Mark Webber admits to enjoying having a young charger alongside him in the Red Bull Racing line-up this season, and insists that Sebastian Vettel is under more pressure to prove himself.
While it is the young German who can claim to have taken pole positions and Red Bull's maiden grand prix victory in the face of Brawn GP dominance, however, Webber's better consistency sees the pair sitting just one-and-a-half points apart in the world championship, with RBR providing the main opposition to the Jenson Button-led Brawn squad.
Having generally had the better of David Coulthard in their time together at the Milton Keynes-based team, Webber says that he is revelling in the chance to match himself against a quicker young driver, but maintains that it is he that is providing the surprises and, therefore, exceeding expectation.
"I'm enjoying my battle with [Sebastian] this year," he wrote in his BBC
column, "It's the first time I've had someone so quick as my team-mate, and I've always said that's what it's all about - at this level, you want to compare yourself to the best guys.
"Vettel is hot property at the moment, and he's done a great job to get where he is, but there's just a point and a half between us in the championship. People ask me if I feel under pressure, but I think there's more pressure on Sebastian. In people's eyes, I'm not supposed to be doing what I'm doing. People think he's the new Schumacher and should be hosing it, but it's good that's not the case. I don't feel any more pressure than when I'm driving for tenth or twelfth. There's no pressure to prove anything to anyone but myself."
The most recent round of the season, in Turkey two weekends ago, hinted at the first cracks in an otherwise seemingly harmonious relationship at Red Bull, with Vettel clearly not happy at being advised, codedly, to hold station behind Webber as they attempted to chase down Button. The result was a second runner-up finish for the Australian, and a German trying to put a brave face on things.
Webber, however, insists that there is no problem between the two drivers, or with management.
"The last two or three races have gone well for me and less well for Sebastian, but things are fine between us," he claimed, "For the Red Bull team, it's uncharted waters having two drivers who are equal and fighting each other, [and] it's a bit early in the season to throw in your lot with one guy. You could throw it all in with Sebastian, but he crashed in Monaco so you've still got to give both cars the best chance to get the best result possible. In terms of the championship, at this stage, you have to let the drivers do what they do. In Turkey last time out, the team just let us get on with it, which is good.
"If he's down the road by 40 seconds at the end of a grand prix and I've done my best, I can't do anything about that, and it's the same with him - he did his best in Turkey and it wasn't enough. It's going to be like that for the rest of the season. There'll be weekends when I do better and weekends when he does but the most important thing is that we get the best out of the car. If Sebastian was 25 points ahead of me now it'd be a different ball game, but he's not - we're both still trying to close the gap on Jenson Button, which is proving pretty difficult."
Button has proven to the thorn in the side for everyone in the opening seven rounds, and Webber, while gracious about his rival's success, is reluctant to make predictions ahead of the Briton's home race, at Silverstone, this weekend.