After a sensational win in Monaco, Mark Webber heads to the Canadian Grand Prix just three points off of driver’s championship leader Fernando Alonso, tied for second with his team mate Sebastian Vettel. Vettel dominated the championship last year, overshadowing his team mate in nearly every session of the season. Many thought that Webber would be permanently relegated to number 2 within the Red Bull team, and would not be able to recover from such a difficult season.
In 2010, Mark Webber was an extremely competitive driver, winning four races, and just barely lost out on the driver’s championship in the last race of the season. The 2011 Red Bull RB7 seemed to suit Sebastian Vettel’s driving style, while leaving Webber straggling. To be honest, I thought 2011 would be the end of a competitive Mark Webber in F1.
So far, 2012 has proven my hypothesis incorrect. The numbers themselves give an indication that Webber has bounced back to a level where he can compete with his team mate. Webber has out-qualified Vettel 4-2 in the first six races of the season. Both drivers have one victory to their name, and are currently tied in the standings. Where the figures tell part of the story, observation can fill in the rest. Webber looks more confident in the car. He looks more willing to take the car to the edge. In 2011, his performances seemed consistently lackluster. In 2012, it looks as if Webber has regained some of the shine he had in 2009 and 2010.
Whether this strong start to the season is an indication of whether Webber is back in his 2010 form or not, one can be sure that Webber is more comfortable in the car than he was in 2011. We will have to wait a few more races before we can see whether or not Webber is a true title contender, but the first quarter of the season looks promising for the Australian. Whether Red Bull will allow him to challenge Vettel for the title could be the limiting factor for Webber throughout the season.