Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mark Webber Q&A: I am the title leader, but I’m not the favourite

In comparison to his title rivals, at 34 years-old Red Bull’s Mark Webber is the ‘old man’ of this year’s championship fight. But with age comes experience, and the relaxed way in which Webber is wandering around the Suzuka paddock ahead of Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix suggests his maturity could make the difference. After he emerged unscathed from his clash with McLaren's Lewis Hamilton at the last round in Singapore, the Australian also seems to have luck on his side…

Q: Mark, in Singapore you were very lucky, whilst your rival for the title wasn’t…
Mark Webber: Yes, and believe me I take every bit (of luck) that I can come across. Everybody has an element of luck now and then, and it looks like I was lucky in Singapore.

Q: Do you feel that the other drivers respect you more with that extra bit of luck on your side?
MW: No, I don’t think that other drivers change their approach just because they think you’re lucky - or unlucky. What is important is that you don’t test your luck too often. It’s like being a base jumper. The more you base jump, you eventually might get into problems. So don’t base jump all the time!

Q: There is the perception that Lewis Hamilton is a bit more aggressive when he is overtaking than others. He clearly overtakes a lot more than some others do - is (what happened in Singapore) the price you have to pay?
MW: Lewis is a great competitor and I would not expect anything less from him because in the end that’s what racing is all about. When people try to fight into the same corner, and when you have two guys who are reasonably competitive, then I would say that contact can happen. I think that both of us knew that there was only a limited chance that we would both get through that corner - and in the end we didn’t. That’s what happened on that day. Lewis, I would say, races hard and fair and that’s what I hope we will continue to do until the end.

Q: If you were in a similar situation again, would you act in the same way?
MW: I think both of us would do the same thing again as we both thought that it was the right point on the limit. We were both at a critical point of the race and it was important for both of us in terms of the race result.

Q: Would you have done the same if you were in his position? Would you have taken that risk?
MW: Probably yes - because it was maybe one of the only opportunities. That puts you in a vulnerable position, as we all know that things like that can happen.

Q: Did it happen because all the other title aspirants have to beat you? Are you in a position where just finishing the remaining races high up in the points could be enough?
MW: No, that wouldn’t be enough. I still have to race hard and go for victories. I am probably in a slightly better position, but I’m not abusing that because it can very quickly turn the other way around.

Q: What does an 11-point lead mean for the championship?
MW: I don’t know what it means. If it was the last race it would be a nice thing to have. But it isn’t!

Q: How big an advantage to Fernando Alonso is having team mate Felipe Massa’s on hand to support his championship?
MW: It certainly is not a disadvantage.

Q: Is it unfair?
MW: Well, I don’t think so. I think it is the way it turned out for them as a team. Felipe had a good start, but the mid season was not so great for him, so he is behind quite a number of points. And I don’t know if we will see Fernando benefiting a lot from Felipe’s support again. It depends how it plays out on the track. I don’t think that Fernando needs a lot of help from Felipe.

Q: He could hold the field up…
MW: Then I would be annoyed. But I don’t think they would do that. That is not part of the game. What is part of the game is probably changing positions. We have seen that a long time ago, when you go back to the Schumacher-Irvine days.

Q: Going back to Singapore, when you go into a corner with one of the other championship contenders, do you think of the title and weigh up whether you should still push as hard?
MW: No, not it all. It is just as it is with any other driver - it might as well have been Adrian Sutil, or I was with Kamui Kobayashi for a few laps - so that is not an issue.

Q: From what you’ve seen, will Ferrari give you a hard time here?
MW: They weren’t quick in Turkey but were at Silverstone. Their car has changed a lot since the middle part of the season, so I expect Ferrari to be in the hunt also here. All three (leading) teams will be quick.

Q: Given the kind of track that Suzuka is do you think you might have an advantage?
MW: We hope so. But hoping doesn’t mean much so we have to do it on the track.

Q: You are the championship leader, which makes you the favourite for the title. How do you deal with that pressure?
MW: I am not the favourite!

Q: Who is?
MW: We are all pretty even and it can change pretty quickly. In a good way for me - and in a bad way for me. It’s on a knife edge. But I am very relaxed.

Q: Are you ready for the title?
MW: I don’t even think of it. This weekend is just another Grand Prix - just another car race. The other stuff will take care of itself. Maybe in the end I will have a few more points than anyone. If it was a 15-race championship I would be the champion now. But there are still races to go and you need to lead the championship after the last race - and not now.

Q: At the moment you seem to be the flavour of the moment…
MW: Ah, but that changes with the wind so don’t take it too seriously!

Q: How do you like this track here at Suzuka? Do you expect to win?
MW: It is a wonderful track. I really like racing here. And of course you always come to a race with the intention to win.

Q: Your team mate Sebastian (Vettel) won the race last year. Can that be an advantage?
MW: Yes he did - and do you mean for the team or for me personally? Because winning is not the end of the world for me either!


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