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Page last updated at 06:35 GMT, Friday, 19 March 2010

Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber answers your questions

Red Bull Formula 1 driver Mark Webber answers your questions as part of a new series for the website this year.

Thank you for your e-mails, a selection of which the Australian answers below.

How close do you think the 2010 season will be? And do you see the smaller teams such as Renault and Williams catching up with the front-runners?
Liam Jenkins, England

Mark Webber and Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel
Webber (left) says team-mate Vettel is a "good guy"

It's very early on in the championship but it's clear that there are four teams - Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes which are very competitive.

I think after a couple of European races then we'll see how competitive the rest of the season will be. By then we'll know which team has come up with various developments and whether one team has gained an advantage.

Williams and Renault are starting the season on the back foot a little bit but they will have a chance to do really well on certain race weekends.

Do you think you can beat Sebastian Vettel in the drivers' championship this season?
Peter, UK

It's certainly my goal to finish ahead of as many drivers as I can, but the higher up you go the more difficult it gets. Sebastian is pretty solid and had an impressive season last year, but there were certain parts of that year when it was very close between us.

I hope it's as close again this season - if we continue to push each other than in turn helps the team. This time I hope it's in my favour at the end of the season. Nothing is easy is ever given to you but I'm going to give it a crack.

Do you think Red Bull have the reliability to deliver you or Sebastian Vettel a championship-winning car?
Mick Dillon, Australia

Vettel frustrated by mechanical failure

Yes. No team out there is totally bombproof and there will be little hiccups every now and then. We've learnt a huge amount about the car in the last few months and we'll continue to do so. Our reliability department was brilliant last year and I have full faith in them again.

Do you think Michael Schumacher will be competitive this year? And if so, when?
Pradosh Choudhury, India

It depends what you mean by competitive because he was competitive in Bahrain. Is him winning by 60 seconds like he used to in the past competitive?

We've just come off the back of three really good seasons of racing - that's we have to get back to and I think we will

Winning by those sorts of margins will be tough for Schumacher this season but, yes, he will be competitive. Whether he can be as dominant as he was in the past will be another subject.

I wouldn't expect him to beat his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg - I expect it to be close. Rosberg is competitive and I would say Schumacher is too.

The Bahrain race has been criticised for being boring. Was that a consequence of the new rules or do you think the teams will get used to the new situation and provide us with some real racing?
Terry, UK

There definitely will be some more exciting races than we saw in Bahrain - which won't be hard. There was a huge build-up but the race didn't deliver on that.

We've just come off the back of three really good seasons of racing, with Lewis Hamilton going down to the last race in 2008 to win the championship, Jenson Button's title fight last year in a season where we saw some really good overtaking.

Mark Webber struggles to find a way past the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher in Bahrain
Passing was at a premium in Bahrain. Here, Schumacher holds off Webber

That is what we have to aim to get back to - and I think we can. I don't think there will be any big change taking place to improve racing but teams will get used to the new rules and the different circuits we go to will play their part.

How frustrating is it as a driver to know you are quicker than the car in front but can't even attempt an overtake? What do you think the solution is?
Peter Fox, UK

It's very, very frustrating. Bahrain was very disappointing race for me and some of the other drivers were going through the same thing - I know Jenson was with Michael at the end. It's one thing it being difficult to overtake but there wasn't even a even a sniff to have a look at a pass.

Solutions? Well, I think the tyres are a pretty big part of it. They are set for the season but they're different to last year and not as easy to follow at all. There's less grip now following people.

Do you think that making two mandatory pit stops would make the racing a bit more interesting?
Sarah Peters, UK

I was having a bit of fun with Jenson and Lewis. Jenson was particularly saying: 'Get away and leave it alone'

It wouldn't hurt it. There is a lot of effort that goes into one pit stop, it's all over in under four seconds and it's pretty predictable now around when that stop will happen. If there are two stops that could involve a bit more tension and the potential for errors within the team as a whole will increase. Two stops will help but that may not be the solution for more overtaking on the track.

You were very critical of the new teams in pre-season. has that view changed in light of Sunday's race and the fact that no-one's race was compromised too badly?
Rob, UK

I was critical of some of the new teams, but in the end just one team, Hispania, turned up in Bahrain just to participate and not compete - that's not something I'm a fan of. Lotus and Virgin have done all they can. Lotus have done a very good job reliability-wise and you'd expect that as they have some good operators there.

Six months to get sorted is a massive mission. But I don't agree with teams showing up for a grand prix weekend without having turned a single wheel.

F1 is about competition; it's not about taking part. I think the testing restriction should have been lifted and tyres given to them just to get the new teams comfortable and safe. The mechanics out there with the new teams were destroyed. They were so tired and that's not good for the team or the drivers.

What did you see when you were examining the cockpit of the McLaren... specifically relating to the 'knee control'?
James, USA

Highlights - German Grand Prix

(Laughs) I was having a bit of fun with Jenson and Lewis (Hamilton). Jenson was particularly saying: "Get away and leave it alone". So I was saying: "Go and have a look at mine - we've got a steering wheel and a pedal so there's not too much to hide." It was a bit of light-hearted fun. It was good to have a look inside the cockpit but I saw nothing really - though I'm sure there's something in there that was of interest.

all we ever see of Sebastian Vettel is the man in the race car, what's he really like as a human being?
Richard Jones, England

He's a good bloke and everything you'd expect from a good competitor. He's very driven and we get on well. We certainly are competitive each weekend and try to get the most out of the car but he's a good guy and carries himself very well out of the car.

