Mark Webber has issued a stark warning to Red Bull Racing's F1 championship rivals - Valencia was probably the track where he and Sebastian Vettel expected to struggle most this year!
The Australian had failed to make the podium at the Spanish street circuit prior to finishing third on Sunday, and admitted that he had expected the pressure from McLaren and Ferrari to be greater across the weekend. Even with the ban on variable engine mapping that was brought into effect for the Valencia event, Vettel cruised to another race win - his sixth of the season - while Webber believes he could have completed a 1-2 had it not been for a tricky tyre decision and dodgy gearbox late on [see story here
"I think this is probably our weakest track of the year, so we didn't do too badly today on a very weak track," Webber noted, taunting his rivals, "We have a different regulation from Silverstone onwards, and we expect that we can still be pretty competitive again. If we can keep Valencia as one of our weakest, definitely our top three weakest tracks, we didn't do too badly today, so we should go okay on the other ones."
Team-mate Vettel was a little more circumspect, pointing to the fluctuating gap between RBR and its rivals over the first eight races of the year, before suggesting that Silverstone, the venue for round nine, should be more favourable to the potent RB7.
"I think we have to wait, as every circuit is different," he insisted, "If you need an example, we went to Melbourne and there we were very quick, but we went to Malaysia and it's very tight. If you look at qualifying in Melbourne, we were something like half a second clear. In Malaysia, it was two hundredths or maybe five hundredths, I don't remember. It was very close with McLaren, and that was two weeks later and with no upgrades, so things change quickly just because of the nature of the track.
"We really have to go step-by-step. Every race is different, every track has its own characteristics. Historically, we prefer tracks with high speed corners, so Silverstone coming up should be a good one for us.
"Yes, the rules change slightly, but I think we've said many times that it's the same for everyone - if we are not allowed to do that any more, it's the [same for the] others as well. I said yesterday there was a lot of talk before this race, and already the talk starts now for the next race. We will see what happens."
Vettel, with six wins so far this year, is the dominant force in F1 at the moment, with only McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button having also reached the top step of the podium, but Webber believes that he is not far off beating his team-mate after slowly getting to grips with the 2011 Red Bull machine.
"I think we saw today that it was the closest I have been for a while," he claimed, "In qualifying in Canada, it was very close between us with the KERS situation, but racing is when it counts. I think I am getting better - today's race proved that up until the last 15 per cent, where it didn't quite go our way. That's the way it goes, it is a fine line racing against these guys.
"I think there are a lot of positives from this race for me. It was a clean, straight fight at the front, for the first time since Turkey probably, not having any real hiccups in either qualifying or the first lap or something like that. There wasn't a huge amount between all three of us - I think all of us were pushing as hard as we could, but also nursing the tyres, getting as far as we could on them.
"So it was nice, for a change, to always have Seb in sight. That's the first thing, he was certainly there and Red Bull's stops were obviously always close together. I'm disappointed in myself as, at the end, I probably pitted a bit too early because the warning on the option tyre was pretty quick in terms of if you needed to pit. I was a bit worried about Fernando coming underneath us [on the stops], but the big question mark was how was this tyre going to perform in the first eight sectors of its life? We didn't give it to Fernando, but we helped him get second.
"Anyway, [first and third was] a very strong result. The pace was quick at the front and I was happy to be amongst it for the majority of the grand prix. I obviously had to nurse the car home, and it was good that McLaren weren't so strong, but I learnt a lot today. I was happy with my performance and I will come back better for the next race."