Given what Mark Webber had to go through even to get into his Red Bull in 2009, his success since has been remarkable. The winner of Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix has taken on the sizeable challenge of team-mate Sebastian Vettel – touted by many as the next Michael Schumacher – having suffered a horrible cycling accident in Tasmania during the winter of 2008. The man from Queanbeyan, New South Wales, was left nursing a lot more than serious leg injuries, yet continually pushed himself through the pain barrier and smiled as if there was nothing wrong, with nary a hint of self-pity.
With his first victory in Germany last season, when he beat Vettel fair and square, he demonstrated that after years of being written off by critics he had found his level. The next win, in Brazil at the end of the season, was overshadowed by the euphoria over Jenson Button's title success, but was just as solid. But this year it all looks even better. Two wins in eight days, against a team-mate like Vettel? A 33-year-old athlete taking on and beating another 11 years his junior, in an identical car? Those were very significant achievements, as Vettel's expression betrayed. Webber was the class of the field on both occasions, and if Vettel had the excuse of brake problems in Spain, he had nothing of the kind to explain Monaco, where Webber just plain beat him.
There is a confidence in Webber now that is going to make him a very dangerous title contender. For sure, Vettel will have his days again, just as will Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Button. But Webber, just like Nigel Mansell when he finally broke his duck back in the fall of 1985, has suddenly become one of those people you have to factor very seriously into any list of potential title winners.
"In any sport, you can talk as much as you want but actions speak louder than words," Webber said as he drank in the magnitude of his success on Sunday. "Clearly, Jenson had a very good year last year. He was written off in seasons before, through lots of different reasons here and there. But I'm driving pretty well. The fire is still burning pretty solidly inside. I'm not 21, of course. I would love to be 21 again but I don't think I'm losing too much by being a bit older. I have some wisdom and it's not holding me back too much. So I'll keep going."
Red Bull have been improving their car with each race and Webber said: "We'll continue to work hard. We are not here because we have been slacking. The effort has gone in from two and a half years ago. This is not just the sake of the last two weeks' work. We have fantastic continuity within the team and we're very optimistic for the future."