Gritty Webber on the comeback trail
At Sepang, Malaysia
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.
"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.
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.
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