Mark Webber has brushed aside suggestions that he now has enough of an advantage in the F1 2010 World Championship standings to be able to lift off the throttle a little and settle for podiums and points over the remaining four grands prix of the campaign – asserting that victory is still very much his target.
Webber will arrive at Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix this coming weekend with the greatest margin over his pursuers that he has had all season – albeit still only eleven points, following Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso's back-to-back triumphs in Italy and Singapore last month – but the Red Bull Racing star is adamant that notwithstanding his ostensibly advantageous position, he will not be able to back off any time soon.
Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko might have hinted that in the light the Australian's lead, the energy drinks-backed outfit can henceforth 'be safer and let him drive more defensively', but the New South Wales native reveals that he will still be attacking all-out for the top step of the podium in Japan.
"It's nice that I have a little buffer," the 34-year-old told Australian media. "It's not very big, but it's something I would rather have than not. I think we will be very competitive [in Japan]; we need to go there and get the maximum out of what we have. We still have to go out and give it all we've got."
"I still need to win races,” he added, speaking to the BBC
. "Podiums are beautiful to get, of course – they're important – [but] reliability might still play a part in this championship and we know non-finishes hurt us a lot. [Singapore] was, hopefully, my toughest weekend of the year out of the way, and I can perform better on other tracks. I think we can be good [at Suzuka], so we're ready for it."
Webber went on to echo principal adversary Alonso in acknowledging that the sheer exhaustion of a 19-race campaign visiting no fewer than five different continents is beginning to take its toll on the five crown-chasing protagonists.
"It's a long, long season,” reflected the man from Queanbeyan. “You look at a lot of other sportsmen and women competing from basically February through to November week-in, week-out. It's not like tennis or golf where you can decide what tournaments you want to do – we have to rock up every weekend, and so does the team. We're flying around the world – this is all part of it...maximum concentration and focus from all the team and all the individuals involved."
Meanwhile, RBR team principal Christian Horner has insisted that he is unconcerned that McLaren-Mercedes will adopt an aggressive approach to the final four outings in an effort to close the gap, with third-placed Lewis Hamilton and fifth-placed Jenson Button respectively 20 and 25 points adrift of Webber in the title chase.
“They will obviously be going aggressive, although at the end of the day we have to focus on our own performance and maximise our own package at each of the remaining grands prix,” the Englishman told the Press Association
. “And if we are quick enough, then whatever they do should not be a factor."