It was a day of mixed emotions for Mark at the Korean Grand Prix. He ended the race in second place, giving him his first podium finish since he won the British Grand Prix, but the day had promised even more after he started from pole position.
“Clearly, it was a good day for Red Bull Racing,” said Mark. “Everyone’s worked really hard all year and to help give the team its first 1-2 of the year is special. It was good to capitalise on McLaren’s tough day because they’re a strong team and they’ll be back. But when you start from pole, as I did, second place isn’t the result you’re looking for and that’s why it’s a day of mixed emotions.”
Mark lost the lead on the run to the first corner, after having a few issues getting away from the line.
“I didn’t have enough clutch at Suzuka last weekend,” says Mark, “and here I had too much. The initial launch wasn’t good and that resulted in me having a mediocre run to the first corner. That allowed Seb to get alongside, on the inside, and it was very difficult to defend from him. I thought I had another chance down the long straight because I got into his slipstream, but as soon as I pulled out I hit a brick wall and couldn’t get past.
“After the first-lap collision at Turn 4, there were then yellow flags in the DRS zone for the next 600 laps and by that time Seb had used the clear air to get a slight gap. From then on it was a question of managing the tyres because the fronts were pretty marginal today.”
Tyre wear came to a head during Mark’s second stint. He struggled with graining on the fronts, which allowed Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso to close up to within 1.3s of Mark’s RB8. Not that he was ever going to find a way past…
“I went relatively slowly at the start of the second stint in an effort to look after the tyres,” says Mark, “but it turned out to be the wrong thing to do. I got too much graining and lost a lot of time. Tyres are like women: they’re difficult to manage. It’s the nature of F1 these days.”
After Mark’s second and final pitstop, the performance of his RB8 was more consistent and he closed to within eight seconds of Vettel by the chequered flag. To emphasise the transformation of his car’s handling, he set the fastest lap of the race on the penultimate lap.
“I was really able to attack in that last stint,” says Mark. “I was driving well and enjoying myself out there. But to win against guys like Seb, you’ve got to get everything right and that didn’t happen for me today. My start wasn’t perfect and nor was the second stint. I know what I’ve got to do and I’m confident that I can win more races before the end of the year.”
Mark lies fifth in the world championship standings, but he’s now only one point behind fourth-placed Lewis Hamilton, with four races to go.
“I’m 63 points off the lead, with 100 points still on the table,” he says. “That means it’s going to be pretty difficult for me to win the title now; I’d need a pretty bizarre set of circumstances to close the gap. But it’s not in my nature to give up and I look forward to continuing the battle in India in two weeks time.”
Mark Webber is the Team Principal of MW Arden, a three car team in the new GP3 series supporting European Grands Prix.