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Page last updated at 15:34 GMT, Monday, 20 April 2009 16:34 UK

Mark Webber column

Mark Webber

Mark Webber
By Mark Webber
Red Bull F1 driver

Sunday in Shanghai really was an amazing day for Red Bull.

To follow Sebastian Vettel over the finish line to secure a one-two for the team, especially given the type of race it was and the conditions we were exposed to throughout, was wonderful.

Sebastian drove a fantastic race but both of us rode the car to the absolute limit for the whole race.

I have known in the past that it was going to be very difficult to win races in the car we had but obviously now we are very competitive and we have got two drivers who can put the car on the limit.

All credit to chief technical officers Adrian Newey and Geoff Willis, chief designer Rob Marshall and the team - we have obviously never enjoyed a one-two before and it is a culmination of a lot of hard work.

The challenge now is to continue to push the standard of performance in every race to ensure the car stays at this level.

It is imperative that the team, myself and Sebastian keep going and keep pushing because the next three or four months will be absolutely crucial to how we do in the championship.

WEBBER v VETTEL

First and foremost, I have to be delighted that we brought home the team's first one-two. It really was an incredible race.

Starting behind Sebastian obviously played a big role in how my race turned out. For the first few laps, the visibility was so poor and the level of aquaplaning so high that following close to my team-mate was very hard.

Once I got through those early laps, though, I thought if I could just stay as close as possible for as long as possible me and Sebastian could still have a race. But that was easier said than done.

606: DEBATE
Beethoven's Left Ear

I couldn't quite hold on to his coat-tails and the pit-stops played a part in that - I stopped a lap earlier than planned because Sebastian was on a different lap with his fuel and he was therefore able to hold on to his lead.

A few little things like that made it a bit difficult for me but I think it was always going to be hard to beat Sebastian on that day. The way the race went for me meant second was the best I could get.

It turned out Sunday was Sebastian's day - he deserved it - but I'm not a million miles away at all and my day will come, I know that.

We are very close in terms of pace and I absolutely like it like that.

It is very good for the team that we are pushing the car on all fronts, extracting every bit of performance we can, and both of us are also pushing in the same direction in terms of the development of the car. That bodes well for our improvement as the season goes on.

At this level you want to compare yourself against the best guys and he and I are certainly enjoying our duel.

WEBBER v BUTTON

Another factor that played against me in pursuing Sebastian on Sunday was my little battle with Brawn GP's Jenson Button.

About 30 laps in we were going toe to toe and, starting behind him, viability was poor and trying to get past him in a few areas was not easy.

Sebastien Vettel approaches the final corner

Highlights - Chinese Grand Prix

He then had a lock-up in the hairpin and I was able to pass but, desperate as I was to take advantage of the clear air to launch a pursuit of Sebastian at the front, I had to take a few risks.

That meant me getting caught out on the last corner and I went on to the curb and allowed Jenson back in front.

I was going to be very frustrated hanging behind him - I wanted to get free air and keep my nose clean and yet I was losing so much time being in and around other cars - so as I came into turn seven I thought, "OK, I'm going to absolutely scream round him on the outside", partly because I knew he wouldn't expect it.

I pulled it off and it was probably one of the best moves I have ever done. In those conditions, to nail him on the outside in fifth gear at about 145-150kph was very rewarding.

THE WET WEATHER AND SAFETY CAR

The sensation we get as drivers in such conditions is that the car gets incredibly lively because the grip level is lower - and then we have the most challenging part of that type of racing, aquaplaning, where the level of water under the tyres and the body of the car is so great that the car lifts off the track and floats for a little bit.

All that requires is for us to get the car at the right angle to take those little rippers on, so they don't catch us out, because you can quite easily lose the car in those conditions.

It is a totally different mindset and attitude towards that kind of racing in the sense that your margins for error are much higher and while in the dry you might be able to relax here and there, in the wet you absolutely cannot afford that.

Your concentration levels must be at their absolute highest throughout.

Mark Webber
In the wet you know you are in for a long race and rather than aggressive overtaking manoeuvres it is about survival

You have to do various things with the throttle and all your inputs become very fine in terms of their actions, so you are balancing this car, which is very, very light but with a huge amount of power and acceleration and braking capability, as best your can.

You also become very reliant on your other senses, especially your peripheral vision because your straight-ahead vision is pretty much bogged out and so you have to use whatever you can to calibrate where you are.

What happens in those conditions is you are picking up other markers at high speed, trying to get a sense of where we are on the track and where we have to position ourselves - not only left or right of the track but also when the next corner's coming up. That is one of the most challenging parts of our job.

Given all that, I think it was the right decision to start the race behind the safety car.

If we had a standard start procedure, there is a big chance of speed discrepancies going into the first corner, which only lends itself to the possibility of huge crashes and multiple cars rolling into each other at speed.

Rolling starts allow drivers to get more temperature into the tyres and the brakes in a controlled fashion and to get a feel of conditions.

Better that than what happens in a dry race - ie everyone trying to nail each other as aggressively as we can at the first corner. In the wet you know you are in for a long race and rather than aggressive overtaking manoeuvres it is about survival.

It is a completely different mindset.

TEAM PROSPECTS

The China Grand Prix was clearly very encouraging but we have a lot of work to do yet.

If you look at the fuel-corrected timings, taking into account the loads being carried by each car, the grid would have been Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Jarno Trulli, Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso - so clearly we have to keep improving.

Still, while the Toyotas and Brawn GP are impressive, you cannot take anything away from our team. We are second in the constructors' championship and I have always been a fan of the scoreboard never lies.

All the teams have got new stuff coming and that is going to move the performance barrier around from team to team

We have some good momentum coming off what was a special afternoon but we realise we are not going to get 18 points every weekend.

We have to maximise our car's performance every weekend - especially with a mind to the development race we have going on off the track, which is incredible.

All the teams have got new stuff coming and that is going to move the performance barrier around from team to team, so we have to hope we can continue to push the performance of the car to stay up with the best.

THE UPCOMING BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX

Firstly, we have to keep in mind three of our competitors were out here for two weeks testing.

We want to keep our performance going, no question, but we know there are some fast teams out there.

Q3 is going to be crucial to get right and, if we do that, we can have both cars sniffing around the points again. If that is in and around the podium that is great but if not then it will be what we deserve.

It is a good little track for overtaking, Bahrain, so it should make for an exciting race whatever happens.

Mark Webber was talking to Andrew Benson



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see also
Brawn still team to beat - Webber
20 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Vettel seals first Red Bull win
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Buoyant Vettel eyes more F1 glory
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Hamilton faces long wait for wins
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari predict end to poor form
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Button 'really happy' with third place
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Martin Brundle column
20 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Kubica and Trulli explain collision
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Chinese GP photos
19 Apr 09 |  Formula 1
Mark Webber column
25 Mar 09 |  Formula 1


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