MARK Webber believes he can win the 2013 F1 world championship, despite criticism from within his own team.
Red Bull Racing launched their new car at their Tilbrook base on Sunday, aiming for a fourth consecutive clean sweep of F1 drivers’ and constructors’ titles with the RB9.
Both Webber and team-mate world champion Sebastian Vettel pulled the covers back from the car, described by designer Adrian Newey as an ‘evolution rather than revolution’ on last season’s RB8.
The car, featuring the controversial stepped nose again this season, also adorns a new colour scheme, with an metallic purple catching the light from the now traditional blue of years gone by.
Criticism was aimed at Webber by Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko who spoke out against him in the team’s internal magazine, saying that the Australian was only capable of driving two unbeatable races per year before the pressure gets the better of him and he crumbles.
But the 36-year-old, who said that he has never been in Marko’s good books, believes he is capable of emulating Vettel and winning the world title.
Webber said: “I believe I can still be world champion, as I have in previous seasons. I’ll work hard with the team to achieve that.
“When you do it, you need 100 per cent support – you can’t do it with 90. That’s what we’re going in to 2013 with and I’m comfortable with that.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner defended his driver, who won at Monaco and Silverstone last season, saying if he wasn’t wanted, he wouldn’t have signed him for his seventh year.
“Helmut can be a bit outspoken at times, and his comments reflected his opinion. Sometimes comments can be misinterpreted,” said Horner.
“If we weren’t happy with Mark, we wouldn’t have signed him for this year. We’re very happy with him and we give him an equal opportunity. It’s down to what you do out on the circuit.
“For us, it doesn’t matter who wins as long as it’s one of our cars. And these two drivers are two of the best and we want them in the team. We will do the best we can to support both drivers.”
Pre-season testing started in Jerez, Spain, on Tuesday with Webber behind the wheel of the new RB9 for the first time, while world champion Vettel was given a watching brief for the opening day.
Despite winning the crown three years in a row, the German racer isn’t expecting to have a head-start going into the 2013 campaign, which gets underway in Melbourne, Australia, in March.
He does, however, believe the usual suspects will be among the contenders for the title again, even if he did forget one name when listing them.
He said: “I feel the best drivers are in the best teams so it’s easy to make out who they will be.
“Fernando (Alonso) is one of them. I have a very high opinion of him, but there are others too. Mark (Webber) is one of them, Lewis (Hamilton) is one of them and there are others.
“I usually don’t like to name them, and there’s a chance to forget one. It’ll be the usual suspects. Oh yes, Jenson (Button) too, sorry!
“It’s nice looking back and looking at the numbers to see what we have achieved. But we know going forward it will be difficult to keep on doing it and to repeat it.
“The focus is not on continuing to write a certain story, but to start the year in the right way and prepare the cars as best we can.
“After that we will have to wait and see. It’s up to us to make the cars more reliable, so that it survives the whole season.
“Hopefully we’ll be up there but there are no guarantees for that – even after our success in previous years.
“As the regulations haven’t changed too much, I expect to see the same teams up there. I’m not expecting any miracles, but equally I expect a close season.
“There are many different teams who could play a role during the season. We will only tell at the end of the season whether it’s gone to plan.”