Mark Webber has no doubts that Red Bull Racing can keep up its strong form in the Australian Grand Prix this weekend, as rivals concede that his team's RB6 is the car to beat.
With his teammate Sebastian Vettel having taken pole position at the season opener in Bahrain, and leading much of the race before being slowed by a spark plug failure, the Milton Keynes, UK-based outfit is set to fight it out once again for victory. Although many of Red Bull Racing's competitors are hopeful that they will be able to put up more of a challenge this time out than they did in Bahrain, Webber is sure his outfit will be just as strong again.
"Bahrain was one little sample of where everyone is, and clearly we are in a lot better shape than lots of other people, if you had a choice," he told AUTOSPORT following a lecture he gave to engineering students at Melbourne University on Tuesday. "So it is going to be very interesting to see how this weekend goes and to see what this track throws at us – but I am expecting the car to be strong here as well. There is absolutely no reason it shouldn't be, but whether it is enough to have a really, really successful weekend you just never know.
"You can never discount both Ferrari drivers, and particularly Lewis [Hamilton] – who looked like he had a particularly good weekend in Bahrain once he got past Nico [Rosberg], so it is exciting. I am looking forward to it, actually."
Webber believes that on the evidence of Bahrain, the RB6 is a definite step forward from last year's car – and he welcomed recent comments from Lewis Hamilton who claimed that the Renault-powered machine was "insanely" fast.
"Yeah, it is a nice compliment for our guys – and nice we have got three drivers telling them that they've done a good job with their car," he explained. "That's good – and they have.
"At the end of the day, we are not a small team, but we are still Red Bull Racing and the job they have done is incredible. If you look at last year, what they have done there, and then look at this year, to roll out with not a big change in regulations, we could have been a bit exposed, but the car is clearly a very good evolution of the RB5, and that is a credit to all of the guys at the team. And with Renault, everyone is together we have integrated as best we can, and they have worked really hard to make sure that we are toward the front as we were last year."
Although Vettel's spark plug problem in Bahrain has prompted fresh questions about Red Bull Racing's reliability record hampering a title bid, Webber says he is bullish about the situation.
"Yeah, we had a few niggles on Friday, but Ferrari had a lot of plates spinning in that race, too, in terms of things going on in the background," he said. "So who left that race with a perfect weekend with all the boxes ticked? I don't think many people did.
"Of course, it was a frustrating race [for Vettel], not even a clear failure, a failure that was on and off, so that was a big pill for the boys to swallow having had such a big build up, but fortunately it is not like the Olympics – we won't have to wait four years for the next opportunity. We've got another two weeks, here we are again, but we are also mindful of the fact that we are trying to put a campaign together – we want to put together a few championships."