Q&A with Mark Webber at RB5 launch
Q: You’re looking a little bit reduced in the lower limb department…
Mark Webber: A little bit tender mate, yeah.
Q: Is it a struggle?
MW: It’s still healing. We’re very much focusing on Melbourne.
We’ll see how we go here, see what it feels like to drive. There’s no need to go bananas, but see what it feels like – we’ve still got another four tests after this.
Q: As far as you’re concerned, is it a given that you will be racing in Melbourne?
MW: Yes. I’ve raced with fractures before that people didn’t even know about!
Q: We’ve read that you’ve been using this cryogenic chamber – tell us a bit about what that involves…
MW: Really simple. You go from normal room temperature into a chamber of -50C for 30 seconds and then into -130C for two or three minutes.
It’s all about circulation, just stressing the body, coming back out at normal room temperature again, getting the blood flowing around the break and helping the fracture to heal.
Q: How big a bolt have you got in your leg? Have you still got a rod and several pins?
MW: I had one removed on Thursday, which was a bit ahead of schedule actually – it’s all with a view to Melbourne.
Q: How much metal have you got in your leg still? Is it going to set off the metal detectors at the airport?
MW: Nah, it’s all titanium, so it’s all light – Adrian [Newey] was happy!
Q: Getting the strength back is one thing and the sensitivity is another – does that take longer to come back?
MW: I think at the moment the sensitivity is ahead of the strength. And the good thing is that with the strength, once it starts coming back, it comes quite quickly.
We’re still bubbling away at the moment with the strength. We were close last week and then we had that little bit of surgery which put us back a little bit.
But for the long game it will be better. It had to happen at some stage; it was totally normally for it to happen within 15 weeks from the op. We did it at 10 weeks.
Q: Will you have to pass the old Sid Watkins test of jumping in and out of the car in a set time?
MW: Yeah, I’ll do the test on Thursday in Melbourne. You have to get in and out of the car and putting the steering wheel back on in seven seconds. That will be fine.
Q: Can you do that now or not?
MW: I wouldn’t be far off. But it will be fine in Melbourne.
Q: You’re well known for being an unlucky driver, and now here you are with a season where you might finally have a race-winning car and you have this cycling accident. Do you find yourself thinking ‘why does this have to happen to me?’
MW: Well, I asked the question ‘why did it have to happen?’ when I had the shunt, but I wasn’t thinking that I was unlucky because I could have an amazing season next year.
It was just another hurdle in my life – get over it, other people have worse problems and I’ll be looking forward to proving myself again.
I’m always up for a challenge so this is another one which I’m looking forward to taking on and I’m sure I can do well with it.
Q: Is racing with a bolt in your leg a mental worry at all in the event of an accident?
MW: No. I’m not worried at all about what’s in my leg. This thing will be functional for the Melbourne grand prix for 90 minutes. It will be totally functional for the grand prix. That’s all it needs to do.
I can’t run a marathon any more – at the moment – but I don’t need to run a marathon. All I need to do 90 minutes in a grand prix, and that’s what it’ll do.
Q: How long do the pins stay in for?
MW: Eighteen months.
Q: Do you feel this is a season that gives you the most reason to be confident of any of your years in F1?
MW: Yeah, probably. Obviously there’s a clean slate for everyone and it’s very exciting for all the teams to have a chance to move up to some different positions than they’ve been in the last few years.
So there is a good chance that a team like Red Bull Racing could do very well out of a regulation change. We’ll see how it goes.
Christian Horner was saying this year was probably Sebastian’s biggest challenge and also your biggest challenge – do you see it that way?
MW: Yeah. Going into every year there’s pressure – that’s what Formula 1 is about. You work so hard to get to Formula 1 because you know you’re going to be tested and this is the pinnacle.
People will say Sebastian won a race last year and I haven’t, but when I first came here [to RBR] it was David’s third season with the team and he’d won 13 grands prix and it was a case of seeing how Mark would go against that.
So there are always new challenges. Sebastian is obviously a phenomenal talent, a young charger, great for the team.
Red Bull have done really well to keep him on their books, and hopefully they will see the benefits of that over the next few years. I hope we can do well together.
I don’t want Melbourne to be tomorrow because I need a bit more time, but I’m really looking forward to it. I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how the teams turn out.
Q: You’ve seen a lot of young chargers off before among your team-mates, so I imagine you’re not too concerned about another one…
MW: It’s part of the job that you will be tested. We’re racing the whole grid, but obviously it’s normal that there will be comparisons made between team-mates.
That’s the way it’s been over the past 10 or 15 years, that they compare you to your team-mate.
That’s worked very well for me in the past.
Q: Adrian Newey has a good track record of coming up with a strong car when there are sweeping rule changes, doesn’t he? I’m thinking of the 1998 McLaren…
MW: Yeah, and I think when you see the car and how he’s designed it, it’s pretty cute in places. So it is a credit to him; I mean, he is a genius, so we’ll see what happens.
With the testing restrictions you need to have a pretty good baseline [performance] to roll out with. You wouldn’t want last year’s Honda with this year’s rule changes!
Q: It’s no secret that Renault had a power shortfall last year, but you’ve been allowed to catch up a bit over the winter. Are you confident that you will be on a level playing field on the engine front this year?
MW: I think so, yeah. There were a lot of interrogations into the acoustic overlays and what differences were out there.
Renault, the FIA and the other manufacturers have come up with something that looks fair to everyone.
It’s a very positive thing that the sport can do that.
Q: Max Mosley was suggesting the other day that there may not be too many cars running in Melbourne on Friday because of drivers not signing their superlicences…
MW: It will be fine. A statement has been put out and that’s it.
Q: Do you have any concerns about KERS?
MW: I think a lot of people are shooting in the dark with it at the moment. There’s still a lot to understand with it in the field; there’s been a lot of work done away from Formula 1 tracks, but let’s see how it works in a racing environment.
That’s the big question really, and reliability, starts and restarts… The packaging is obviously not easy – it’s a lot of extra material to get into a very tight, compact car.
I don’t know… Good luck to the commentators, trying to explain all that. ‘By the way, he’s got KERS, he hasn’t. What is KERS? I don’t know…’ The commentators have got a tough job this year.
Q: Is it a particular concern as you’re one of the taller drivers and are therefore at a bit of a disadvantage once KERS comes into play?
MW: I’ve never ever been at a disadvantage due to my weight since I’ve been in Formula 1, which has been great. The last time [it was a disadvantage] was in Formula 3 and obviously in go-karting.
I know that when Mansell and Prost were racing there was a bit of an advantage for the slighter guys, and they changed that obviously with the way the minimum weight is calculated.
But now, having so little ballast to play with, obviously a guy with a lighter frame has more ballast to move around the car.
The cars will be the same weight; it’s more of a balancing tool, and you have more options if you are lighter to set the car up a little bit differently.
That’s all it is. I’m 75 kilos; I’m not going to try any harder to be any lighter, because that’s how I am and that’s what weight I need to be.
If someone wants me to be 70 kilos then get someone else to do it, because I can’t get to 70 kilos – I wouldn’t look very clever.