This issue annoys me a little bit as I think it’s an unfair question with a not so clear answer.
I personally do think Webber is in the top 5 of drivers on the grid atm and deservidley so belongs up there.
There are several factors that I believe you have to take into account for what may appear to be his “inferior”-to Sebastian Vettel performance.
Firstly, that people say that the RB7 is the fastest car on the grid…I believe it is…but in the hands of Sebastien Vettel. I’ve heard, read reports (at the beginning of the season…unfortunately I wouldn’t know where to look to find them now) and heard first hand from a friend that works for Red Bull F1 that the RB7 was built and developed with Vettels driving style in mind, as they see a lot more longevity in Vettel over than Webber hence investing in him.
Mentally this must be a pretty crushing thing to overcome, to know that your team mate how has had the car designed for him than yourself.
Also bear in mind Webber and Vettel have two completly different styles of driving. Webber is aggressive like Hamilton and Vettel is smooth like Button. Can make a big difference.
Secondly, I believe we’re in a Vettel era and agree with some of the posts above that people will look back and see that Mark actually did pretty damn well to be so competitive with Vettel. It is undeniable that Vettel is on almighty form atm and when a driver is up on the crest of a wave, it can be very hard to bring them back down.
I just think that Mark is up against the best driver in Formula 1 atm and he’s starting to realise he’s not the best.
I work in motorsport and work with drivers, and they honestly convince themselves at any level of motoracing that they are the best driver out there….if doubt starts to come into their mind it can have severe consequences on their performance and ability. They have to believe it to perform at their optimum.
I remember hearing somewhere (please correct me if I’m wrong) that Flavio Briatore appologised to Martin Brundle for getting rid of him from Benetton in the early 90′s, saying that he just never quite realsied at the time how could Michael Schumacher was and that Brundle was a decent driver going up against an amazing team mate.
Thirdly, Mark has really struggle with two fundamental race destroying factors this season;
Ok you could argue that a top 5 driver should be able to overcome these….but I believe if you take these aside Mark is one of the finest drivers out there…I’d say his race craft is certainly in the top 3 on the grid. With these aside he’d be a lot closer to fighting Vettel in the championship.
The tyres I believe he’s starting to get to grips with them (if you excuse the pun), but a driver just doesn’t loose half a second over his team mate over the course of down time between seasons.
Those are the main three deciding factors for what I believe people see his “sub-par” performance comes down to. Honestly I think out of all the teams out there I believe Vettel and Webber are the best pairing.
The negatives to Mark;
Can make mistakes
Still not on top of the tyre management issue
Unlucky (yes I know it’s cliche)
Getting on a bit
Gritty, determined racer – can make an epic comeback
Excellent race craft
Has been relatively solid and reliable – consistent points scorer
Has a lot of experience
I think that’s most of what I wanted to say…appologies for the long rant!
To summise…Webbers bl**dy good!