He says there are a couple of kilos hidden away somewhere on his rangy frame, but Mark Webber still looked lean and mean as he fronted the media at Albert Park on Friday morning for his one and only press conference at the 2014 Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
Webber, accustomed to endless questioning in his 12 appearances at his home race as a Grand Prix driver, was relaxed as he looked forward to the first of a handful of Grands Prix he will attend in 2014 as a Red Bull athlete.
“I’m just proud to be back here,” said the 37-year-old winner of nine Grands Prix for Red Bull Racing. “First year out of the saddle, let’s say, but it’s a sensational event that I’m very proud of as an Australian.”
Asked if he felt the urge to compete now he was at the track, Webber came back: “I was on the treadmill this morning and got rid of those competitive juices, blew off a bit of steam. I had my time, very happy with a long career, it’s time for the other guys now.”
Webber is unsurprised by the difficulties teams have faced in pre-season testing as F1 heralds a new era.
“Not at all,” he said. “This is absolutely new technology, it’s trail-blazing to say the least and very difficult for the teams to get on top of so quickly. In two or three years it will be normal but at the moment it’s very advanced.”
The only surprise, he insisted, might come at the end of the opening race as his former Red Bull’s dominance is threatened.
“It certainly won’t be over till the fat lady sings on Sunday,” he said. “It’s difficult to say how Red Bull will perform and how their season will unfold. We didn’t win this race last here either but we went on to win the World Championship.”
The man who is embarking on a new phase himself in endurance racing with Porsche expects the F1 teams to begin mastering the new-look F1 by the time the long-haul start to the season is over.
“Probably five or six races,” he thought. “By the time they get back to Europe they’ll have a good handle on it. All these first fly-aways are very tricky.
“It’s very frustrating for Formula 1 teams not to get on top of things as quickly as they would like – they want to be perfect as quick as possible, but that won’t be the case. When they get back to Europe they’ll have their houses in order.”
Asked about the new, less raucous sound of F1 cars, he came up with a typical Webberism. “The engines have got quieter,” he agreed, “but that’s just the way it is. Concorde doesn’t fly any more either!”