After dominating the Malaysian Grand Prix, Red Bull arrives in China as favorite for another victory. But Mark Webber still reckons his team is facing a tough challenge from its rivals.
Q. What does it change for you heading into a race knowing that you have the fastest car?
Mark Webber: We finished 1-2 in the last race but it wasn't a normal qualifying. McLaren was pretty quick as well, and Ferrari was in the race. We need a normal grand prix to see where everyone is. Melbourne, I think we were the quickest there, and Malaysia we weren't too bad. But I wouldn't say we have a huge advantage. You have to get everything right, nip and tucked. This is a new venue, and look at the temperatures. We don't arrive here thinking we won the last race and are going to be quickest again. We are going to be quick, but whether we are going to have an advantage? It would be silly to think that.
Q. Have you rewound the first corner of Malaysia in your head?
MW: It took me a few days to watch it. But, as I just said to David Coulthard, I had this feeling he was on my left. I couldn't see him because he was so wedged under my rear wing. I have defended more corners than I probably needed to over the years, and sometimes quite successfully, so why I went left was because I thought that was where he was. But he wasn't!
Q. Did you get a sinking feeling when you watched it on the video?
MW: I did – but not as big a sinking feeling as when I was at Turn 1, because I was hoping he would out-brake himself a little bit and run wide – which he nearly did, but not quite enough. That was not as hard as it was in the race. It was just a shame that in years gone by you could have done something with strategy or do something – like running a short stint or a long stint. But now, the first 500 meters are the whole grand prix.
Q. So, why don't you just pit first to leapfrog Sebastian?
MW: Because the first guy has the call.
Q. And that is the rule inside the team?
MW: It has been. It was the same in Melbourne and the same here. It is whoever has track position – and it is the same for all of the teams. If you look at [Nico] Rosberg and Michael [Schumacher] in Bahrain, they had Rosberg over with Michael – but it is whoever is second, behind, can benefit in some way.
Q. Are you confident that Seb would have behaved in the same way as you?
MW: Oh, yeah. Of course he would.
Q. A combination of the downforce levels your car produces, and your engine, means your straightline speed is quite down this year. How wary are you of the McLaren and its top speed advantage here?
MW: No more worried than we were in Malaysia. Lewis [Hamilton] used it to very good effect in the race and that is why he penetrated up to a certain point, and then he came across a guy with a similar engine and had a bit of trouble from then on. So it is a long straight and there are certain cars that are going quicker on the straights than us, so we need to be doing the business in other parts of the track – which we have done in the past, like Melbourne where it went very well with the strategy. And if it hadn't been for five minutes of rain it would have been a boring race, but the rain turned it on its head. We can't change anything, as that is what we have.
Q. Talking about Lewis in Malaysia, a lot of drivers want some clarification about weaving etiquette after how he defended from Vitaly Petrov. What is your view on it?
MW: I think it will be tidied up in the drivers' briefing – and you won't see Lewis doing that again in a hurry. He got a bit of a Chinese burn at the time, and it is good in some ways that the stewards are giving us a bit of leeway. There is always a fine line with hard, hard, hard rules – like for example my drive-through at the Nurburgring where they dealt with me, or other things where people got nailed, like [Sebastien] Bourdais at Fuji with [Felipe] Massa and things like that. We've had different ones like that. That was a new style, if you like, going down the straight like that – and one that I think will be tidied up.
Q. How do you define what is defense and what is trying to break the tow? Racing like that was common in F1 in the '60s and '70s, or even when you were in Formula Ford.
MW: Breaking a tow is defensive driving in a way. I have done loads of categories where we did use to go down the straights like chicanes and try and block – and I don't know how much of an effect it has. But it certainly makes it a bit more unpredictable for the guy behind you, at least. Having less of a tow is another subject, but it does make it more difficult for the guy who is chasing you. I think that the cars are very quick on the straights now, and have been for the past 20 years. But the level of aggressiveness has changed from the '80s until now, and probably for the benefit of safety – but to the detriment of hard racing.
I've come under some criticism over the years for being a little too hard at times, in terms of when you move. As I know I only have one move, it is a question of when you make that one move. So the last thing you want is guys actually hitting rear tires and going in the air. That is what we are trying to avoid. It is hard enough trying to overtake as it is, so if we are going to go down the straights going from line to line, it will be a bit harder. It will blow over and there will be nothing to do.
Q. The FIA has now clarified the suspension situation, which brings an end to all the talk about what your team is doing. Is that a good thing, or did you not care what other people thought?
MW: It was great that other people were losing sleep over it, apparently! It didn't change anything from our side, so it is good. We move on...
Q. As a team, you should have won the first three races of the season, but you took victory in only one. This will be the last one before the competitive picture changes for Barcelona. As this is the last race where you could have a good advantage, will it be especially crucial?
MW: No, not really. We are coming to all races knowing we have the chance to get some really good results. Whether it is a top result you will find out as the weekend unravels itself. I see absolutely no reason why we will not be competitive when we get back to Europe. Why do you think we won't be competitive when we get back to Europe?
Q. Because the other teams could close the gap with car updates...
MW: They could do. But, they might not. Last year we developed very well during the year. We won races at the start of the year and won races at the end of the year, so I don't see any reason why we shouldn't do well through the whole year this year.
Q. You said after Sebastian won in Malaysia that you come here not being sure the team will be quickest again. But was there a shift in the team after that triumph – a sense of relief that you are up and running?
MW: I think there was a nice bit of relief around the team – no question about it. We, for lots of different reasons, whether it is reliability or weather, we hadn't had a normal Sunday afternoon. There are many teams that had that situation as well, not just us. Ferrari had a 1-2 in Bahrain, and had a different weekend in Malaysia. So there have been some challenging venues to be consistently nailing every session and every race, for different reasons. Us as a team executing a race like that was certainly good medicine for us.
And it wasn't just the workload on race weekend, it was off the back of a solid winter testing. There is a lot of hard work that goes in and if you get the champagne, it makes a big difference to people's attitude. You can't do any more as a team, to get a 1-2 is the ultimate result. The fastest lap and pole, too – we took everything in Malaysia. It is history now, and good that we have the points in the bag, but we need to come here and try and get as close to that as we can again.
Q. From what you know of your team and other teams, do you think you can remain up front all year?
MW: Yes. At the front. Winning is very, very difficult week in, week out – but we are not intending to slide back through the field as the season goes on. We want to stay at the front.