Winning in front of your home fans is a common goal of most F1 drivers, and Mark Webber is no different, having come close - but not close enough - to achieving the aim in Melbourne over the years.
Remarkably, the Red Bull Racing driver's best result on streets of Albert Park remains fifth place, which he took on debut with Minardi and has since repeated on two other occasions, including last season. The 2012 season represents Webber's eleventh shot at his home race - which he has contested with Minardi, Jaguar, Williams and Red Bull over the years - and he remains as keen as ever to find the top step he last graced, as an honorary 'winner', with Paul Stoddart back in 2002.
"The grand prix is one of the best sporting events that we have in Australia, and it's great to see the support and Australian flags in the crowd," the 35-year old seven-time racewinner commented, "It's been an extremely intense few months for the whole team and it's incredible when you count up how many sleep-deprived hours have gone in to preparing the car as best we can. From pit-stops to reliability to driver comfort in the cockpit – you name it, we've always been looking to improve."
A passionate supporter of all things Australian, despite now living closer to the RBR factory in the UK, Webber organises an annual adventure race in Tasmania and is looking forward to getting back 'down under' with a tweaked crash helmet design to show his countrymen that he can again be a title contender.
"There's always a huge amount of interest in the first race," he noted, "This year is no different and there's no better place to have it than Australia. I've incorporated more of an Australian theme into my helmet, which I'll be using for the whole year, not just in Australia.”
Fans who may have doubted Webber's ability to challenge for victory this weekend, following a troubled final test in Barcelona, will have had their minds put at rest by RBR team boss Christian Horner, who insists that the team is ready to pick up where it left off in 2011, which ended with a Webber victory at Interlagos.
"We've managed to tick most of the boxes that we wanted," Horner told US broadcaster ESPN
, "Of course, you never know what your opponents are up to and there's quite a bit of gamesmanship that goes on at this time of year. But we'll soon know what the pecking order is."