Mark Webber has conceded that he got pretty much the maximum that he could have done out of the qualifying session for this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, although whilst he significantly narrowed the gap separating him from pole-sitting Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel compared to the Melbourne F1 2011 curtain-raiser a fortnight ago, a gap remains.
Having been on the pace throughout practice in Kuala Lumpur – indeed, having been
the pace on the opening day – Webber had looked to have the measure of his defending world champion team-mate this weekend, but a torrid start to qualifying in Q1 hinted that the tables might be about to turn, and so it would prove.
After grappling around hopelessly on what he admitted 'felt like a set of intermediates', the 34-year-old crept through into Q2 in just 15th position, missing the cut by a scant three tenths of a second – enough, but hardly comfortable. On a fresh set of rubber, however, his pace picked up in Q2 as he lapped fourth-quickest, barely a tenth away from Vettel, but when it really mattered in the all-important Q3 shoot-out, that margin extended again to three tenths, as the German strung the perfect lap together and the Australian was unable to match it.
That leaves Webber third on the starting grid for today's grand prix, but he insists he is satisfied enough, and intent on banishing his Australian Grand Prix nightmare by kick-starting his season and title challenge into action on race day.
“It was a pretty exciting qualifying, wasn't it?” he reflected. “Clearly, it was very tight for all of us going onto that last run – there's always a tenth here and there, a couple either way if everyone gets it all together. I knew everyone was on a similar pace after the first run on the 'Options', so it was pretty straightforward for us – just do your best and try to drive as quick as we can!
“I had a pretty good build-up into qualifying and all of my runs were competitive apart from Q1, which felt like I was on a set of inters – they never did anything for me, so I was in trouble on those, but apart from that, I've always been pretty solid every time I've gone out.
“[It was a] better performance from me compared to Melbourne, and it's been a good weekend so far. I was pretty happy [with qualifying], to be honest. I couldn't have got much more out of it. I think the grand prix will be different to last year's, so it will be interesting. I'm looking forward to the grand prix and going from there.”