The 2011 Formula One World Championship kicked off in Melbourne on Sunday. The 58-lap Australian Grand Prix ended with Mark Webber taking fifth place. The Australian looks back on home GP...
“I made a good start from third on the grid,” says Mark, “but it soon became apparent that I was in for a difficult afternoon. The tyre degradation on my RB7 was way too high in relation to Seb’s car and we’re still trying to work out the reasons for that.”
Mark was forced to make three tyre stops to Vettel’s two and he had to contend with a lack of grip as well. His second stint, from laps 27 to 42, was ruined by particularly poor grip on the hard tyre and echoed the problems he’d had during qualifying.
But there were positives for Red Bull Racing to take from the weekend. “Seb’s pace proved that the RB7 is a quick car,” says Mark, “and we both had perfect reliability. The guys in Milton Keynes have done a phenomenal job and I’m 100 per cent focused on finding out why I’ve struggled for pace all weekend.
“The telemetry after the race gave us a few pointers, but we really need to strip the car down to see if there was something seriously wrong. I won’t be lining myself up for races like the one I’ve just had every weekend.”
'The guys have done a phenomenal job and I’m 100% focused on finding out why I struggled for pace'
The race saw the introduction of several innovations across the grid, one of which was Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS). Red Bull Racing didn’t use the system when it was last permitted in F1 in 2009 and the team didn’t use it at Albert Park either.
“I didn’t have KERS on my car all weekend,” says Mark. “Seb ran it during Friday practice, but the team took the decision not to race it on either car. We’ll hone the system over the next couple of weeks and hope to use it in Malaysia.”
Another innovation was the introduction of a moveable rear wing, or drag reduction system (DRS). It could only be used on one 600-metre stretch of the pit straight, and only by cars that were within one second of the car in front. But its effectiveness was questionable.
“I was right behind Lewis Hamilton on lap three,” says Mark, “and I expected the DRS to help me pass him. It made no difference; he continued to pull away. It was then that I knew it was going to be a very long afternoon.
“But it’s too early to write the DRS system off because the corner onto the pit straight at Albert Park was too quick. It wasn’t possible to stay close to the car in front. Sepang will be very different because there is a very slow hairpin leading onto the pit straight, so I think it will be more effective there.”
Prior to Malaysia, however, Mark’s focus will revolve around trying to extract more performance from his RB7 in the coming races.
“I’m pretty self-critical,” he says, “and at Albert Park I was a long way off getting the result that the car was capable of. I’m expecting the tyre situation to be very different in Malaysia and I expect to take a step forward.”