As F1 returns from its summer holidays, Mark Webber is ready for a fight: the racing is going to be tight, he says, and the Drivers’ Championship is still up for grabs.
While most drivers spent their free time chilling at the beach, Mark Webber spent his on a bike racing four times F1 World Champion and semi-professional cyclist Alain Prost up the fearsome Alpe D’Huez.
It’s proof, if it were needed, that Webber is a competitor to the core, and despite being in second place, 85 points behind team-mate and championship leader Sebastian Vettel, he believes there is still plenty of racing ahead before the season is done. Here’s what he has to say…
Mark, what’s going to happen this weekend?
MW: It’s always great to come here: the drivers love Spa – because thankfully it hasn’t been designed in the last 10 years. So, it’s got some real corners and a beautiful, undulating layout. You feel pretty remote out there in the forest, just you and the car.
I see the weekend being tight, to be honest. I see Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull with no clear advantage. I think it’ll be like the last three or four grands prix – very, very tight, nip and tuck around the pitstops. It’s going to be tight between all of the teams.
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This hasn’t been a good track for Red Bull Racing…
MW: In the last couple of years there’s a few places where we have been very strong, like Budapest and Silverstone, Barcelona too, whereas this year you’ve had Seb practically pushed over the line in Barcelona by Lewis. So the tracks have tightened up in terms of us having an advantage at what we’d call our better tracks – but let’s see what happens on the tracks that have been a little bit difficult for us, like this one here and obviously Monza. Canada [where Red Bull have also struggled previously] wasn’t too bad this year. So we’ll see how we go here. It is in our minds a bit but not full-on.
Do you think it’s possible for a driver to dominate the end of the season like Seb did at the start?
MW: No. I think that’s over. To have five, six, seven victories on the bounce, that’s not going to happen. I think it’ll be more spread out. The same people though, and I’d love to get involved myself.
So, does is the [Drivers’] Championship is over?
MW: No. Not if Seb fails to finish in two races. Seb’s in a great position, no question about it, but it’s not completely comfortable for him yet.
It has seemed in recent races that the RB7 has been struggling with its tyres. Has something changed?
MW: It’s a big question and it is a challenge. We had a strange month with those cooler temperatures. Silverstone was very cold, Germany, Hungary… it was a bizarre little month. We saw Valencia be normal, and McLaren in the shit on Sunday, but the other races they’ve been very, very, very strong – so clearly there’s a lot to understand.
We knew from winter testing that [temperature and tyres] was going to be a big part of the racing, but now it’s really getting down to a fine line, and a fine part of how you manage to pull everything together.
We do everything we can to understand it and develop to suit it. We’ve had a successful recipe for the last few years where Adrian [Newey] sometimes isn’t even looking at the results. He’s still just looking at performance and how can we make it better irrespective of guys closing in on us.