Just days after officially renewing his contract with Red Bull Racing into 2012, Mark Webber has confessed that 'it would have been a mistake to stop racing' at the end of the current campaign - and he has vowed to continue taking the fight to pace-setting team-mate Sebastian Vettel until the title is no longer within his reach.

It was announced on the eve of last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps - and appropriately, on Webber's 35th birthday - that the Australian will remain at Red Bull for a sixth consecutive season next year, and he promptly celebrated with a superb performance to recover from a torrid start to claim an excellent second place in the Ardennes.

Along the way, he pulled off a breath-taking, jaw-dropping overtaking manoeuvre on Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso going through the legendary Eau Rouge and proceeded to take the chequered flag less than four seconds in arrears of Vettel, with the race's fastest lap to his credit for good measure. Those who had said he was past it and didn't deserve his contract extension were swiftly forced to eat their words.

"Actually, it was a very difficult weekend," Webber conceded, writing in his regular column for BBC Sport. "It turned out we had really good pace, so it might have looked easy, but we went into the race with some pretty major concerns over our tyres after they blistered in qualifying - the rules say you can't change them until after the race has started.

"It's not unusual and it's not normally a massive issue, but in this case the blisters were on the inside shoulder of the tyre, where the tread meets the sidewall - and that's when it becomes a bit more critical. The problem was that no-one could give us a definitive answer as to how long the tyres would last, or what we could do to alleviate the problem.

"Seb and I have both had tyre failures in our careers, and you want to do everything you can to avoid it - but at the same time not be super-conservative. At a track like Spa, where it's high-speed and some of the run-off areas are a bit tight, it's a particularly unnerving situation. We spent a lot of time talking about what to do. For the team, our safety is paramount, so it was not something we took lightly.

"The most conservative choice is not to start the race; the next is to make changes to the cars and start from the pit-lane. If at any stage something becomes critical, that's when you don't take any short-cuts. You have to work out what to do, and perhaps even stop the cars. Thankfully, it didn't come to that.

"It's public knowledge that we were running the camber of our front wheels - the amount they lean away from vertical - on the upper limit of Pirelli's recommendations, but I know we're not the only team doing that. In any case, although we could have reduced the camber, it was not absolutely clear that would fix it. We push the cars to the limit, and this was just something that happened.

"After lots of calculations and discussions with the team and Pirelli, we chose to heavily compromise our strategy by pitting really early. A situation like this is extremely rare, and it was pretty intense. For us as drivers, we know it's part of the risk of the sport, and we can't always have all the answers before we go into the race. You've just got to get on with it, but it's obviously in your mind.

"Because of all the tyre problems, we went into the race thinking about damage limitation rather than victory. The first stint wasn't particularly enjoyable, and I was very relieved to get rid of that first set of tyres, but we made all the right decisions as a team and it turned out we got the ultimate result. We were very surprised by that.

"It wasn't the easiest race. I lost a lot of places at the start when the anti-stall kicked in, and then when the safety car came out following Lewis Hamilton's accident, I couldn't hear the team call me in for a pit-stop. It was incredibly frustrating. I was practically parked at the Bus Stop chicane, saying, 'What do you want to do? What do you want to do?' And it was just silence. Then, as I was heading along the pit straight, the radio came back on and I could hear them going through my pit-stop procedure as if I was coming in. I said, 'I'm on the wrong side of the pit wall, guys!'

"To come through all that and get a one-two, it's got to be one of our best races ever as a team. After losing so many places at the start, and then making such an early stop for tyres, I needed to gain some places. One pass was particularly enjoyable - when I got Fernando Alonso around the outside going into Eau Rouge.

"Going down the straight, I thought, 'The tow is working pretty well...I've got a bit of over-speed...it's going to be nip-and-tuck at the bottom but I'll just have a look' - and when I got to the bottom, I was committed to making the move work. Although I was on the inside going into the first left-hander and therefore the outside for the right, the most important part of Eau Rouge, that pinched his trajectory - so I was in position, and Fernando was a bit more compromised.

"It would have got a bit marginal for him there. He had a wobble, and ran wide over the kerbs on the inside of Raidillon going up the hill. You know in all those nano-seconds up to the critical moment whether you're going to come out on top or he is, and you know how hard you can push it, in terms of who has to bail out and when. The respect between us goes without saying. There are a few guys on the grid you can enjoy something like that with. You can really take each other to the limit."

Webber has seven more chances to take it to 'the limit' with Alonso and the rest of the field over the remainder of the campaign, and he will have 20 more again next year. Refusing to give in the fight for the F1 2011 crown - despite trailing Vettel by a gaping 92 points in the title standings with only 175 now left up for grabs - the six-time grand prix-winner added that he would have regretted it had he elected to hang up his helmet come season's end, with speculation over his future having been a hot potato inside the paddock for several months.

"It might look as if it took a long time to sort out, and I was weighing up various possibilities, but in the end the contract talks were done very quickly," he mused. "I've been an integral part of Red Bull since the start, and I still enjoy it there. It would have been a mistake to stop racing.

"I'm still driving well. I had a bit of a slow start to this year because it took me a little while to get on top of the new tyres, but I'm looking forward to taking on Seb - and everyone else - again next year. This year isn't over yet, though. There are still seven races to go, starting with Monza next weekend, and anything can still happen."


Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment