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Mark Webber column

Mark Webber
By Mark Webber
Red Bull F1 driver

Mark Webber drives the new Red Bull in Jerez
Webber was impressed by the design of the new RB5

I woke up feeling great this morning after my first time in a Formula One car since I broke my right leg last November.

I did 83 laps - more than a race distance - at Jerez in Spain on Wednesday and it couldn't have gone much better. The car was reliable and so was I.

I have to admit I was pretty relieved.

There's a lot going through your head anyway because the first test of a new car is a bit nerve-wracking for everybody, not just the driver.

In my case, there was the extra complication of how my leg would hold up. It was a pretty bad break when I had the accident 11 weeks ago, and you have to go through some dark tunnels and trust people's judgement.

I've had good people around me. Roger Cleary my physio has been amazing, and my specialist told me before I got out here that my leg would be absolutely functional - that he'd made it do the job I needed it to do.

We've done a lot of work to prepare for that but you never really know until you do it.

We will probably tackle the rest of the winter testing as if I'm totally normal, which is very encouraging

Testing my ankle was the first thing to get out of the way - making sure it was able to modulate the throttle, which is a big thing for my job.

The ankle wasn't affected in the accident but you need the strength to repeatedly do the action and the lower leg has gone through a bit of trauma so we had to make sure we could do that.

I tested that on the installation lap straight away and I could slide the car and move around a little bit so that was good.

The next issue was the bumps and the kerbs. Turn One was a little bit bumpy on the brakes so I could feel it a little bit but not too much. The overall strength of the leg was fine.

I discovered that I can drive at 100%, which is pretty amazing, really, when you think about what I've gone through.

Red Bull driver Mark Webber and chief technical officer Adrian Newey
Webber and Red Bull design guru Newey assess the RB5 in Jerez

Fitness is also a concern when you've been out for so long. I knew I'd lost a bit of aerobic capacity, and F1 cars are also pretty rough on your neck with all the G-forces.

But I've done a lot of work on that and it's held up really, really well. My general condition in the car was pretty relaxed and that was encouraging.

I've had no experience of this type of injury - but I know what the cars demand of the driver so I knew what I needed to work on, I've done that and it was a good day.

I've got today off, which was always in the schedule because we did not know how I would wake up in the morning. But now we are going for another full day on Friday and we will probably tackle the rest of the winter testing as if I never broke my leg, which is very encouraging.

Sebastian Vettel, my team-mate, and I will split the tests down the middle because the important thing is to get both drivers commenting on the car in the build-up to the first race.

In terms of a roll-out, this test has gone pretty well. First impressions of the car are pretty good. It's a beautiful car to look at - and it's not easy to build a beautiful car with these regulations. They say if it looks quick, it is quick, and hopefully the stopwatch will bear that out.


Adrian Newey, our chief technical officer, and his design team have come up with some interesting solutions to the new rules, which are very demanding, and there are many different paths you can go down because it's such an open slate.

We have work to do. We're not the quickest yet, but we're certainly not that slow. We're pretty encouraged, but it would be suicide to predict anything now. It's impossible to know who's running Kers, what fuels loads and so on, and most people will have upgrades for the first race which will switch things around a bit.

What is obvious, though, is that the McLaren is very quick.

There's a lot less downforce than we had last year. The cars are probably as much as three seconds slower.

It's difficult to know yet whether the rules have achieved the aim of making overtaking easier. I got reasonably close to Kazuki Nakajima's Williams on Wednesday and then he just pitted. Realistically, there won't be answers to all these questions until we get to Melbourne.

On a personal note, it has been ironic that, just as my leg heals, another one got broken in our house the other day.

As you may have read in the newspapers, my cleaner, Paulene, was injured by one of our dogs.

Heikki Kovalainen in the new McLaren
Webber says the McLaren is looking very quick at this early stage

I've got two, Simba, a Rhodesian ridgeback, and Shadow, a weimaraner. Simba was just out mucking around. He's got a habit of being a human torpedo. He weighs 42kg - he's like a big ship; he can't change direction that quick - and unfortunately he cleaned up Paulene. He ran straight through her and broke her leg.

He does it to me sometimes, which is why I've had to be careful since my accident. Usually, I get down and pretty full on with them, mucking around and wrestling and so on. But they're amazing dogs. Somehow since I've done my leg they know I'm not firing on all cylinders.

Once the leg's fully healed I should be able to get back to normal with them, but the important thing is that now we know it's not going to hinder me in the car.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson

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see also
Hamilton fastest in Spain testing
12 Feb 09 |  Formula One
Webber back to test Red Bull car
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Mark Webber column
13 Jan 09 |  Formula One
Webber targets return in February
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Webber breaks leg in bike crash
22 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber Q&A
07 Nov 08 |  Formula One
Mark Webber column
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Mark Webber's 'office' wear
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25 Mar 08 |  Formula One
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