In the wake of his most disastrous race of the season in Korea, Mark Webber has received a resounding vote of confidence from a man who has won the F1 World Championship before, with Nigel Mansell describing the Australian as 'a class act' – but fearing that Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, has made a few too many 'misjudgements' in 2010 to still be able to clinch the coveted crown.
It was Webber's own misjudgement in Sunday's inaugural Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam County that cost the Red Bull Racing star his title lead, as he lost control of his Renault-powered RB6 on just the second racing lap in treacherous conditions and swiped the wall before rebounding across the track again to collect the luckless Nico Rosberg.
Only his second accident-induced DNF of the campaign, it could not have come at a worse possible time for the 34-year-old, as it allowed Ferrari rival and Korean winner Fernando Alonso to sweep past to annex the top spot in the drivers' standings, some eleven points clear now heading into the final two outings in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
After overcoming so much adversity even inside his own team this year, however, Mansell is convinced Webber remains on-course to become the first of his countrymen to lift the ultimate laurels since Alan Jones a full three decades ago.
“I still think the title's there for Mark Webber to lose now, and I don't think he will,” the 1992 F1 World Champion is quoted as having said by British tabloid The Sun
. “There has been stuff going on within the team all year, but he has demonstrated he is strong of character and strong of mind.
“Mark is a class act, as he showed when he came back from that accident in Valencia. In years gone-by, anyone thrown through the air like that would have been hospitalised or dead. Then you think of the accident he had on a mountain bike, hitting the car head-on and breaking his leg and yet he came back from that, too.
“Mark is not taking any risks. I have to commend him, because he's been so professional by finishing second and taking the points. Alonso is a brilliant driver, but for me Ferrari lost focus by publicly demonstrating that their drivers basically don't get on.”
As to McLaren-Mercedes ace Hamilton, meanwhile, Mansell added that mistakes of the kind that saw his fellow Brit miss out on a potential victory in Korea by running wide at the final safety car re-start are likely to end up costing him dear – and pointed out that the 2008 title-winner will only have himself to blame for taking his eye off the ball in 2010, if errors like those he committed in Italy, Singapore and Japan cause him to similarly miss out on championship glory.
“A few misjudgements have crept in this year, and I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he's better than that,” the 57-year-old mused. “There are obviously a few things going on inside his head where he's not in-sync with himself.
“Whether you have got mirrors or not, you know exactly where you are on the circuit and where you are racing someone else. He's been caught out a couple of times, but if he's the class act I'm sure he is, he won't repeat that and will be better for it.”