Mark Webber has warned his former F1 rivals that it will take more than a change of regulations – and awarding double points for the final race of the season – to stop Red Bull colleague Sebastian Vettel from being the man to beat in 2014.
On the opposite side of the RBR garage throughout Vettel's four-season reign as world champion, the Australian expects this former employer and team-mate to start the latest era of F1 as favourites to make it five in a row in both the drivers' and constructors' championships. With the 2013 titles wrapped up well in advance of the Interlagos finale, Red Bull will have been able to devote a little more time to its 2014 contender which will, once again, come from the pen of the ultra-successful Adrian Newey.
And, while Newey has suggested that the rules makeover – with a new engine and drivetrain and less influential aerodynamics – will level the playing field, Webber is confident that, as a team, Red Bull has what it takes to remain in front.
"They'll be favourites for starting the season very strongly, which is probably not what people at home want to hear," he told the BBC
, "It's an engine category next year more than probably a car/aerodynamic category, which is probably not a bad thing for some people, but there will also still be decent driver input, especially from a brainpower perspective in terms of pacing and managing and all the technology the cars are going to have next year, which will help Sebastian. That's right up his alley, perfect for him."
Despite several on-track contretemps
over the years, it is clear that Webber always had a high level of respect for Vettel the driver, and rates him amongst the best that he has competed against in a twelve-year F1 career.
"It's probably between Seb and Fernando [Alonso]," he suggested, discounting seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher from the argument having not ever really raced head-to-head with the German.
“He was in a Ferrari and I was in something else, and, when I was in a Red Bull, he was in a Merc, which was further back. But [Vettel and Alonso] were certainly in their prime when I was. On Sundays, Fernando - over two hours - is a handful. There is no question about that [but], over one lap, I think he's not with Seb. Lewis [Hamilton] is handy, but probably not quite as much of a 'machine' as those two are. They are literally 'plug them in and off they go'. They are very, very handy."