Red Bull and Mark Webber became grand prix winners in 2009, now on the cusp of the new season, they are seeking a more consistent campaign. In his final pre-season press briefing before the cars fired up for practice in Bahrain, the Australian spoke his hopes for the season and the potential of the RB6.
Q. Are you psyched up going into this weekend?
Mark Webber: Yeah. I'm looking forward to it. There are a lot of questions to be answered and it's going to be interesting. We've got a bit of homework to do tomorrow and then we'll see how Sunday unfolds.
Q. Most of the other teams think that the Red Bull is the fastest car over a single lap but that there are issues over long runs. Is that your gut feeling on where things stand?
MW: Well, you guys speak to more guys than I do. When we start to get down to the last two or three tenths, it's virtually impossible to predict. We know what areas we want to improve on and that was the same after the Abu Dhabi race last year because there are always weaknesses. We're very optimistic that we are going to have a strong weekend. It's a hot track, so that's the first time for that so there are a lot of new things with the limited testing. We used to come out here and do some mileage as well, but no teams have done that so there's no Bridgestone information.
Q. Looking at the long-run times from Barcelona, it seemed that Red Bull had more tyre degradation than a lot of others. Was that Barcelona-specific or will that happen at a lot of places?
MW: Some of our long runs were pretty competitive. We are not sitting here thinking we've got big problems, but we also know that it's something to be respected. It is going to change from venue to venue and we need to go racing to find where are our strengths and where are the strengths of the others.
Q. How important is it for the team to maintain momentum?
MW: We're certainly not interested in going backwards. It's not a five-minute job to get to this position and in any sport trying to maintain that is a huge challenge because we've certainly lifted the bar a long way up. We've got a few more people at the party last year. There was Brawn last year and now you've got a few more people who potentially can move with Ferrari, McLaren, Brawn and us.
Q. You downplayed the leg injury last year. Do you now feel in better shape?
MW: Absolutely. No question about it. I'm a lot fresher and ready to go. I'm not intimidated by the uncharted waters that I came across last year whether it was just testing or the first few races. My longest long-run before Melbourne last year was 17 laps, and then I went straight into a grand prix. This year, I've had a lot more longer runs and I certainly feel like I am driving well and ready to go racing.
Q. Do you feel that you are a championship challenger?
MW: It's still very difficult to tell. Clearly, there was a big window of last year where it went very well for me and at Valencia and Monza the team lost a lot of points. So there were parts of the championship where we didn't deliver and that's ultimately why we didn't get any championship. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to work out that you need to be consistent. I fully believe that I can be consistent at all venues and do a good job to a higher level. Now, whether that's enough none of us know. I'm more composed having the victories - they weren't given to me and had to work for them. They are victories that give me confidence and they are victories that make me want to go and get more. I'm looking forward to it.
What will the effect of the ban on refueling on the racing?
MW: The cars are going to be a lot slower. The day before, we drive the cars and they feel fantastic and then we start the grand prix with a full fuel load. Weight kills these cars. It's like a mountaineer going up Mount Everest; you're not going to put 100kg on his back or he's not going to get there. So you need to approach the race in a different way in terms of how the car is going to respond, the braking points...all those kinds of things. It's a very extreme difference from overnight. But it's the same for everyone. Tires are the thing that are probably in your mind the most. The strategy has changed a lot. Last year, the races were very much premeditated in terms of strategy. Everybody knew what everyone was going to do before the race. It's going to be more as the race unfolds, how you are going to tackle the grand prix. It's a big difference.
Q. Is it physically tougher starting with a heavy car?
MW: It's easier because the cars are slower. The cars are much easier than last year physically because the tyres have less grip and the cars are slower.
Q. Michael Schumacher's comeback is good for the sport, but what if he starts winning all the time like he did before?
MW: Don't worry, he won't. It's great for the sport as he's a really edgy character, he has done amazing things in his first career and he's coming back for the second career. I take my hat off to him – it's a big balls decision to come back and have a go and as a competitor you have to admire that. But we won't have the 60-70 second victories like we did in the past. It's not going to happen. Don't worry. He'll win some races and maybe he will win the title in the three years, but it's not going to be as straightforward as it maybe was in the past.