17 February 2011
Webber confident Red Bull will be on pace
Mark Webber remains confident that Red Bull can be among the F1 frontrunners this season, despite an apparently slow start to testing with the new RB7.
Mark Webber has warned Red Bull Racing's F1 rivals not to set their sights on too much success this season, even though the new RB7 has yet to dominate the timesheets in two pre-season tests.
The Australian knows as well as anyone that testing times can prove a misleading means of predicting frontrunners for the year ahead, and remains unconcerned that Red Bull has yet to set the pace on a regular basis, but is clearly happy with the progress the world champion outfit is making with its latest contender.
After teething troubles curtailed his initial run in the car, Webber ended the opening Valencia group test in seventh spot on the combined timesheets, two places behind RBR team-mate Sebastian Vettel, while both drivers were outside the top ten - in 13th and 14th places respectively - at the end of four days in Jerez. While Red Bull concentrates on its own programme, the likes of Ferrari, Lotus Renault and even Williams have taken turns to set the pace, but Webber is adamant that, while there is a lot of work to do, he and Vettel will be at the front when it matters.
"We've been able to go through our programme and that was the most important thing," he told the official F1 website, "The car is running really well, even if we had a small problem with the floor on day one. In the end, yes, we would have wanted to run more mileage, but you always do. On the performance side, we are doing pretty well, even though it's hard to say as you never know what the others are doing."
Asked why he thought that the timesheets had yet to feature one consistent pacesetter, Webber pointed to the introduction of Pirelli as F1's sole tyre supplier as well as the naturally different programmes teams run at this time of year.
"First of all, we are focusing on ourselves and looking that we are going into the right direction," he noted, "Regarding the lap times, it is a question of how the Pirelli tyres work for everyone under different conditions and the different programmes everybody is running. I would not read too much into that. You could say that Valencia and Jerez are all about checking that the systems work as they should do. The importance of pace will probably come into the picture in Barcelona. We still have a long way to go - not in terms of time, but in getting to the performance we are aiming at."
Indeed, it is the Pirellis that the Australian believes will take longest to get a handle on, despite KERS and adjustable rear wings both featuring on F1's technical menu in 2011.
"I would clearly say the tyres," he insisted, "I've been through so many different tyre rules, so I would say this is really challenging. The car feels still very good, but it is always surprising how lap times can change because of the tyres. One time, I can control Michael [Schumacher] very easily, the next thing that happens is that I see his lap time at 1min 20.3. But my guess is that this significant oscillation between good and not so good lap times also depends on the fuel load in connection with the tyres' life. In general, I would say that the normally fast cars are all quick - the Ferraris, the McLarens and the Red Bulls. They are all doing well."
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