Sebastian Vettel favourite for 2014 despite new rules - Mark Webber

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
New F1 regulations 'will help Vettel'

Mark Webber believes his former Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel will start next season as favourite to win a fifth consecutive world championship.

Major rule changes for 2014 mark a reset for F1 but Webber says Red Bull will adapt well to the new regulations.

"Seb's the favourite for the drivers' championship," said Webber, who has quit F1 to race for Porsche at Le Mans.

"They'll be favourites for starting the season very strongly, which is probably not what people at home want to hear."

But Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey, whose team have dominated under the 2009-13 rules regime, says next year's regulations are "a fresh roll of the dice for everybody".

In 2014, Formula 1 cars will have turbo-charged engines for the first time since 1988 and these will be fitted with extensive energy-recovery systems. A series of aerodynamic changes have also been introduced which will prevent Red Bull exploiting some of the areas in which they have excelled.

But Webber said: "I think they are going to be very strong.

"It's an engine category next year more than probably a car/aerodynamic category, which is probably not a bad thing for some people.

"But there will also still be decent driver input, especially from a brainpower perspective in terms of pacing and managing and all the technology the cars are going to have next year, which will help Sebastian. That's right up his alley. Perfect for him."

Webber, in an exclusive interview with BBC Sport, was asked to name the best driver he had raced against in his 12-year F1 career.

"Probably between Seb and Fernando [Alonso of Ferrari]," the 37-year-old said.

"You've got to pull everything together. It's hard to say. We've had to always tweak our skill-sets, that last part of our profession - Pirellis, refuelling, one-lap qualifying, all that sort of stuff.

"So to try to answer your question, on Sundays Fernando over two hours is a handful. There is no question about that. Over one lap I think he's not with Seb. But on Sundays between those two it's very, very tight.

"Lewis [Hamilton of Mercedes] is handy but probably not quite as much of a machine as those two are. They are literally 'plug them in and off they go'. They are very, very handy."

Webber's career also coincided with the latter part of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher's.

Australian Webber said of the German: "I didn't race Michael really, because he was in a Ferrari [in the early part of my career] and I was in something else [less competitive] and when I was in a Red Bull he was in a Merc, which was further back.

Mark Webber's F1's highs and lows

"But those two [Vettel and Alonso] were certainly in their prime when I was."

Webber was asked about the controversies Schumacher had been involved in during his career, particularly the infamous incident in qualifying at the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix when the German deliberately stopped his car on the track to prevent his rivals - including Alonso and Webber - from beating him to pole position.

"It was horrendous, absolutely horrendous," said Webber, who was second on the grid behind Alonso after Schumacher was disqualified and sent to the back of the grid for his actions.

"To stop in the middle of qualifying so the rest of us don't do a lap, that's certainly a low point for him, and obviously that's a legacy, isn't it? They are the choices he made at the time and he made a few of those.

"He's got a decent trophy cabinet but some of the stuff, for your fellow peers and colleagues, there are limits that you go to to push each other and that respect factor. That day he made a big mistake."