In his first interview since the accident in which he broke his leg at the weekend, Mark Webber has insisted that he will be fighting fit in time for the 2009 season-opening Australian Grand Prix in front of his partisan supporters in Melbourne.
In colliding head-on with a car whilst on a mountain-biking descent leg of his annual, charity Pure Tasmania Challenge, the Red Bull Racing star has put himself out of action for the foreseeable future [see separate story – click here
]. That means he will miss much of the crucial testing and development period during which the significantly different 2009 Formula 1 cars will be honed.
Despite the inevitable setback that the accident has caused him, though, the New South Wales native – currently recovering from surgery in a Hobart hospital with a right leg that is badly broken in two places – is adamant that come his home grand prix on 29 March, he will not only be back to full fitness, but also fully-prepared for the sport's brave new technological dawn, with slick tyres, different aerodynamic regulations and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems).
Webber will be forced to miss the final 2008 F1 test at Jerez in December, but he revealed that following the southern Spanish outing he was not scheduled to take to the track again until the new RB5 rolls out in February anyway.
“I'll back in plenty of time for the Australian Grand Prix at the end of March,” Webber told Melbourne newspaper the Herald Sun
. “It'll be business as usual.”
“I was only testing for two days next month and then, because of the slash to winter testing, Sebastian [Vettel – new RBR team-mate] and I weren't due in the new car until February 10.
“Having a broken leg doesn't stop me visiting the RBR factory and being on top of what's happening with the new car. Fitness-wise I'll be fine too – there's something like 83 days before the first test in 2009.”
Webber admitted that he was 'amazed' at the coverage his accident had received around the world, and the wealth of well-wishing e-mails and text messages he has received 'from some of the other guys on the F1 grid'.
He also confirmed that he will remain in his homeland for the next few weeks on doctors' advice. The 32-year-old's medical reports are being sent to Red Bull's medical experts in Austria, who will take care of his rehabilitation programme.
“I haven't needed any further surgery or treatment so it's just a matter of waiting to be discharged,” he stated. “It's a straightforward and clean enough break, so I'm not expecting any complications or setbacks.
“Once Red Bull have all the info, they'll be able to decide what is the best course of rehab and with whom.”