Mark Webber admitted that he had been forced to 'try something quite extreme' to get himself up on the podium in the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona – as he pointed to the dramatic difference in mentality at Red Bull Racing in 2009 that means a top three finish now is almost viewed as a disappointing result.
Having begun the race around the Circuit de Catalunya down in fifth, the Australian consolidated that position when the lights went out, but frustratingly for both him and team-mate Sebastian Vettel, they had ahead of them the reasonably heavily-fuelled and KERS-equipped Ferrari of Felipe Massa. They would remain behind him until the opening round of pit-stops – and that is where Webber's tactics changed...
“We spoke about it this morning,” the 32-year-old revealed afterwards. “We had to unlock the Felipe Massa door somehow, and we knew that if he was ahead in the first stint we'd have to try something quite extreme. I had a very long second stint, as we knew Felipe would be one lap longer and his drive would be the key to my race. I was much happier with the car than in the first stint, although the tyres had nothing left for the last ten laps.
“We did 31 laps on those tyres – and no one's tested that. You can't test that; okay, in the winter, but that's not in these temperatures. We gave it a crack, which meant I had to deliver the lap times with a very, very heavy car and took a lot out of the tyres in the middle part of the long stint. The last part if it was really difficult – I tried to stay as close as I could to Rubens [Barrichello] to try to jump him as well; obviously he stopped on the same lap so that wasn't possible, but it was a great effort from the team.
“As a team, we want to get as many points as we can; today we got eleven which is great, with Sebastian there as well. He had more trouble with Felipe obviously – there's nothing worse than sitting in someone's diffuser, especially around here – so he had a tough race. Brawn have extended the gap again, so that's not ideal for us, but it's good to be back on the podium.
“It's interesting how the team's mentality has changed – last year we would have been happy to score points, and now we want podiums at every race! We're working incredibly hard and the guys' eyes are falling out of their heads with all the late nights and long hours. I was very happy with the way I drove, and the car was fantastic. I expect Monaco will be closer than this, but the way the car performed here – at a circuit that is a tough test – is a good sign for places like Turkey and Silverstone. Red Bull has done a great job and so have Renault.”
From the front row of the grid, for his part, Vettel had certainly hoped for more from the grand prix than fourth place, bringing his two-race run of rostrum appearances to a sudden end. Ceding position to Massa at the start was critical to the outcome of the young German's challenge, and failing to get by the Brazilian in either of his two pit-stops only served to compound his woes. Though he would finally be released barely a handful of laps from the chequered flag, by then it was too late to do anything about the three drivers ahead of him.
“My start wasn't the best,” conceded the Shanghai winner. “By the first corner Rubens was first and I was fourth, so obviously we lost some positions – most importantly to Massa. I was then stuck behind him for almost all of the race. He was impossible to pass; he did a very good job with no mistakes. It's obviously disappointing as my car was quick today, but I couldn't finish on the podium. Still, it's a strong result for the team and we take away some good points.”
Though Red Bull did indeed take eleven points away from the race – its second-greatest haul of the campaign to-date – Brawn took 18, meaning the ex-Honda F1 outfit has pulled out a further seven markers over the Milton Keynes-based squad in the constructors' title chase to be holding a comfortable 29.5-point advantage heading next to the winding and tortuous streets of Monte Carlo in a fortnight's time. Team principal Christian Horner is well aware that RBR needs to start getting the better of its chief rivals – and soon.