Webber issues Grand Prix challenge to Vettel
Mark Webber has thrown down a thinly-veiled challenge to his Red Bull teammate and formula one world champion Sebastian Vettel as he prepares for Sunday's Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Having capped a season in which his rivalry with Vettel seemed mostly to be frustrating and at times simmering, the Australian won the final race of the year in Brazil to set him up for a more fruitful 2012.
''Seb's been on a great run for a couple of years,'' Webber said yesterday.
Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber try their hand at beach cricket on St Kilda Beach during previews to the Australian Formula One Grand Prix on March 14, 2012 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
''But nothing is forever.
''Strange things can happen.''
Vettel claimed his second world championship in 2011 and is a firm favourite to make it three this year.
But Webber is more than happy with his car and his form coming into the opening race of the season at Albert Park on Sunday.
''Your home grand prix is always the one you want to win most,'' Webber said.
''Seb isn't slowing down, but I've had a pretty good winter, too.''
A new contract, a fitness and strength campaign that has him in better shape than ever and a car with which he is ''extremely happy'' have apparently banished any intra-team tension.
''There'll be some headwinds and some great moments,'' Webber said.
For Webber, the Australian GP presents some unique challenges, along with equally-unique circumstances.
Apart from the pressure of performing well in front of his home crowd, he must balance the social and media demands that accompany his status as Australia's premier F1 driver.
''You have to assess what's worth doing and what's not,'' he said.
''What you end up with isn't always what you want, but it's what we do.''
Webber comes into the 2012 season with the security of a new contract with Red Bull but, despite the occasional tensions of the past few years, he says it will make no difference to his approach to racing.
''The contract means nothing,'' he said.
''If you're not good enough, you get out of it.
''If you are, you stay.
''I've achieved some amazing things in the past few years which I am proud of. I'll achieve some more.''
For all the rivalry that might have existed between him and Vettel, the Australian is duly respectful of his German teammate.
Webber said Vettel's achievement of winning consecutive world championships should be regarded as more than simply two wins.
''The double is more than a double,'' he said.
''A lot of drivers win one world championship.
''Very few win two.''
Meanwhile, Australia's other F1 driver, Daniel Ricciardo, says he is not concerned this weekend's grand prix will begin a shoot-out to determine if he remains in formula one.
The 22-year-old from Perth acknowledges if he does not perform this year he could be dumped, despite Red Bull spending millions of dollars grooming him as a probable successor to Webber.
''It could be my one and only [year] if it's not good enough so I've definitely got to step up and do as good as I can,'' Ricciardo said.
''I plan on staying in formula one and competing at a very high level for many years to come.
''It's a good start if I have a good year this year.'' AAP
Australian Formula One Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne, 5pm.
TV Time: Live on Ten and OneHD.