bit of it whether you are a golfer, a snooker player, whoever. I hope I've got a few credits from the past. But you make your own luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get.
Q. Are you enjoying being able to talk about having the opportunity to win the championship?
MW: Not really. When it gets closer, maybe. But at the moment it's too far away. A non-finish today and this room is empty this week. That's how fickle it is.