For the first time, Mark Webber has hinted that rather than calling it a day when his relationship with Red Bull Racing ends, he could be persuaded to consider switching to another team to prolong his F1 career.
Webber is contracted to Red Bull until the end of the current campaign on a single-season deal, and both the Australian and team principal Christian Horner have recently affirmed that he is likely to conclude his stint in the top flight with the Milton Keynes-based squad – for whom he has competed since 2007 – be that at the end of this year or further into the future.
Despite the well-documented hiccoughs in their relationship last year, Horner has contended that Webber has 'no desire' to jump ship to a rival team – but as he reflects upon what has been a troubled start to proceedings for him in F1 2011, assesses the form of his adversaries and looks ahead to the beginning of the European leg of the campaign, the six-time grand prix-winner suggests otherwise.
“I began the season below my expectations,” he candidly confessed, speaking to Italian newspaper La Stampa
following a demonstration run around the streets of Turin. “I've had a bit of bad luck – in Melbourne I had a problem, in Malaysia my KERS didn't work from the start and I had a great race in China, but I started from down in 18th place – but I'm not looking to make excuses. Normally – and I don't know why – when we get to Europe, I start winning...and that's what I intend to do in Istanbul!
“Sebastian [Vettel – world championship-leading Red Bull team-mate] is very quick, he has a remarkable disposition and now he has gained some good experience, too – but he's not unbeatable. I don't want to talk about his weak points – but we all have them.
“I'm convinced that this year there will be big battles all the way through, and especially with the tyres displaying different behaviour from race-to-race, it's easy to get the car set-up wrong. I'm impressed by the progress McLaren have made – in testing they lacked reliability and didn't look fast. They've done really well.
“I've got my own theory on the difficulties Ferrari are encountering. During the [Michael] Schumacher era, the regulations didn't change for years and it was sufficient to keep taking little steps forward. Now there are so many new elements, and aerodynamics are increasingly important – with at least 70 per cent of performance dependent upon them. All you need is to have a flaw in the design and you're immediately behind – but I'm convinced that Ferrari will succeed in fighting back.
“I have my failings, too – but I'm determined. Last year, I fought for the title, and I want to try to do so again. I'm relaxed and I feel I can do it – that I can fight to the end. When the championship ends, so will my contract with Red Bull – but I don't think a possible renewal depends upon my results. I want to win for myself. If the team doesn't want me anymore, I'll have to ask myself a question – do I hang up my helmet, or do I change team?”