Mark Webber has admitted that he may not know the true cause of the problems that slowed his progress in the Australian Grand Prix until his Red Bull Racing crew has had the chance to give his RB7 a thorough going over, but hopes to be closer to the pace of team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Malaysia.
The Australian, who has never enjoyed the best of luck in his home race, was restricted to a lowly fifth in the 2011 season-opener after having to make three pit-stops for fresh tyres. He pulled off immediately after the chequered flag was shown and stalked back to the garage, clearly unhappy with his lot and frustrated at not being able to challenge Vettel, who started his F1 title defence with a comfortable victory.
While outsiders may point to the similarities in Webber's Abu Dhabi GP at the end of last year, where tyre problems forced him to abandon his planned strategy at the cost of a world title shot, there was some surprise support for the Australian from within the Red Bull camp, as Helmut Marko suggested that there may have been a fundamental problem with his RB7. Webber, meanwhile, believes that things were not altogether perfect with the car, but admits that the real reason for his poor result may not be known ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
"We found a few pointers in the data, but we'll need to strip the car down before drawing any conclusions," the 34-year old wrote in his Daily Telegraph
column, "Only then will we know whether something was broken, or whether there was something fundamentally wrong with the car. To finish that far behind is not really usual, but let's stay cool - it's the first race."
Webber, who claimed pole position at Sepang in 2010, confirmed that tyres were the source of his frustration in Melbourne, a headache compounded by seeing others -notably Sauber rookie Sergio Perez - make their rubber last much longer during the race.
"More than anything, I struggled with a lack of grip," he reported, "That affected the longevity of my tyres because the degradation was much higher on my car than on Seb's. [Perez's one-stop strategy] was very impressive and proved that the durability of the tyre was there if you could unleash it."
Despite his frustration, and the obvious concern that he may have to tackle the Malaysian race with a car showing similar traits to Melbourne, Webber is taking some comfort from team-mate Vettel's victory 'down under'.
"Seb's pace proved that Red Bull Racing have built another great car this season - and we both had impeccable reliability," he concluded, before admitting that F1 is entering something of an unknown with the new Pirelli rubber this weekend, "The heat and humidity will push tyre temperatures into uncharted territory. All of the winter testing in Europe was done in cool conditions and, although Melbourne was hotter, it was nothing like the conditions we're expecting in Malaysia.
"It's going to be very interesting."