LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - Mark Webber has had his hopes of becoming the first Australian to win his home Formula One grand prix next weekend pumped up by McLaren rival Lewis Hamilton.
Britain’s 2008 world champion said before heading to Melbourne that Red Bull’s Webber and German team mate Sebastian Vettel undoubtedly had the quickest cars on the track.
“The Red Bull is ridiculously faster than anyone else’s car,” he told reporters. “It’s insane. The downforce they had on their car last year was at some points just about double what we had.
“Even at the end of the year they had so much more than us, even though we had won a couple of grands prix.”
Vettel qualified on pole at this month’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, more than a second a lap faster than Hamilton, and then led for more than two thirds of the race before being slowed by a faulty spark plug.
Hamilton ended up third while Vettel finished fourth. Webber, winner of two races last year, made an error in qualifying and ended the race in eighth place.
Renault-powered Red Bull still arrive in Melbourne chasing their fourth win in five races, having won the last three of 2009.
“They (Webber and Vettel) have both got the fastest car by quite a big step. They should be quite a lot further ahead in general,” said Hamilton.
“(Ferrari’s Bahrain race winner) Fernando (Alonso) I think was very quick in the race and they are obviously a little bit closer, but it’s a good half second.
“We are kind of on the same level as Mercedes I would say,” added the 25-year-old of seven times world champion Michael Schumacher’s new team.
“We just did maybe a better job at the weekend but ... it’s a battle between us and Mercedes to see who can step up and improve faster and do a better job. Red Bull might have the fastest car, but if we can beat them on reliability.”
After a dull opener in Bahrain, with Vettel’s misfortune handing Ferrari a processional one-two led by Alonso, Hamilton hoped for some genuine thrills at Albert Park next weekend.
“You’ve got assume that the next race will be more exciting,” he said.
“There will be more people there, there should be more of an atmosphere in Australia as there always is. The track should be more favourable to the cars, it is a street circuit so its not the easiest place to overtake but it should be more exciting.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org