Having spent the last few days in Queensland learning how to paddle-board, Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber seemed reluctant to come back to the subject of F1 and discuss his trials and tribulations at the Australian Grand Prix. “I really don’t want to go into it,” said Mark.
“There were a few issues that came up post-race, and those things certainly hadn’t helped the situation. We want to do a better job this weekend, get more out of the car and hang out at the front like we normally have been.”
Red Bull Racing aren’t saying exactly what Webber’s problems in Melbourne were, but it’s understood that post-race analysis revealed several issues; the good news is that the Australian says they’re all things that can be fixed for Sepang.
”My chances are pretty good, I’d say. I did pretty well here last year, and the car has won the last grand prix, so yeah, my chances are pretty good.
“It’s going to be brutal on the tyres with the track temperature though, and no one knows how they’re going to evolve. [Pirelli] have been testing in Istanbul this week, but this [Sepang] is probably the most extreme situation they’re faced so far. By their own admission they’re expecting a lot of pitstops.”
From the grandstands, the RB7 may have looked like the fastest car in Australia, but Webber said the field is competitive: “I don’t know about us being in a different league. It looked that way in quali, but on Sunday it looked like Lewis [Hamilton] didn’t have too bad a race.
“Obviously we had both cars at the front for the majority of the race; Seb had a nice, clear weekend, and I need to get more out of it. Other than that it’s an encouraging start with both cars finishing and we’re on top of the constructors.”
Mark said Malaysia will provide a clearer indication as to performance levels. “You have a pretty unique venue in Melbourne. It’s not a completely normal race, being a semi-street circuit with strange characteristics and behaviour. I think how we go here will make it more apparent what will happen in the next few races.”
Physically demanding, Sepang generally considered to be one of the toughest circuits on the drivers, but since Mark’s a fully paid-up fitness freak, it’s one of his favourites. “It’s a great track and a very, very good challenge. Turns Five and Six, the big left-right is a very rewarding section if you get it right. Turn Fourteen is really good too: it’s a very technical corner that combines a tough braking point and the need to get everything right for a very important exit.
“It’s a really challenging corner too, and good for overtaking. We’ve seen overtaking there in the past. So, it’s one of [track designer Hermann] Tilke’s better ones.”
Webber also confirmed that KERS would be back on the RB7 for a circuit where the boost is expected to be crucial. “You need to have KERS working reliably and well here. Obviously we haven’t tested since Melbourne so this is the first time it’s gone back on the car. So we’ll get some confidence with it in practice.”
The Drag Reduction System might also prove its value in Malaysia: after playing a peripheral role in Albert Park, the longer straights and slow corners of Sepang should play to the system’s strengths. “Here will be completely different. You have a slow corner to open the lap, a braking point into a slow corner at the end, and Heathrow Airport in between,” says Webber.
“It should work if you’re in the zone on the apex of Turn Fifteen… if it doesn’t work here, I don’t know where it will work.
Mark backed up his confidence by finishing both Friday practice sessions top of the timesheets and looks well set for the weekend.