Sir Jackie Stewart says that Mark Webber needs to cut emotions out of his bid for a first F1 world championship, but believes that the Australian can still close the 40-point gap to current leader Fernando Alonso.
Stewart, a three-time world champion during his time in the top flight, admits that emotions are dangerous things when it comes to the cut-throat world of F1 racing, and rates Alonso as the best at dealing with them, but still reckons that Webber - who missed out on the 2010 crown after leading the race for much of the season - has what it takes to launch a late bid this season.
“Emotions are very dangerous," the Scot told the Bucks Herald
newspaper on the eve of the F1 season restarting in Belgium, "I found that, if you remove the emotion completely, I did a better job. Alonso does that well out of the current crop of racing drivers, but Mark can also do it.”
Like 2012, the 2010 campaign saw a title battle featuring all the leading contenders but, ultimately, it was Webber's Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel who claimed the crown, coming from third overall ahead of the final race to pip both Alonso and the Australian in Abu Dhabi. Last season was something of a nightmare for Webber, who failed to match the young German as he romped to back-to-back titles, but he has bounced back this year, finding that RBR's latest car is more suited to his driving style, and winning at Silverstone and Monaco.
However, with eleven races already in the books, the Australian trails Alonso by 40 points, and has Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen all sitting with eight points of his tally as the circus moves on to Spa-Francorchamps this weekend. Stewart, however, believes that Webber is at the right point in his career to deal with the pressures of chasing the crown.
“He can win it this year," he insisted, "Mark is very tough mentally, hard working [and] is just at the right age to be able to deliver it. This year, he has the capacity to do it - and a bit more experience. At the moment, Alonso has the biggest chance, but we are just halfway through the racing season. There are nine races still to run and Webber has the Red Bull team behind him.”
Despite finishing only eighth in the two races following his success at Silverstone, Webber sees no reason why RBR cannot be at the front of the field again at one of the classic F1 venues.
“Spa is the best track to have after a break and it's extremely rewarding for drivers," he noted, "It's remained pretty much unchanged for some time and it has a lot of character - Eau Rouge is a very special part of the track, the spectators love going to watch the cars there and I would encourage anyone to see it live once in their lives. It's mind blowing. We're looking forward to going there and challenging for the victory.”