January wasn't the best of starts to a brand new season in F1 for Mark Webber, when he found himself under attack from an unexpected source - Red Bull's prestigious motorsports advisor, Dr Helmet Marko.
Marko had told Red Bull's in-house magazine that while Webber could win a couple of races, he didn't have it in him to deal with the pressure involved in sustaining that level over a while season to win a title. "There is no reason to think the balance of power will change," Marko had said, pointing out that Sebastian Vettel
had beaten Webber in every season they'd raced together as team mates at Red Bull.
Webber brushed off the remarks at the time, saying that Marko simply had his own personal agenda that did not give any credit to the Australian. However, the criticism had clearly stung and was inevitably the subject of questions directed toward Webber at the RB9 launch media launch on Sunday at Milton Keynes.
Crucially Webber received very public backing from his boss, Red Bull
Racing team principal Christian Horner, who said the team would never have signed a fresh one-year contract extension with the driver if they didn't have complete confidence in his abilities.
"Helmut can be outspoken at times, and some of his comments that reflected his opinion, and sometimes these things can be misinterpreted," Horner told the press at the weekend.
"If we weren't happy with Mark we would have never signed him to be with the team for this year," he added. "We are very happy with Mark."
But is Webber really in with a realistic shot of finally beating his young team mate and clinching a world championship to call his own? Certainly the driver himself reckons so.
"I think I can have a crack at the championship again this year, as I have done in previous seasons," he insisted. "That's my goal, and that's what I'm getting up each day and thinking about and working hard with the team on doing."
Inevitably, sooner or later there will come a point in the season where one of the Red Bull
drivers is ahead of the other and the question of team orders will arise. Webber has been on the losing end of that deal in recent years, so can he realistically hope to be treated differently in 2013?