Webber eager to make up for lost time after stepping out of Vettel's shadow
14:40 GMT, 14 March 2012
14:40 GMT, 14 March 2012
Mark Webber heads into his 11th
Formula One campaign apparently hungrier, sharper and leaner than ever,
and seemingly with no intention that this season will be his last in the
That is the viewpoint of Red Bull
team principal Christian Horner, who has been impressed by Webber's
approach to the year after he spent 2011 in the shadow of Sebastian
Ball boys: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber try their hand at beach cricket
Webber came within 14 points of claiming the title in 2010, but was forced to endure the galling sight of seeing the Red Bull team celebrating Vettel's triumph instead. It meant his heart was not in it at the start of last season – a problem not helped by also failing to get to grips with the new Pirelli tyres – and he won just one race as Vettel claimed a record 15 poles, 11 race wins and a second world title.
Webber finished 134 points behind Vettel and was arguably fortunate to be handed another 12-month extension to his contract, but the 35-year-old is now eager to make up for lost time and take the fight to Vettel again.
'Mark is in great shape and I think he's going to be a contender this year,' Horner said.
'The tonic of winning the last race of last year set his winter up very well.
'He's gone away, trained hard, come back lighter and fitter than he's
ever been, and he's more relaxed, noticeably so, within the team than he
was 12 months ago.
'As he's admitted, the hangover of not winning at the end of 2010 carried into 2011. At times last year it didn't look as though he was enjoying going racing. But I think he's got back his enthusiasm and his passion for the sport.
'He knows in Sebastian he is currently up against probably the best driver in the world, and he's come more to terms with that.
'Certainly his testing performances have been very encouraging and he just seems more relaxed and enjoying his driving again.'
Beach boys: Webber and Vettel of Germany (2/R) with Australian cricketer Peter Siddle and former batsman Brad Hodge (right)
Webber is 'bloody excited' for the season ahead, in particular after winning the final race of last year in Brazil.
'It was nice to finish the year with a victory, a nice tonic and a great reminder as to how good it (winning) feels,' he said.
'My motivation is very high at the moment and I'm looking to do everything I can to start the season as positive as possible.
'We know it's a long campaign, but I've prepared well and the team is in good shape, so let's see where we are in terms of racing the other guys.
'I've also always gone about my job professionally and the discipline is something I've enjoyed taking on.
'It is a great responsibility to be driving at this level and when you
are working with the team I am now, it is in your own interest to apply
yourself as best as you can.'
Pure delight: Mark Webber celebrates Brazil victory
It has long been suggested this year will be Webber's swansong, with rookies like fellow Aussie Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso seemingly fighting for the vacancy.
Horner believes Webber is 'motivated, hungry, and he sees a future beyond the end of 2012'.
And Webber, who has operated on a rolling one-year contract of late, knows his future simply revolves around results.
'It's been the same since '05,' Webber said. 'I've done all right since then, achieved some amazing things which I'm proud of. But if I was here with a two-year contract then it would not feel any different. I'd still want to perform.
'I wouldn't be thinking “I've a two-year contract so I'll cruise around and get serious next year”.
'I don't think about contracts to be honest. If you are getting results and performing that is the most important thing.
'As has been the case these last two years, things take care of themselves, whereas if you're not good enough, then get out of it, but if you're getting the results you stay on.'