Despite some having uncharitably suggested that the arrival of Formula 1's new youngest-ever race-winner Sebastian Vettel alongside him at Red Bull Racing this year could spell the beginning of the end of his career in the top flight, Mark Webber has insisted that he will approach the battle ahead no differently to how he has always done.
That, indeed, is a sober message for Vettel, who at just 20 years and 74 days of age broke all records when he sensationally triumphed for Scuderia Toro Rosso in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last season. Some are predicting the German will simply prove to be just too good for his Australian colleague this year, but Webber is not so sure.
His former team-mates Anthony Davidson, Antonio Pizzonia, Christian Klien, Nick Heidfeld, Nico Rosberg and David Coulthard – all of whom the New South Wales native has had the measure of during his seven-year stint in the sport to-date – would doubtless agree.
“Whether it's beaten or whatever, that's just the way that the applecart's fallen,” Webber said in an exclusive interview with Crash.net Radio
, humbly playing down the way he has repeatedly held the upper hand over the course of his career in F1. “It's a team sport, and that's how I've always viewed it. I'm looking forward to more of the same again this year.
“I've had a lot of team-mates in Formula 1, and the reason I strived so hard to get to Formula 1 was because I wanted to race against the best guys. Sebastian certainly had a good year last year, and I'm looking forward to working with him this year.
“As a team, I think it's good for us that we're happy to be working very closely together, and my job doesn't change. I'll continue to do what I've been doing since I got to Formula 1; that's what I'll always do.”
The man from Queanbeyan was unwilling to predict just where RBR will shake out in the running order when all the cars take to the track together in anger for the first time in the curtain-raising outing in Melbourne in little over five weeks' time, but he did admit that he hopes he enjoys a change of fortunes in front of his home fans this time around, having four times been forced into retirement Down Under and never having taken the chequered flag any higher than fifth.
“It's just such early days,” he urged. “We don't know who's going to be doing what. I'd love to be able to tell you [how things will look], but I'll tell you on 29 March! It would be great to have a clean race and get through without any problems. Obviously I was on for a decent podium there with Williams (in 2006) until I had a gearbox problem.
“You're always looking to get a good result in every grand prix you do, though. If it's at home it's a little bit different, but not much; every grand prix is important to the team, and I apply myself the same for the Australian Grand Prix as I do for the Hungarian Grand Prix. I always want to get the best result for both myself and the team, and that's what I'll try and do.
“It would be nice to win, but that's what I want to do every year. We'll aim for that and see how we go.”