Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber has confessed that he would love to end the 2009 F1 World Championship campaign with back-to-back wins in the inaugural Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend following his triumph in Brazil – but with the title battles all now over, his real focus, he admits, has already been turned to next year.
Webber's success at Interlagos – the second of his career following his breakthrough German Grand Prix victory at the Nürburgring back in the summer – secured him fourth spot in the final drivers' standings, being too far out of reach to challenge for second and third, and similarly under no threat from behind. However, as the old adage goes, you're only ever as good as your last race – and the Australian is determined to head into the winter off-season having left the F1 world with the memory of him standing atop the podium on Yas Island.
“The F1 season has been pretty long,” the 33-year-old reflected, speaking to the official RBR website, “but it's still always good to have the chance to drive the car again, particularly when we're in our current form. The last race of the year will be very interesting to go to, as no-one's raced there before and it's another street circuit – it sounds fascinating.
“It's always nice to go to a new track, and I think it will be a good finale to the season and a timely end to the championship. As usual, qualifying will be very important on a street circuit, and then we'll see how the race goes from there.
“We've been pretty strong since Singapore, so there's no reason to suggest that we can't be fighting towards the sharp end again, no question about it. We're looking to finish off on a high for the team. We're all ready to start next year now, as the championship titles are decided, but I'm expecting Red Bull Racing to be pretty strong in Abu Dhabi.”
Webber wound up seventh-quickest on the opening day of practice around the all-new, anti-clockwise, Hermann Tilke-designed street circuit in the capital of the UAE, three places albeit less than a tenth of a second adrift of Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Both men professed themselves pleased with early progress.
“A productive first day at a new track,” summarised the Queanbeyan native. “We had an engine change between P1 and P2 – the guys did a brilliant job to get the car turned around in time. Other than that, we got on with the normal tyre comparisons and other tests we do on a Friday – so, although a new track, a normal Friday.
“The track's pretty good – it's not Spa, but it's not Bahrain either! It's not bad. There was a difference in clarity between driving in the afternoon for P1 and in the early evening during P2 – it's a different atmosphere when the lights are on, but we're used to that from Singapore.”
“So, that was the last Friday practice of this year,” added Vettel. “I'd like to say thanks to Renault – many people didn't believe that we'd succeed without having to change an engine, but here we are having completed a lot of miles on another Friday without a single problem. Abu Dhabi is a new circuit, so new conditions – including starting driving in the daylight and finishing the session at night, which is quite exciting.