Mark Webber has warned Red Bull Racing's rivals that the energy drinks-backed outfit is the best-prepared it has ever been reliability-wise as it heads into the fast-approaching F1 2011 World Championship campaign – and he is 'ready', he reveals, to take on all comers in front of his home fans in Melbourne.
The season will rev into life with the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix on 27 March, and today was Webber's final day inside the cockpit of the Adrian Newey-designed RB7 before all of the cars take to the track for Friday practice around the streets of Albert Park.
The Australian completed 97 laps of Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, and whilst he was unable to replicate the headline-grabbing pace Red Bull had displayed on Tuesday and Wednesday – having to settle for just the third-fastest time on this occasion, behind Sauber rookie Sergio Pérez and Ferrari's Felipe Massa – he knows the defending double world champions are in good shape to come out-of-the-blocks fighting Down Under.
“We had a good day again,” the 34-year-old confirmed. “The car was reliable, so hopefully the weather will stay dry tomorrow and then rain on Saturday, so we get a good week out of it!
“I feel I'm ready for the first race now, and while of course you want a good run at your home race, I don't want to jinx it with any forecasts. Team preparation is the best we've ever had going into the first part of a season in terms of reliability. All the departments have done a sensational job in getting every aspect ready. Hopefully, we're not too far from our main rivals to start with and we'll just go from there.”
“It's been a good week so far, with no major difficulties,” concurred the Milton Keynes-based squad's Head of Race Engineering, Ian Morgan. “The weather helped us out a bit as well. With track temperatures near 30°C, it was nice to finally get a bit of running in the kind of conditions we may see at some European races. All-in-all, a successful day and I think Mark's now pretty comfortable with everything. He has a good feel for the car and how the tyres work, which is more important than ever this season.
“Tomorrow, it will be Seb's [Vettel – team-mate] turn to complete his pre-season work. We'll run through a similar programme to today and, as with Mark, try to get him as comfortable as possible with everything before we pack up for Australia.”
Massa, meanwhile, remained at the wheel of Ferrari's 150° Italia for a second consecutive day in Spain, similarly winding up his pre-Melbourne preparations. The Brazilian tackled a busy work programme – focussing mainly upon a comparison of various aerodynamic elements including front wing configurations – before moving on to a full race weekend simulation and getting through 132 laps in total.
“First impressions are positive,” he remarked of the Scuderia's
Australia-spec updates brought to the test, comprising a new exhaust configuration that sees them running along the sides of the rear part of the floor. “You can feel the effect of the new elements on the handling of the car, especially that of the exhausts. We worked mainly on a back-to-back comparison of the various configurations, especially in the area of the front wing. Once again we did a lot of kilometres, which is always a good thing.”
Team-mate Fernando Alonso will take over on Friday.
To see Thursday's testing times in full, click here