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Page last updated at 06:14 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Mark Webber column

Ice-cold Webber's road to recovery

Mark Webber
By Mark Webber
Red Bull F1 driver

The new Formula 1 season starts in Melbourne on Sunday - and it's incredible how close all the teams have been in testing given the huge rule changes for 2009.

What's also unusual is the speed of the lap times, given the changes were designed to slow the cars down.

Nobody's hanging round. Times are faster then expected, and - across all 10 teams - the engineers have certainly done a good job of bolting the pace back into the cars very quickly.

It's been a big challenge for them to design a car for this year's regulations yet everyone seems to be pretty similar on pace.

Saying that, most teams usually go very quickly around the Circuit de Catalunya in winter - mainly because of track temperatures. It's the same when we test in Bahrain.

Mark Webber in the Red Bull
Webber is optimistic of a good season after some promising tests

Be that as it may, Brawn GP recording doing one minute 18 seconds in Barcelona - regardless of their fuel load - is handy.

Yet in terms of true comparative performance between the teams, it's just too close to say who will be at the front in Australia at the moment.

Everyone you think of has been decent, except maybe McLaren - but that's circumstantial.

Williams knocked in good times; some of Toyota's have been bloody good. Ferrari, particularly Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso with Renault. Then us at Red Bull - we're still hanging in there.

Some teams, however, will have reliability issues. I guarantee you that. There will be problems early on; it will hit people because we can't test in between races this year.

It's going to be a tough start to the championship for teams reliability-wise.

I don't think Ferrari are outright favourites to win in Melbourne but they are always fast there and Massa could give it a shake.

But if it's not him, it could be Brawn. You wouldn't have expected that a month ago.

They're just locked on to everything - you're only as strong as your weakest link. You would imagine that a lot of it will be aerodynamic performance.

Teams will have reliability problems, I guarantee you that. There will be problems for some teams early on; it will hit them because we can't test in between

Mark Webber

We need to see how real it is yet it won't be surprising if they triumph in Melbourne, as they already shown us they've done some pretty good stuff.

They have managed to survive after Honda pulled out of F1 in December and the whole car has changed from last year's.

I don't think the Honda engine was particularly powerful; they were struggling a lot with it. Now they've got a Mercedes V8 engine and a car which, some would argue, has had the most development put into it out of anything on the grid in terms of time.

That's what Brawn have said. What a shame for Honda; they could be left kicking themselves.

We'll get to see on Sunday whether Brawn's impressive form is real, but fair play to them if it is.

Testing has gone pretty well for us at Red Bull, too. Our car has come out of the blocks well and we've bolted quite a bit of performance on since Barcelona testing, which will definitely help us come Melbourne.

We've stopped on the track a few times - but so has every team. We just hope that we don't have any surprises beyond some of the little faults we've had so far.

It is a tough test - both the engine and the gearbox have to do a lot under the new rules.

Jenson Button in the Brawn F1 car
The Brawn has shown impressive pace in the last month

It's all well and good racing round Jerez and Catalunya, but dealing with the new circuits is what counts.

We need to go to other venues and see how these new cars will work, with the new slick tyres and different ambient temperatures and the like. That will determine our championship start.

From my experience in testing, the new adjustable front wing will not make much difference. But Kers (kinetic energy recovery system) is different - that will definitely help you to overtake someone. It must do. That's if you've got it and use it.

With the new front wings, you can lose balance - but you can lose overall stability as well. I'll see what it's like in racing, cranking the front wing up a bit, but the cars are so aerodynamically sensitive - even through a fast corner.

I think it's the same for every team, though. We must all wait until the gloves come off in Melbourne.

It's not quite my home town, but I'm a proud Australian and Melbourne is one of the best cities to go to in the world. The country has embraced the race as an international event, and it's one of the best organised on the calendar.

Whether you are a driver, a mechanic, a journalist, a photographer: you get pretty well looked after. The transport is great, it's pretty seamless. And it's a challenging little circuit to start the championship on.

On a personal level, while I was training in Lanzarote last week I asked quite a few questions of the right leg I broke in November - and it came through really well.


I racked up 200km on the bike - quite a big step from where I was a month ago - did a lot of work in the swimming pool and on the rowing machine. A bit of sun on the body also helps the healing process.

I'm still a bit weaker on the right leg, and the left leg is so strong. But my engine is in good nick fitness-wise, and that's what I need for these first two races.

I'll get them out of the way before the break ahead of China, and get as many points as we can early doors. I'm absolutely fine for Melbourne, but I can only get a little bit better.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson

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see also
Clock ticking towards F1 opener
26 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Brundle on Alonso
23 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Massa praises Toyota testing form
24 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Brundle on Hamilton
04 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
F1 ready for racing revolution
04 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Brawn GP set stunning test pace
12 Mar 09 |  Formula 1
Raikkonen goes fastest in Bahrain
13 Feb 09 |  Formula 1
Webber back to test Red Bull car
11 Feb 09 |  Formula 1
Webber targets return in February
27 Nov 08 |  Formula 1
Webber breaks leg in bike crash
22 Nov 08 |  Formula 1

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