Mark Webber has confessed that had the 2009 Red Bull Racing challenger been 'a total sh*t box' and led to yet another barren season in the top flight, he would likely have elected to call time on his F1 career.

As it was, of course, the Renault-powered RB5 proved to be one of the leading contenders last year, coming on particularly strong once the contentious double-diffuser issue had been officially clarified and enabling Webber to not only memorably break his duck after no fewer than 130 starts at the highest level in the German Grand Prix at the N?rburgring, but also to follow it up with a second triumph in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos and add six further rostrum finishes to his tally - and very nearly launch a genuine title challenge into the bargain.

The broken leg sustained in a mountain-biking accident late in 2008 undoubtedly compromised the early part of the Australian's campaign - and with his contract coming up for renewal and memories still fresh of seven mediocre and frustrating seasons in F1 with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and RBR that had yielded just 100 points and a scant two podiums, he reflected that his motivation had been beginning to ebb away.

And then came the dramatic turnaround that transformed the New South Wales native from a midfield journeyman into a driver who on paper has as good a chance of challenging for the 2010 F1 World Championship laurels as just about anyone else.

"I don't know," the 33-year-old told The Australian newspaper, when asked if 2009 would have been his final campaign in the sport had things not gone well again. "If we'd had a total sh*t box, maybe. Two or three years ago, I wasn't particularly enjoying it a huge amount and I wasn't a million miles away [from retirement] then. You have to be enjoying it, and you have to be motivated. That fire has to keep going.

"It was a very tough start to [2009] for me mentally with the [mountain-biking] accident, and if that had been coupled with a tough season results-wise, it might have been enough to put water on the flame - but fortunately, it was enough to put petrol on it.

"Last year was very, very important in terms of the outlook on my whole career. The fire is burning now. I am getting up each day and I care and I am taking responsibility for myself."

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