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Analysis: Webber and Pizzonia Make Uneasy Pairing

Watch out if Antonio Pizzonia partners Mark Webber at Williams next season. It could be a bumpy ride.

Watch out if Antonio Pizzonia partners Mark Webber at Williams next season. It could be a bumpy ride.

Their last partnership at Jaguar ended in tears and, judging from the past week of testing in Spain, they still do not like each other much.

The Brazilian and Australian have a history that suggests they could make the previous prickly pairing of Germany's Ralf Schumacher and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya look almost cosy.

Yet neither are classic feud material.

Webber is cool, calm and with a knack for motivating the people around him. He has been described as a future champion and the archetypal Williams man - a no-nonsense Aussie who tells it like it is.

Pizzonia is quick in testing but soft-spoken and almost diffident in public - hardly the arrogant bigshot with the rampaging ego.

Although Nick Heidfeld is also in the running for a drive at Williams, and could turn things around with another test session at Jerez next week, the Brazilian is considered the favourite.

When they were at Jaguar in 2003, Webber blew the rookie Brazilian away on the track. After 11 races, the team called in lanky Briton Justin Wilson and ditched the man from the Amazon.

What really irked Webber, who has taken a fair number of knocks in his career to get to where he is, was the suggestion he had been favoured by the team with better equipment than Pizzonia enjoyed.

"After I left I found out a lot of things that I didn't know about the team and the car," Pizzonia said at Hockenheim last July as he prepared to stand in for injured German Ralf Schumacher at Williams.

"It's a lot easier to develop one car quicker than trying to develop both at the same time," he said. "I used to get parts one or two races later."

Latin Loser

Webber angrily dismissed the suggestion at the time but returned to the theme in testing in Spain this week when interviewed by Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

"He knows that he told lies," he was quoted as saying when asked about their relationship at Jaguar. "He says his car was different to mine? Total bullshit. But if he really believes it, then it means he's a loser.

"The truth is that Antonio was quick in testing but could never repeat it in the race," he added.

Williams have witnessed plenty of feuds in the past, and have never been a team to mollycoddle drivers, but this is one they will want to nip in the bud.

The ideal pairing for both Webber and Williams would have been to have him alongside Briton Jenson Button but it was not to be. BAR won the contract battle, even if only for next year, and Pizzonia suddenly became the leading candidate.

"I would have liked to have Jenson," Webber told Australian reporters in a teleconference last month. "He's someone who has proven himself at the front in Formula One. That's what you always want."

Pizzonia, by implication, is not.

However the new season will give each driver, assuming Pizzonia is selected, plenty of opportunity to prove their points on the track itself and direct their rivalry into positive channels.

If all goes well, both could be winners.

"The car, I hope, will be very good next year and gives us a good chance to challenge for victories very, very quickly," Webber said.

"Straightaway I want to be up the front - and that's what it's all about. That's what we're striving towards, to win Grands Prix and if we win enough you never know what happens. The wins are something which we have to look at immediately."

For all his reputation, it is easy to forget that Webber has achieved little of real substance in three seasons. His highest placing remains the emotional fifth place he secured with Minardi on his Formula One debut in Australia in 2002.

"I haven't achieved anything in Formula One yet," said the Australian. "I've got a lot more to achieve. I am at base camp at Everest, so I've got a long way to go."

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