Despite having displayed extremely strong pace over the course of the opening two races of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign, Red Bull Racing – arguably the leading 'non-diffuser' team – has just 1.5 points on the board arriving in Shanghai this weekend. That is a statistic that Mark Webber intends to change – and fast.
With team-mate Sebastian Vettel having crashed out whilst duelling over the runner-up laurels with BMW-Sauber rival Robert Kubica in the closing stages of the Australian Grand Prix, and having similarly spun out of contention in Malaysia a week later, Webber has been RBR's sole bread winner to-date this season, courtesy of his sixth place finish in Sepang a fortnight ago.
The Australian, too, however, has been on the receiving end of more than his fair share of bad luck, being caught up in the first corner mêlée in front of his home fans Down Under in Melbourne, and deserving far better than what he ended up with in Malaysia, having at one stage been the quickest man on the track and looking set for a rostrum finish – if not even better. The Chinese Grand Prix, he hopes, will be Red Bull's recompense – and then when the team's new diffuser is ready, he hopes the Renault-powered RB5 will really
“We had a pretty good run in Melbourne until the first corner,” he recounted. “I think Heikki [Kovalainen] hit Rubens [Barrichello]. I haven't spoken to Heikki about that yet, but Rubens and I said we are going to bash him up later on! Yeah, that happens. Then Malaysia was obviously an exceptional race with the weather in the end, and that could have gone either way for many people, with drivers who were pitting or weren't pitting for different tyres.
“We are in a reasonable situation pace-wise. We're not right at the front but not going too bad, so we are coming here very optimistic again to try and fight for a podium if we can. It is not easy. Jarno [Trulli] has done a very good job so far and Nico [Rosberg] as well with the Williams, so it is tough out there as usual and we will do our best. Q3 is a very important session, we know that, and the fuel load is quite powerful for lap time, always has been. Like I said we will try and do the same here and get up at the front if we can.
“Early in Europe we will get the diffuser and we have a pretty good upgrade for Barcelona, so [there's] not a lot going on for the next two races, but I think for Barcelona we will be in better shape and then a few races after that we might see the introduction of a different rear to the car.”
Joking of his Chinese outing that he 'got here as late as possible and I leave as quickly as possible', the New South Wales native also explained the part he played in Sepang in discussing the conditions with his fellow GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers' Association) members whilst the race was red-flagged and the drivers and cars sat on the starting grid waiting to be told whether or not a result would be called. Unanimity of opinion, he underlined, made things a lot easier.
“The GPDA is very strong at the moment,” the 32-year-old stated. “We have a full grid of active members within the association with the exception of Kimi [Raikkonen], so we have come quite a good way. It's always been very, very important that the GPDA is constantly counselling each other on different issues that come across our sport.
“My role was not that difficult in Malaysia. All the drivers were concerned about the conditions and I was just really asking the guys what they thought, because there could have been a situation where the race might have been turned round quite quickly – they could have started the race quite fast again, in their eyes, but in our eyes obviously it was totally different. I thought it was worth asking a few guys towards the front and guys with experience, and I also asked Lewis [Hamilton] being the world champion, and all the responses were the same.
“When we communicate a lot better off the track it makes it easier for the guys to have more respect for each other when we are under off-course pressure from the teams or under pressure from ourselves to get the results. The organisation is going fine.”