Thursday, February 19, 2009

Interview with Mark Webber

Red Bull Racing's driver Mark Webber talks to The New Paper in an email interview about the horrific accident and recovery, the new car, his new team-mate and his hopes for himself and Red Bull Racing in the coming season

CONGRATULATIONS on your very quick recovery from a broken leg. First, tell us about the accident. Did you worry you might not be able race in F1 again?

IT WAS such an unfortunate incident - I was cycling and hadn't seen a car for a long time, but then unfortunately collided with one around a corner. When the accident happened I was asking when I would be racing again and they told me to just relax and focus on getting better. I always knew I would be back in the car.

HOW ELSE did you keep yourself occupied during this 'break'?
I HAD to work pretty hard on getting better, I was very determined. We had a date to aim for when I was supposed to be back in the car, so we got on with it and made it happen. I just focused on getting better.

HOW'S the leg?
IT'S STILL healing and I'm focused on being ready for Melbourne on 27 Mar. The test in Jerez went well last week and answered a lot of questions for me. We still have four more tests, but as far as I'm concerned, it's a given that I'll race in Melbourne. In fact, I've raced with fractures before, but nobody knew about them.

TELL us about this strange cold room treatment that you used for getting better?
IT'S really simple, I go into a room at normal temperature and then into a chamber at minus 50 for 30 seconds and then into a minus 130 for two or three minutes. It's all about improving circulation, putting the body under stress and getting the blood moving. It helps the healing around the fracture sites.

HAVE you got lots of bolts in your leg?
I HAD a bolt removed just over a week ago, which was a bit ahead of schedule, but I've still got more work to do. All the pins and things in my leg are made of titanium so it's nice and light and Adrian (Newey) is happy! I've got good sensitivity in the leg and the strength thing is coming along fine. Having the operation to take the pin out has the effect of setting you back a fraction, but it's more effective for the long term.

YOU'VE got a reputation for having been a bit unlucky. Did this accident add to that feeling?
I REMEMBER asking why this happened to me at the time of the crash, but I didn't think I was unlucky, it was just another hurdle in my life. I'll get over it. Other people have worse problems and I'm always up for a challenge and this is another one I'm looking forward to tackle. I'm not at all worried about racing with metal in my leg. This leg will be totally functional throughout the Melbourne weekend, including the 90-odd minutes of the Grand Prix on Sunday. I might not be able to run a marathon at the moment, but I don't need to. I need to be able to drive for the length of a grand prix and that's what it will do.

THE NEW RB5 car: What are your thoughts on it, its overall look (plus the new look of all the other cars with the wider noses etc)?
I THINK the RB5 is the best looking car, but F1 isn't a beauty contest, it's a lap-time contest and we're more interested in that. But, that said, the detail on our car is beautiful!

YOUR thoughts on the main differences between driving this year's car and last year's version (based on the old rules).
SLICK tyres make a difference and give more grip in medium to low corners - other than that the main difference is the low downforce. You can't attack fast corners as much as we used to and you have to break a little earlier, so downforce is the biggest change. The drivers are still breaking late and by Melbourne the drivers won't be much off the breaking points they had in Melbourne last year.

YOU'VE said you wouldn't lose weight for KERS even though such drivers as Fernando Alonso have already done so. Is being smaller and lighter so huge an advantage? Please comment.
I'VE NEVER been concerned about my weight since I started in Formula One, although it might have affected me when I was karting. A while ago, in the days of people like Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost, the slighter guys had a bit of an advantage, but they changed the rules to deal with that. Now, if you have a lighter-framed driver, you can use more ballast in the car and move it around, which might give you a few more set-up options, but the overall weight of the car won't change. I'm 75 kilos and that's what I am and that's what I need to be to do the job.

RBR's Adrian Newey has voiced safety concerns about KERS. Do you agree with his views? Do the benefits outweigh the these safety issues?
THE TEAM is working very hard with KERS and is trying to understand the system as well as possible, like all the other teams. We will work hard and make a decision at a later date if we use KERS for Australia.

WHAT are your thoughts on having a new team-mate this season? Does Sebastian Vettel's presence in the team provide you with a positive challenge seeing he had such a bright season in Toro Rosso last year? Does it add to the pressure on you?
THERE is always pressure going into the start of the year in Formula One, because it is the pinnacle.
I know people will say I'm up against Sebastian who won a race last year, but when I first came here, I was up against David Coulthard, who'd won 13 grands prix. Sebastian is obviously a phenomenal talent, a young charger and Red Bull has done well to keep him on their books and I hope that together, we can do well.
I don't want Melbourne to be tomorrow, which is what I usually say at this point, because I need a bit more time right now, but I'm really looking forward to it and I think it's going to be a fascinating weekend. I'm racing the whole grid, but it's inevitable that you get compared to your team-mate.
That's gone well for me in the past.

WHAT do you forecast for your team this year? Could Red Bull Racing be up there with McLaren and Ferrari?
IT'S AN exciting time and the rule changes might shake up the established order. Red Bull Racing could do very well out of this situation, but we need to wait and see how it goes. The rule changes will bring some changes, but it's not yet clear who will be surprising who!
WHERE do you see yourself placed at the end of this season?
WE'LL have to wait and see, but it would be nice to get some wins - I will be aiming for that, as in other years.

WHICH is your favourite race on the F1 calendar and where are we most likely to see you win a Formula One race this year?
MY FAVOURITE race is Belgium because the track is incredible. I love the layout, it has lots of climbs and downhill sections, which are exhilarating. The race we're most likely to win is any race that's wet.

WHAT was your impression of Singapore, the first F1 night race and the country in general?
I LIKE Singapore a lot - it's a safe city, very clean and I like how they deal with people not following the law. The street circuit was fantastic and really unique - I think it worked for drivers, teams and spectators.

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