Mark Webber unplugged

It's not often that a driver who can boast a best finish of fifth place - admittedly in a Minardi - is hailed as a future world champion. But that is the position Mark Webber finds himself in, and he knows this season with Williams is his big chance to prove that the hype is justified

Mark Webber unplugged

The partnership of Webber and Williams is widely seen in F1 circles as a potential match made in heaven. After all, Webber is an Aussie in the mould of Alan Jones: down-to-earth, straight-talking, unpretentious - and not in need of mollycoddling or constant psychological support.

So, how is he settling in at the Grove-based team? Is he rubbing along with Frank Williams and Patrick Head? And - we thought we'd ask - how does he feel about the possibility (50/50 at the last reckoning) of having Antonio Pizzonia, with whom he fell out pretty comprehensively at Jaguar, as his team-mate again?

Webber spoke exclusively to's grand prix editor Jonathan Noble about all this and much more.

Yeah, it is going fine mate. We are obviously getting to know each other and you can't do it in five minutes but I have been to Munich to see BMW and I've been to the factory a few times to see a few people down there. Obviously I have been dealing with Frank Williams, Patrick Head, Sam Michael and Gavin Fisher and all the guys on the technical side and the aero side, and all those guys are doing the best job possible.

So in general I am just fitting in, I have been made to feel bloody welcome, and I'm settling in well. But when we race under pressure that is when the relationships are in a bit of a different light. But so far everything is rolling along very nicely.

Well, nothing that has surprised me. What surprised me was how well organised Jaguar were. David Pitchforth had the team very well organised and the morale in the team was very high and it was nearly a little Williams in a way when I left because people just quietly got on with their job in the race team. That was the good thing about it. There are obviously other teams that have different agendas to racing, but Williams is similar to how Jaguar was when I finished there in terms of trying to get on and do the job that is in front of them, so no real surprises.

The FW26 is a nice car to drive, there is no question about it, I have been quicker at Barcelona than I ever went in a Jaguar, and that is always a nice feeling - to rock up there and feel right at home with the car.

So yeah, there are a few little things that you feel you can improve and maybe do a little bit better, but I think every team is like that. You have to remember that they have had the same guys for four years so they got into a groove with those guys maybe and it's always good to have someone new. There is no question I have learned more since I got there than they have learned off me - that is for sure. I am just trying to soak it all in.

Well, you are there to drive. And if you want any more than that then it is probably not a good team to be at. But if you want your tyres pumped up every weekend and for the bosses to say you are doing a phenomenal job then...well, like I said once we get going we will see how it goes. But at the moment all I see is that we are all getting on fine. It is not a honeymoon period, it is a real relationship at the moment. And I think it can be fairly consistent and we will have a good time together.

It will change very quickly. I am confident that will happen and I know I have driven better races than that, especially for Jaguar in the last two races. I have finished within 20 seconds of cars that were on the podium but because the attrition was very low all the cars finished. In those type of races that is where I finished, sixth, but I am very confident that I can put that right. I haven't really proved a great deal yet and I am in a great position to prove [the perception that he is overrated] wrong to a lot of people and to myself, and to just get on with it and deliver.

It was always tough with Jaguar because we could never do enough, there was always more that you could do. But I still think that will be the case in the next few years of my career because you always want to do more. To be at the level to run at the front week in and week out is a big demand on a driver these days, so it will be intense, it will be full-on and full of pressure. But after you do those qualifying laps and those races where you don't know the answers before you go in but when you come out you know you have done a good job, then those [occasions] are what you are in the sport for. And on Monday morning it is sorry, back to reality and move on again. That is the way sport is, so we will just look to the next race. I am really looking forward to trying to run at the front as much as we can.

They are. With all the new rules who knows who is going to be where. I think the first few races could be quite spread out until people get on top of things, but then I think it will settle down pretty quickly. Then I am predicting that from the middle of the grid back it will be pretty spread out down there but in front of that, from Sauber forwards, it is going to be incredibly tough. Toyota are going to be strong and it is going to be very tight in there once people get on top of the new regulations. We will see.

Absolutely none at all. Frank will ask the odd question of course but obviously it is a team decision and Frank's decision and I think it is going to be announced at the launch.

Yeah, things like this can get blown out of all proportion. Antonio and I have sat down and had dinner together, we do talk to each other, the Jaguar thing is in the past and we have worked with each other - and there is an extremely high chance that we will. Whether he is the race driver or test driver we will work together to try and get the most out of the car. It [their quarrel] is small fry really in the scheme of things.

Yeah, really disappointed. I have spoken to a lot of the guys on the floor and they are really disappointed, there is no question about it. I don't want to say anything bad about the guys who have come in to replace them, because I have known Christian Horner for years, and they are competent people, but to put those guys through that again is strange. But that is F1. That is the crazy world it can be sometimes. C'est la vie.

I don't think it will like the old days when you had people backing off two or three seconds a lap to try and save their tyres - forget that. That is not going to happen. But I am not a big fan of the one tyre thing, it is massively against what F1 is which should be pushing everything to the limits. Adding the times together in qualifying I am not sure about as well. There are a few things that I was surprised that were going through, like Sunday qualifying, which won't work for television, and we have got to remember we are waiting for the V8s as well. The cars will still be pretty quick and I don't think a lot will actually change.

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