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Gritty Webber on the comeback trail

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Sarah Holt | 11:37 UK time, Friday, 8 April 2011

At Sepang, Malaysia

There was only ever going to be one way for Mark Webber to prove he is capable of renewing his fascinating rivalry with his Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel in 2011 and that is on the track.

After a lacklustre weekend in Melbourne - where Webber qualified 0.8 seconds behind the German world champion and finished fifth in a race Vettel won easily - the Australian showed the first signs of a return to form by setting the pace on Friday in Malaysia.

Webber had arrived in Kuala Lumpur in an unusually monosyllabic mood, especially when he was asked for a post mortem of just what went wrong at the first race.

"I'm not going to make a meal of what happened in Melbourne, let's just talk about Malaysia," he warned the media throng.

The message from the no-nonsense Webber - who uses the alias Aussie Grit on social networking website Twitter - is that he was not looking for excuses for his damp squib of a start to the season.

As it happens, the Australian had a pretty good excuse. It emerged in Malaysia that he hauled his Red Bull around Albert Park with a broken rear suspension.

"There were some issues post-race with the car and the guys found a few things they weren't happy with," Webber told the BBC in an exclusive interview which will be aired during Sunday's race show on BBC One.

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Webber tells the BBC about having the hopes of a nation on his shoulders

"Seb and I have been covered by a fag packet here and there over the course of past sessions so I'm hoping - and looking to make sure - that Australia was my worse performance of the year. It just has to be. We cannot continue like that, being that far off."

Webber may have topped both practice sessions around Sepang's demanding curves and long straights but it is still too early to know whether he can make his advantage count on the circuit's unforgiving asphalt and under Malaysia's unpredictable skies.

Last season, Webber grabbed his first of five poles in Malaysia, only to hand Vettel victory at the first corner when, erroneously thinking he was clear of the field, he left the door open and his team-mate slipped into the lead.

Vettel is again breathing down his neck in Sepang, ending Friday just 0.214 seconds behind him, with McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton separating him from Webber.

Intriguingly, F1 insiders say the Red Bull rivals are protective about showing each other their true pace on Fridays, much to the chagrin of team boss Christian Horner, and only reveal which of them has the upper hand during qualifying.

Nonetheless, Webber will take a psychological boost from beating his team-mate on paper. Like last year, Red Bull once again have the fastest car and, if they can convert that pace into spoils on Sunday, the two team-mates could make it a private fight for the drivers' crown.

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Webber says there is very little difference between the top drivers

There were times last season when the pendulum swung in Webber's favour. He won four races and led the championship three times, only to finish third as Vettel conjured a breathtaking finish to take the title at the final race.

As Webber prepares to rejoin battle, the 34-year-old is drawing inspiration from last season's battle scars.

"It can only help only having a year that I went through," said Webber. "A lot of positives happen but of course it was very, very disappointing not to win the championship. A mountaineer could have a similar experience, to get so close to the top but not to look over the top.

"It takes time and reflection to get over that [but] if it doesn't make you stronger I'd be surprised."

The full interview with Mark Webber will be shown during BBC One's race programme on Sunday which begins at 0800 BST


  • Comment number 1.

    Sarah: I think you're awesome. X

  • Comment number 2.

    Was a fantastic performace from Webber today. After Vettel's brilliant display in Melbourne (and end of 2010) Mark really had to turn it on today and he did. Still no prizes are given out on Friday...

    FP1: The Chequered Flag: "Webber fastest in first free practice":
    FP2: The Chequered Flag: "McLaren resurgence cannot dent Webber show" Red Bull team to beat but Webber on top this time:

  • Comment number 3.

    Would really like to see Webber do something special this year but it's hard to see past Vettel at the moment.
    Why does he use an alias on Twitter though? I don't get that site, too hard to navigate. There is this wicked site which just shows F1 tweets though and divides them into Drivers, Journalists etc. Does all the hard work for you!

  • Comment number 4.

    Hhmm, I thought the official word from Red Bull was that there was nothing obvious on the car that contributed to Webber's poor performance....

  • Comment number 5.

    4. At 14:04pm 8th Apr 2011, Gary Slegg wrote:
    Hhmm, I thought the official word from Red Bull was that there was nothing obvious on the car that contributed to Webber's poor performance....


    I think you're right; or not much significant.

    Standard nonsense on this blog

  • Comment number 6.


    Not only is this article LATER than the above link, but is un-referenced in the context of Webber's poor performance, and seemingly completely OVERPLAYING what the team saw as minor issues.

    Poor article

  • Comment number 7.

