Mike Stevens | Apr 15, 2011

Mark Webber was reduced to an expletive on Thursday as he faced the world's press who tried to sum up his start to the 2011 season.

One reporter in Shanghai dared to suggest the Red Bull driver is to Sebastian Vettel, the reigning champion and two-time winner from pole in 2011, what Eddie Irvine was to Michael Schumacher all those years ago.

"Absolutely f***ing ludicrous question, mate," he snarled.

34-year-old Webber, his contract running out, had an awful weekend in Australia and a KERS failure a week ago, but he vowed to fight back in China.

"He's not just beating me, he's beating everyone," he insisted when asked about Vettel. "No one will turn up then, might as well stay at home.

"People always make the natural comparison between you and your teammate, and Seb is driving really, really well and is on top of a lot of things at the moment.

"It could be a lot worse than it is at the moment," he added. "I am still performing pretty well, I believe, and also we're learning a lot."

As for his mental state two races down and 28 points behind, the Australian answered: "I'm fine mate. I think if you were much, much younger then obviously you'd be panicking. But I've been around the block."



Red Bull Step 'Significant' For Shanghai: Marko

Red Bull's currently-dominant 2011 package features a "significant improvement" for the Shanghai weekend.

Team consultant Helmut Marko revealed the news amid reports the cars fielded by closest rivals McLaren and Ferrari have also been updated for China.

"Yes, we are currently ahead of the others, but they are moving quickly and things could be different very soon. That's what we have to avoid," the Austrian is quoted by AS newspaper.

"We will introduce a significant improvement in China. I cannot say what it is, but it is necessary because standing still in F1 is tantamount to stepping backwards," added Marko.

Regularly accused of favouring back-to-back pole and race winner Sebastian Vettel, Marko also insisted that Mark Webber is being given identical chances to drive to the top at the wheel of the sister RB7 car.

"Last year it was Vettel struggling in the first two races, as fortune can be cruel," he said. "I would say that Sebastian's misfortune at the beginning of 2010 was worse than it has been for Mark this season."

Renault driver and Sepang podium-getter Nick Heidfeld said he thinks Vettel, 23, is in better form than ever.

"I don't know if he sees it that way, perhaps for him it's the same as always," the German veteran told sport1.de.

"But viewed from the outside you can say he is a bit more relaxed and is a bit more experienced. So far he has done a flawless season," added Heidfeld.



'Bullets' The Buzzword In Shanghai

F1 drivers on Thursday were baffled when faced with the latest rumour from the Shanghai press room.

A correspondent for the respected Corriere dello Sport informed the assembled drivers in China that they may soon be able to choose from any of Pirelli's four compounds rather than just two per Grand Prix event.

"It's the first time I heard of this," admitted world champion Sebastian Vettel.

"We're all hearing about this for the first time, right now," added Michael Schumacher.

Closer to reality, Pirelli moved to play down fears about "rubber bullets" falling off the degrading tyres and either onto the racing line or into competitors faces.

"I think it's normal," Lewis Hamilton said, defusing the issue. "I don't see any danger whatsoever."

Added Vettel: "There's nothing we have to fear."

But others did not dismiss the topic to easily, with Felipe Massa admitting the marbles can "end your race" if a driver runs slightly wide.

"It's like driving on sand," said the Ferrari driver.

Vitaly Petrov said the marbles contributed to his spectacular airborne crash at Sepang a week ago, and revealed he was hit in the visor "three or four" times by the flying Pirelli bullets.

"Off the racing line it is a disaster. If it hit your hand it would definitely hurt," said the Russian.



Red Bull Still Not Sure On KERS For Shanghai: Vettel

Red Bull will not definitely still be running KERS when qualifying and the Grand Prix are run in China.

The dominant team did not use the energy-recovery technology in Australia for reliability fears, and the system did not run without problems on debut in Malaysia a week ago.

Sebastian Vettel, who has won both 2011 races so far from pole, said he hopes his RB7 is equipped with the power boost system for the whole Shanghai weekend.

"It makes sense to run KERS and it's our target obviously," he said on Thursdsay.

"Yes, we will be using it tomorrow –- and Saturday and Sunday, I hope," the German added.


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