Mark Webber has confounded suggestions that the 2012 F1 season may be his last in the top flight by insisting that he remains keen to continue chasing that elusive world championship title.
Echoing close friend Jenson Button's comments after the Briton extended his deal with McLaren earlier this year, Webber appeared to backtrack on claims that he may be considering an imminent retirement, even though a sequence of single-year deals have hinted that that may have been his outlook. The belief that 2012 may be Webber's last has not been helped by Red Bull Racing advisor Helmut Marko, who has also hinted that Webber could be considering quitting.
"Yeah, absolutely I can see myself going a bit longer," he told Britain's Daily Mail
newspaper, "Helmut's been quite keen to do one-year contracts and, in a way, it hasn't been too bad for me as well. That's been his starting point for the last three or four years. That's the way it's been, and as always it gets to the middle of the year, we sit down and have a chat about things."
The one-year extensions to his ongoing deal with RBR appear to have suited Webber as he continues to face a degree of favouritism towards team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Although 2011 was not as bad as the previous season, the Australian was still told to hold station behind his younger colleague while chasing second place at Silverstone, and had to wait until Interlagos for his one and only win of the campaign.
Even that came amid suggestions that Vettel's 'exhaust problem' had been a convenient disguise for a switch of positions in Webber's favour, but the Australian isn't about to let the whispers interfere with his focus for 2012.
"All of us - apart from Seb obviously - didn't have the year that we wanted to," the former Minardi, Jaguar and Williams driver said after watching Vettel take a second title on the back of eleven wins and 15 pole positions, "But you can't still deny the fact that we had a bloody consistent year, which you can take for granted some times.
"I didn't get as many wins as I wanted but, on the points front, I think Jenson [Button] and I scored enough to have won the title last year. [It's just that], this year, the points were blown out because Seb had such a good season. That's just the way it went, and sometimes that happens in sport when someone gets on such a roll and the momentum is flowing. It's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen next year."
Asked whether he was ready to take Vettel on in 2012, Webber insisted that it wasn't just the German he needed to worry about.
"Obviously I don't just think about him, I think about everyone," he retorted, "McLaren are going to be strong, Ferrari are going to be strong, and we need to start well.