Mark Webber may be leaving F1 next season, apparently disenchanted with the sport's technical direction, but admits that things needed to be changed to keep it relevant.
The Australian has long expressed his displeasure with the current need to manage tyres and the introduction of reduced fuel loads for 2014 and beyond is thought to have played a small part in persuading him to quit Red Bull and turn his attention to helping re-establish Porsche as a force in front-line sportscar racing.
Despite that, however, Webber concedes that it was perhaps time for F1 to take a new technological direction, which it will with more environmentally-friendly turbo-charged V6 engines from 2014.
“To be fair, I think F1 needed a bit of a facelift in terms of technology, which they're going to get next year,” he confirmed, “Maybe it's not what we all want in terms of all the electric stuff and those type of things, but that's the way all the manufacturing and all those types of things are going in terms of car production, so F1 should be the benchmark in terms of rolling that stuff out.
“How it's going to go in terms of a spectacle only time will tell, [but] I'm sure it's going to be good. [However], the main thing with F1 is the drivers, they are the important thing. You can have what cars you want but, if you've still got the best drivers out there, then that's the most important thing…. as long as the smaller teams can have a chance, I think that, whenever you make a big regulation change, like we are going to do next year, the midfield and the smaller teams are really going to be stretched, so I think that the gap between Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren maybe is probably going to be bigger.”
Tyres, as well as being a particular gripe for Webber, have been the centre of attention in F1 this season, although the return to something approaching 2012-spec rubber certainly appears to have helped Red Bull, with the Australian's team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, having won all bar one race since the dramatic events of Silverstone.
“It's very difficult to predict how the tyres will behave,” Webber admitted, “We know how sensitive they are - even when we had the slight change of construction during the year we see some teams coming forward, some teams going back, some drivers being happy, some drivers less happy. The tyres are super, super sensitive. I think we will find out here whether it's... last year was quite easy on the tyres, we had a pretty comfortable one-stop [race], but whether that's possible again, I'm not sure. We will find out on Friday with the long runs, maybe.”
Admitting that his view of F1 won't be changed if he fails to notch up a victory in his final season, Webber insists that he has already surpassed his wildest dreams as an aspiring racer.
“I would never have thought, when I left Australia, the results and the career that I've had,” he confirmed, “So, another win or so, of course it would be nice, but it's not going to change my retirement too much. In terms of sportcars and F1, the technology is going to be very similar. Sportcars now are super technical as well as F1 will be next year. I'm certainly very comfortable with my decision, what I'm doing in the future and looking forward to it.”