Mark Webber is predicting a tight battle for victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with teams still unsure about how well their preparations are going in winter testing.
While many view Red Bull Racing and McLaren as favorites for victory in Melbourne, Webber insisted on Thursday that his team was feeling good about its progress, but was taking nothing for granted.
"We are all anxious to get to Melbourne eventually and see where all of our work is, but I think the team has done a phenomenal job in terms of preparation and working as hard as we can, and we just have to see if that is going to be enough," he said, after ending the first day of the Barcelona test fourth fastest. "There are some phenomenal teams out there pushing very, very hard, like McLaren, Mercedes, Ferrari and Lotus as well. We are pretty happy so far, but that can change very quickly as you know in F1."
When asked about his prediction on how close the fight was likely to be in Australia, Webber said: "I think it is going to be really tight. The racing will be between several teams for sure and it is difficult to understand who is doing what at the moment, because we have such a big variation in fuel and tire conditions and all sorts of stuff.
"You can analyze it until you are blue in the face but, ultimately, even when we have done the race in Melbourne we need to go to Sepang and we need to get a picture on how the championship is unfolding. One 90-minute race in Albert Park won't be deciding the championship; it will be whoever can pull things together for the first part of the championship and come back with some decent points."
Webber believes Red Bull Racing had made some steps forward in getting a better understanding of the RB8 since last week's test, but he feels there is room to be even better.
"We are making progress, and there are so many things to obviously consider when we have a pretty condensed winter program like all the teams have," he said. "You need to get your priorities right and work on those as best you can, and that is where the experience comes in with the team like we have here. So it is going well in terms of what we want to test, but there are not enough hours in the day at the moment and I am sure we are not the only team doing that."
He added: "We have some more data to gather, more crucial information to gather and that is important before we go racing because obviously at a race weekend it is harder to capture that data. So, we are still going through that at the moment and the next three days it will be important to do that. There are definitely some boxes still to tick – but some of those boxes we hope are exciting, some might not be so exciting, and that is the way testing is."