Heading to Japan with an eleven-point advantage, F1 2010 World Championship leader Mark Webber has conceded that the momentum is presently on the side of his principal rival Fernando Alonso and Ferrari – but convinced that Red Bull Racing will be 'very competitive' at Suzuka, the Australian insists he is not unduly concerned.
There are now just four races left – or three, should Korea be canned – in an enthralling, see-saw campaign that has seen all five of the crown-chasing quintet sit atop the standings at one stage or another. Off the back of a battling third place in Singapore last time out, Webber holds a greater margin over his pursuers than he has ever had before, but perhaps more pointedly, it is now man-of-the-moment Alonso following closest in his wheel tracks.
The Spaniard is a previous winner at Suzuka, whilst Webber endured a nightmare outing in last season's Japanese Grand Prix, crashing heavily enough during practice as to rule him out of qualifying, and then finding himself forced to pit no fewer than three times over the opening four laps in the race due to various issues – though fastest lap at least proved that he had the pace to challenge, just not the luck.
“I'm optimistic we can do well in Japan and the team did well there last year,” the 34-year-old mused, alluding to team-mate Sebastian Vettel's dominant 2009 triumph. “The momentum is currently with Ferrari going into the race, as they have had two victories on the bounce, but the points situation is still very open.
“It's nice that I have a little buffer; it's not very big, but it's something I would rather have than not. Suzuka is a track that all the drivers love and I'm looking forward to it. I think we will be very competitive – we need to go there and get the maximum out of what we have.”
Vettel gave his own title chances a boost by harrying Alonso all the way in Singapore to claim the runner-up laurels, in so doing closing to within just 21 points of Webber, as Red Bull continue to maintain that there will be no team orders just yet. The young German was arguably the quickest driver on the track in the Far-Eastern city-state, and he is preparing to return to the scene of his 2009 glory buoyant about his prospects of narrowing that deficit even further.
“Suzuka should suit our car, but we still have to go there and prove it,” the 23-year-old acknowledged. “I think we have a very competitive car this year on all circuits, so we can be confident. Last year was very good, and I think we should get a good result again.
“Ferrari has made a step forward in the last couple of races, so they will be strong and don't forget McLaren. There are still a lot of drivers fighting for the title and they are very close to each other – it's tight and a lot of things can still happen. We need to make sure we get the best out of ourselves, and then we will see.”