Mark Webber admits that he needs to raise his game if he is to have a chance of beating Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel this season, acknowledging that there were several areas in which he was below par in 2011.
Having been a championship contender until the final round of 2010, Webber was hardly a factor last year, eventually lucking into third overall as he won the Brazilian Grand Prix and Jenson Button passed Fernando Alonso for third on the road in the closing stages. The victory, which Webber inherited after his team-mate suffered a 'gearbox problem', was the Australian's only appearance on the top step as he trailed Vettel by 134 points.
With Red Bull reliability not in question, he hasn't suffered a mechanically-induced retirement in two years, Webber knows that he needs to look within to find the answers to overcoming the German in 2012.
“I clearly got outperformed last year, there were areas where I could have done a better job,” he admitted the Melbourne's Sunday Age
during a break in testing at Jerez, “You need to be performing and then be self-critical and then keep learning and keep improving. It doesn't matter how much you are winning or how much you are doing, if you are standing still, you are going backwards.”
Although his qualifying performances sometimes let him down, a bigger problem for Webber was the way he got off the line when the red lights went out on Sunday afternoon. For someone who had been known for his good starts, it was something of a surprise to see the Australian struggling to match his rivals on the run to turn one.
“We've done some work on it," he admitted, "They weren't as good as they were in 2010, so needed work. You need to be on top of your game and I wouldn't want it to be any other way."
Team boss Christian Horner made the point that Webber did not seem to be enjoying himself as much last season, and the driver himself concedes that he needed a break before coming back refreshed for another crack at the elusive world title.
“Yeah, it was a tough start to the year, [and] that makes it difficult to roll out of that mid-season," he acknowledged, "Again, it's those old lessons of operating at this level, you know you just have no choice, you've just got to get back on the horse and get on with it.”
The 'break' between racing and testing took Webber back to his native Australia, but included participation in the eponymous Pure Tasmania Challenge.