Mark Webber has pointed to his 'healthy rivalry' with Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel as being the factor that motivated him to up his game and emerge as a genuine F1 title contender for some of 2009 – and it is that same mutual respect and intra-team competition, the Australian opines, that will drive him on again in 2010.
Whilst Webber ultimately finished fourth in the drivers' standings last season – by some considerable margin his finest campaign in the top flight to-date, with his breakthrough victory in Germany, a second triumph in Brazil and six further rostrum finishes along the way – midway through proceedings he actually appeared to be RBR's main threat to Brawn GP adversary Jenson Button for world championship glory.
Though it was in the end Vettel who went on to run the British star closest by finishing as overall runner-up, it seems inarguable that both men will once again be right at the sharp end in 2010, provided Adrian Newey's Renault-powered RB6 is up to the task – and few doubt that it will be, having comfortably led the way in pre-season testing in Webber's hands on day three at Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain last week.
“It was very enjoyable last year,” the 33-year-old New South Wales native told Melbourne newspaper The Age
. “It was a healthy rivalry, and made me very determined and very motivated to do well. If you have someone like [Vettel] as a team-mate, you have to be at the top of your game. I had some very good races last year, but qualifying was a little bit more demanding for me, particularly going into Q3.
“All-in-all, we have the same relationship now as we did when we weren't team-mates – and that is a very good sign. It's also thanks to how everything is managed from the top in the team. It is a very healthy team, and that in-turn helps the drivers to have a good relationship.
“We have to keep an eye on things as we progress through the championship, though, because in Malaysia we will not be talking about the second test at Jerez. Things change fast.”