Mark Webber warns that Red Bull Racing may have more to fear than just traditional F1 2010 adversaries McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari in this weekend's Italian Grand Prix at Monza, predicting that Force India could throw a spanner into the works as well at what Christian Horner has already suggested will be the energy drinks-backed outfit's 'weakest' track of the campaign.
Having effectively got out-of-jail with a fine runner-up position in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps just over a week ago – around a circuit where RBR had similarly expected to struggle – Webber is now aiming to effectively limit the damage again around Monza, whose high-speed straights and low downforce-dependent layout are tipped to show up the comparative breathlessness of the Renault engine in the back of the otherwise pace-setting RB6 more than anywhere else.
Whilst not writing off his chances of reaching the podium for the eighth time in 2010, the Australian – who led the drivers' standings prior to McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton's Belgian victory – is remaining circumspect in his approach to the weekend, and palpably on his guard.
“There are a lot of things that make Monza unique and special, not least of all the passionate Italian tifosi
who help to give the place a great atmosphere,” the 34-year-old remarked. “I love the way the track threads its way through the park, too, and remains one of the classic races on the F1 calendar.
“Of course it's renowned for its many long straights, which means a lot of heavy-braking so it can be quite hard on the car. I think we can still do well at Monza, though we might have a bit more in the way of opposition – in addition to Ferrari, McLaren and Renault, Force India could also be in the mix for the top places.”
Those sentiments are broadly echoed by Webber's Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, whose own bid for title glory took a knock in the Ardennes when the young German committed the latest in a string of costly impetuous errors this season in clattering into the side of Jenson Button as the pair diced for second place – but he is adamant that he is far from out-of-the-reckoning [see separate story – click here
“I have got two great memories from Monza – my first F1 first win and first F1 pole position – so it's good to be going back,” the 23-year-old mused. “It's a unique circuit with a great history, and an unforgettable atmosphere due to the fans. The circuit is one of the most challenging of the season, due to the low downforce levels and high top speeds.
“It's unique because it includes very long straights where we reach more than 300km/h and there are the famous corners, Parabolica and Lesmo. They are faster than the first chicanes, but you have to brake heavily on the approach. The key factors are low drag and good braking stability. I think it won't be easy for us, due to the long straights, but I'm sure we will do our best and keep fighting until the end.”