Do you play poker with fellow F1 drivers? Who from the current drivers are you friends with?
Anon, Mongolia

No, I don't play poker. I'm not big into cards. I grew up in Australia so we were always outside. I have a pretty decent relationship with most of the guys. There's a few of the new guys I don't know, of course, and I suppose Fernando (Alonso), Rubens (Barrichello), Sebastian, Robert (Kubica) and Jenson are the five guys I know the best.

How do you feel when you win a race and why?
Waseem, UK

You feel you've played a huge role in the team's effort towards that weekend, so there's a lot of relief, adrenalin and massive satisfaction in executing a perfect grand prix. A lot of hard work goes in from the whole team and then it's down to you to bring it home - it's a great feeling.

How difficult both mentally and physically is it to drive an F1 car?
David B, England

Physically, it changes track to track, where the loading on the body, the speed on the corners, the lay-out of the track and how busy it is all change. Temperature also plays a big role in determining how physically demanding it driving an F1 car is.

Michael Schumacher
Webber believes Schumacher will have a close fight with Rosberg

Mentally, it's the same again. Somewhere like Monaco or Singapore is different to Monza. You still have to be accurate in Monza but there are a lot more straights and more time to relax mentally than on the street circuits.

In the races gone by there was a lot of strategic plotting and thinking about where you might place your last stop but now it's about concentrating on tyre management.

Do you ever get scared?
Tom, England

The only time you get worried is when you can't see; that's not an ideal position to be in in an F1 car when the spray is that heavy and the conditions are such that visibility is reduced to such an extent that you are basically a bit of a passenger at certain times on the lap.

That's a period in the car when it's not always one we subscribe to as "the enjoyment of the job".

As a spectator, I find my heart rate increasing in the lead up to and during the formation lap and start, so I can only imagine what it's like for a driver. What do you do to keep calm and put a cap on your adrenaline levels?
Andrew Simmons, UK, Buckinghamshire

Experience helps a lot - the more times you're exposed to situations, the calmer and composed you get. The formation lap is a very important part of the race because there is a lot to get right during that lap, things like engine temperatures, brakes and tyres, as well as making sure as the driver that you are ready and focused for the start.

There are already plenty of things to occupy your mind so you're not just sitting there waiting for the lights. In my opinion, there is a lot more adrenalin and controlling that surge to be done before you get into the cockpit. Once you're in the office you're fine.

Would you rather win in Australia, or Monaco or Spa?
Josh , UK

Why do I live in England? I like the English sense of humour. I've a lot of friends there and I haven't had a big urge to leave

I'd probably take Monaco. It's a race that Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher won a lot. It's a real jewel in the crown of an F1 driver and a phenomenal track. Any home grand prix is a special one, too, but Monaco is a race that everyone wants to win.

You live in England? What keeps you here? The wonderful weather or the British sense of humour?!
Emma Price, United Kingdom

I certainly like the English sense of humour - there's no doubt about that. I'm a fan of all the old classics like Open All Hours and Porridge. I started racing in the UK in the late '90s so I've a lot of friends there. I haven't had a big urge to leave to be honest. It's worked out OK for me and from Heathrow you can get to anywhere in the world when the M25 isn't shut.

What does it take to become a racing driver? I am 13 and I have always wanted to step into a car on the grid.
Martin Pearson, United Kingdom

Getting a lot of experience in go-karts, especially in your early teens, is very important and should bring you a grounding on lots of different tracks. Then, try and find someone who loves car racing, who has lots of money and who will sponsor you and help you get through the junior formulas.

Mark Webber's Red Bull leads Robert Kubica's Renault in Bahrani
Teams such as Renault will have the odd good day, Webber says

We all know drivers on the grid who have sold their souls to get funding and experience and have the right decisions made for them. If you have the talent to press on through the junior categories and if you get all that cracked then you might have a chance to go all the way.

I read on BBC F1 that Prost was your hero, I am fascinated by this as most F1 drivers these days would choose Ayrton Senna. So why Prost?
Neil, Ireland

When I was growing up my Dad was a big fan of Prost; he liked how he used to come strong at the end of the race and how tactical he was. When you're eight or nine, dads can be very influential and so I came to follow Prost.

When Senna died tragically I realised deep down how much I respected him. Having raced on some of the tracks he raced on and having worked with people who knew both those drivers, especially at Williams, I have more and more respect for Senna.

Your old team-mate David Coulthard drove a Mercedes W196 in a display in Bahrain. In 1955, Fangio drove one of those to victory on the old banked circuit at Monza. If you could go back in time to 1955, would you be prepared to race that car on the Monza banking?
Rob MacDonald, UK

Fundamentally all F1 drivers are wired up the same even though we're from different eras. Some of the risk-taking that happened back then, for the drivers of that day it was just how it was and that's what they did.

The guys of this era would do the same thing, it's just that there's different safety levels now which come in every walk of life, not just motor racing, so people have a different perception on what is correct and what's not from 60 years ago.

So, I would have loved the challenge of that and would have loved to have had a crack at the banking.

There will be more Q&As from Mark Webber throughout the season, details on how to get involved will be published in advance on the BBC Sport website.

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