    Sarah i also think you are awesome, and way more knowledgeable than myself, but, really? Comeback trail? it's only been one race. Does that mean everyone is on the comeback trail? Surely you can only have a comeback after several poor results, like how Vettel had a comeback to win last year? or Alonso, or The Incredible Sulk, had a comeback to nearly win last year?

  • Comment number 8.

    Rather a non article really. I think we can safely assume Webber will be focused on haivng a good race this weekend!

    And don't forget this was nothing more than just a practice. We do not know how much fuel the cars were carrying!

  • Comment number 9.

    I was at Monaco last year and Webber was brilliant, but I think he peaked too early (Silverstone). I watched P1 and P2 this morning and I think we will see what we already know - Vettel will only need 1 lap of Q3 in the dying seconds and he will be pole.

  • Comment number 10.

    I guess you could argue that he is on a comeback trail if you consider the performances he showed in the races after Hungary last season (no win, three second place finishes and one third place). Still, I think it is far too early to say that he actually is performing better since it was only P1 and P2. Nevertheless I really hope he wins the title this year!

  • Comment number 11.

    Nice one holty gotta say i didn't like webbers body language in oz he looked a bit like the end of last year. Now he looks like he's stopped staring at the mountain and accepted the challenge. Lets hope he can get pole or this championship could become dull the races will at least. I heard EJ spent the winter at MIT reasearching shirt funkology for just such emergencys!

  • Comment number 12.

    Seriously Sarah. You actually got paid to write this. Not being funny, but MARK WEBBER COMEBACK??????

    What were you thinking? Of all the things to write about thats the best you can do?

    Here are a few hints:

    1. MacLaren closing the gap to RBR.
    2. Ferraris' lack of Qualy speed.
    3. Mercs' continued car issues.
    4. Lewis and Vettel - a cut above their team mates
    5. Lewis and Vettel - the future of F1

    I tell you what Sarah; You keep the salary and I'll travel to the races, write the articles and you can take all the credit.

    Unbeleivable!!!!! Please tell me you DID NOT study Journalism.

  • Comment number 13.

    To be fair I think Sarah is right to say that Webber is on the comeback trail. He had a poor end to 2010 (albeit due to a fracture in his shoulder) and his team mate ended up winning the championship of course - almost certainly solidifying the team around Vettle. That would finish many drivers off, particularly after a poor race in Australia too. Webber will need to show all the grit and determination I'm sure he's got if he's to beat Vettel, but as Horner has pointed out, his two drivers are on different trajectories of their career paths and I fear that all the grit in the world will not be enough to overcome the natural talent and confidence that Vettel now has.

  • Comment number 14.

    Without wanting to sound painfully harsh on Webber, isn't it just the case that Vettel is quicker? Last season Vettel suffered the early season reliability problems, imploded mentally on occasion during the mid season and only really had a run free of those things late in the season with devastating effect. There were some good points made after last season pointing to the fact that had Hamilton, Alonso or Button been in that Red Bull then it wouldn't have been anywhere near as close in Abu Dhabi. Vettel is a year older now, is world champion and the car a year better off too, is it really a surprise that Webber is a little way off?! As for this notion that the two sides of the garage are competitively sandbagging throughout free practice.. what a load of nonsense. To think for a second that a $250million operation as closely controlled and developed in negated by the drivers like that is ridiculous. Yes, I'm sure Red Bull hold something back, they have the best package it would seem, It would only make sense to turn the engine down until they needed the full beans, especially with Renault's comparatively poor reliability last year, but this will be within a specific plan the team has made, not playground dramatics between two very experienced, very professional sides of the garage.

  • Comment number 15.

    Vettel is a better driver than Webber, end of story. Webber blew his only chance of winning the title by bottling it at the end of last season, he's a born loser like Felipe Massa.

  • Comment number 16.

    @15 I think its rather harsh to say the Webber is a born looser, he had a poor end to the season last year, but that's not suprising given the fractured shoulder he had. I don't think he'd let his team mate through in the way Massa did last year. What I find interesting is that Red Bull appear unwilling to offer any solace to Webber - it would have been easy to give him some psychological support by declaring that the broken damper did contribute to Webber's disapointing performance, but they chose not too. That speaks volumes to my mind.

  • Comment number 17.

    @15 Sorry - but what a load of rubbish.. Webber is of course not the born loser. Alonso/Ferrari blew it as well last season and you would'nt call him the born loser (I know, he has been world champion before, but nevertheless he could/should have done it last season).. further, I think Webber has never had the full backing of Red Bull which is an absolute disgrace since he topped the driver standings a fair few times in 2010.. In my opinion Webber is as capable of winning the title as any of the other top four drivers and he does never get the credit he deserves.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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