Mark Webber has issued a stark warning to Red Bull's rivals after two days behind the wheel of the new RB9, claiming that the team is better placed to tackle the season than it was a year ago.
The Australian was charged with giving Adrian Newey's latest creation its first laps in pre-season testing at Jerez, and racked up 174 tours of the Spanish circuit as the RB9 ran without serious drama. While not chasing lap times, Webber wasn't far from the pace, and hands the car over to world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel in positive mood.
"I think in terms of consistency, it's great,” he reported, “I'm very happy with the car and myself. I might have bombed a few laps here and there, but I've done 170 or more, which is a good total for the first two days with a new car.
“Overall, it's been very good. The car gives me the confidence to push pretty hard and that's always an indication that you have something you can build on. We've learned a lot more since yesterday and I'm sure that will continue tomorrow with Sebastian. I think we've put the car in a good position for him and, hopefully, he'll be able to push on from there. If you ask me where I think we are compared to this time last year, I'd say we're in a better position – but, of course, a lot of that is down to a lack of regulation changes.”
Rulebook stability is expected to keep the pecking order roughly the same as it was towards the end of 2012, with Red Bull expecting to be at the front of the pack and duelling with Ferrari and McLaren. The RB8 came on strong after an update package was applied in Singapore, allowing Vettel to come through and snatch the title from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso at the season finale.
“As Adrian said at the launch, there haven't been big changes to the regulations this year and the car is an evolution of the one we finished with last season, so there were no big surprises. I think most of the drivers will sit back tonight and think the times were pretty competitive.
“[Day one] was actually like a Friday practice session in some regards. We started understanding the tyres and there were a lot of positives. There was a bit of housekeeping we had to get on top of but, other than that, it's been encouraging. The car feels similar to last year's, so the main difference is the tyres. With these tyres you're always on your toes and it was good that we had consistent temperatures today, so we got a lot of information and feedback to analyse.
“The run plan this morning was pretty ambitious, but we have a lot of departments in the team looking for feedback, so it was important to get through the list. We accomplished most of it and that's all you can ask for. People always ask about the times being done up and down the pit lane but, to be honest, I haven't looked. We can only look at what we're doing, and so far we're satisfied with where we are.
Race engineering co-ordinator Andy Damerum echoed Webber's sentiments, claiming that it had been a productive couple of days that should stand RBR in good stead for the rest of the build-up to Melbourne.