SAKHIR, BAHRAIN (AP) - It can’t possibly get much worse for Red Bull’s Mark Webber.
It started in the Malaysian Grand Prix when teammate Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and passed him to win the race.
Then in China, Webber started on pit lane after running out of fuel in qualifying. He got himself up to 11th only to collide with Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne and lose a wheel that forced him out of the race. He was later penalized three grid places for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix for the collision.
“I think China was going so well up until qualifying then the wheels literally fell off,” Webber said Thursday. “It was a tricky weekend after that. It is a bit frustrating. We still could have gotten something out of it.”
But rather than dwell on his unlucky weekend, Webber is looking ahead to Bahrain _ his 200th race.
Since his first Formula One race in 2002 in Melbourne with Minardi, Webber has nine wins and 35 podium finishes and just lost out in a four-way battle for the drivers’ title in 2010. Before joining Red Bull in 2007, he raced two years for Williams.
“Very proud,” Webber said about his 200th race. “It’s a lot of races to have done with some special moments on the way. When you leave Australia, you never think you would accumulate so many grand prix.”
Webber at times has wondered whether he always had the full backing of Red Bull which has been seen to back Vettel, especially in 2010 when the German won the first of his titles. But ahead of his 200th race, the team pulled out all the stops to celebrate his milestone. Among those feting his achievement was team principal Christian Horner.
“The fact he has reached his 200th grand prix is no surprise,” Horner said in a video message released by the team. “He has continued to improve through all the seasons he has been in Formula One. We’ve seen in other sports people like Ryan Giggs go on for many years because they kept themselves in shape and applied themselves and that is the same with Mark.”
Webber said he told the pit crew not to roll out a cake to celebrate the achievement, saying he was more concerned with getting back in the car on Friday and finding a way to win his first race this season.
“All in all, I’m happy with how I’m driving,” Webber said. “I guarantee when we win our first race, we won’t be thinking about Shanghai. So, that is the goal to get some positive results pretty quickly.”
Webber also dismissed talk that he has made plans to leave Red Bull next season, including a widespread report that he had signed a five-year deal with Porsche to race in the world endurance championship. He said he “hadn’t made any plans” about what he would be doing next year and felt he currently had the backing of Red Bull.
“The team is doing a good job in terms of giving me what I need to be quick in the car,” he said. “In terms of the reliability problems, they will be addressed very, very quickly.”