LONDON, April 12, 2011 (AFP) - Mark Webber can be a contender for the Formula One world title this season his Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said on Tuesday.
The 34-year-old Australian has struggled in the first two races of the season in comparison to his German team-mate and defending champion Sebastian Vettel, who has won both, the Australian and Malaysian Grand Prix.
However, Horner - who battled last season to deny that the team were favouring Vettel and not his popular team-mate even though Webber led the title race for a large part of the campaign - insisted Webber's fifth place in Australia and fourth in Malaysia were impressive results given the circumstances.
"I have no doubts his time will come this season, absolutely," Horner was quoted as saying on the BBC website.
"In difficult weekends he has picked up a fifth (in Australia) and a fourth place, and they will all count at the end of the day." "Mark's old enough to know how long the season is, and his points are invaluable," he added.
Horner was especially impressed by how Webber - a six time Grand Prix winner - came back from 10th position in Malaysia last Sunday to just finish off the podium. "He was 10th at the end of it (the first lap), so we decided to go
aggressive with him, and went with a four-stop strategy. He needed to make it work, and his drive was a great recovery", Horner said.
"A combination of strategy and performance nearly got him back on to the podium. Obviously he'll be disappointed with the start, but I've spoken with him and he takes a lot of heart out of his performance. "To only just miss out on a podium after the first lap, he had a great drive. I was really pleased."
Webber is presently equal-third in the standings on 22 points with Britain's 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton heading into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.