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Mark Webber column

Mark Webber column
By Mark Webber
Red Bull Formula One driver

Hi, I'm Mark Webber. I race in Formula One for the Red Bull team and I'm going to be BBC Sport's columnist this year.

I'll be writing a series of articles for this website, as well as working for other areas of BBC Sport.

Hopefully, I will be able to provide you all with some insight into what happens behind the scenes in F1, as well as share my thoughts on other areas of world sport.

It's hard for people outside the sport to understand that, for us, to come sixth or seventh is really good

At the top of this first column, web users (but not those of you on mobiles) can click on the video link for my guide to the Red Bull F1 car - how each part works, and how it all fits together to produce such incredible performance.

It will not surprise you to know that I am really looking forward to the new season, which starts in my home country Australia on Sunday 16 March.

The Red Bull team have been working hard through the winter, and we are reasonably happy with the progress we have made.

We are still some way behind Ferrari and McLaren, and probably BMW as well, but we expect to be pretty competitive in the group battling for the other points positions.

Along with a lot of the teams we will be competing against, we have closed the gap to the top two by about half a second over the winter, although we are still around 0.7-0.8 secs slower than them.

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Mark Webber - My Formula One car

We've been consistently third or fourth quickest around the two tracks in Spain where most of the pre-season testing takes place, but that doesn't really mean a great deal.

It is so close in that group involving us, Williams, Renault and maybe Toyota that it is going to be a really tough season to get in the points week in, week out.

It is hard for people outside the sport to understand that, for us, to come sixth or seventh is really good. Even though that sounds a bit conservative, that is our goal. For us, that's like winning a B-class race.

McLaren and Ferrari are on another level in terms of power and performance, so the top four positions - and probably the top six, with BMW - are locked away.

Consistency is going to be the biggest thing that transforms our season this year compared to last.

We lost so many points last season just because the car stopped - my team-mate David Coulthard and I didn't finish 14 races between us. So if we can get that down to a maximum of four or five then it will make a big difference.

I'd like to find out whether I can operate on Kimi Raikkonen's level for a whole season

We have done some good work on reliability over the winter, and we seem to be in much better shape than we were last year.

As is the case for all the teams at the start of a season, though, there are some small things that we are a bit concerned about that could affect our chances of getting a good result.

It does not matter at the end of the day if there is a hole in the side of the gearbox or a small leak in a pipe; it still comes down to the same thing - not finishing.

As drivers, we are all going to have to work harder this season to make sure it is not our mistakes that lead to problems.

The ban on traction control this season won't affect the competitiveness of the individual teams, but there will be a few more DNFs in terms of driver errors.

Red Bull F1 team-mates Mark Webber and David Coulthard
Webber's confidence has increased by beating Coulthard

There will be little mistakes here and there on the way into and out of corners. In mixed, greasy conditions, it could make a big difference.

And in very wet races, life is going to be very difficult for us - the cars and engines have developed in such a way that they are very difficult to control in the wet without traction control.

All the drivers are a bit concerned about that - it's going to mean some very difficult decisions if we have a race as wet as in Japan last year.

That race was looking set to be my best of the season - I was in second place before I was taken out by Sebastian Vettel while the field was running behind the safety car.

That would have been the best result of my career, so I was pretty annoyed about that.

Of course, my aim ultimately is to win races in Formula One, and I would be very disappointed if I was not able to do that if I was given a Ferrari.

There was a bit of a lovers' tiff between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso last year and I think it could get even more fiery this season

But whether I could operate at Kimi Raikkonen's level for a whole season is another question, and that's what I'd like to find out.

If you are in the position that Kimi is in, and Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso were, then you really find out where you are.

I have beaten David fair and square, and he has won Grands Prix, so that is satisfying for me. That gives you a bit of confidence, but the best drivers do find the best cars.

I was given the chance to go to Renault or Williams a few years ago, and I made the wrong choice in going to Williams. You have to make the right decisions to put yourself in those positions.

Most drivers are incredibly even but just like any sport, it is about consistency, the guys who can do it week in, week out.

Mark Webber drives the new Red Bull in the wet
The drivers are concerned about racing this year's cars in the wet

That being the case, it looks like the championship this year is going to be a fight between Kimi and Lewis Hamilton.

At the moment, Ferrari seem to have McLaren covered for pace, although McLaren look pretty quick in qualifying trim.

There was plenty of spice last year, a bit of a lovers' tiff between Lewis and Fernando Alonso within the same team - they couldn't be managed together in that environment so they are in separate teams for this year with Fernando going back to Renault.

I think the championship could be more fiery this year. It could actually get nastier in terms of the battle on the track because the gloves are off as two of those players are in different teams.

Fernando can take the fight to Lewis - as there is a bit of friction there, whereas Kimi is the sort of guy who just gets on with it. It could be fascinating.

Renault are not at the same pace as Ferrari and McLaren but I think every now and then Alonso will put the cat amongst the pigeons. He won't win the war, but some of the battles could get juicy.

Nevertheless, Ferrari are definitely favourites for this weekend - they always seem to have an advantage in Melbourne, so I think they'll start the season pretty strongly.

And hopefully Red Bull and myself will have something to celebrate on Sunday evening as well.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson

see also
Hamilton-Alonso 'could get nasty'
12 Mar 08 |  Formula One
Keeping up with Hamilton
10 Mar 08 |  Formula One
F1 experts on 2008
10 Mar 08 |  Formula One
F1 form guide
10 Mar 08 |  Formula One
F1 2008 - The British contenders
07 Mar 08 |  Formula One
What will Hamilton do next?
12 Mar 08 |  Formula One

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