Mark Webber believes his former team Red Bull are no longer the benchmark in Formula One, but is confident they’ll bounce back from their early season woes.
The defending champions sit fourth on the constructors’ standings after three rounds, 76 points behind runaway leaders and this year’s only race winners Mercedes.
A raft of technical changes for 2014 – including the introduction of new hybrid engines – have hampered the Renault-powered outfit’s charge towards a fifth consecutive championship, on top of their failed bid to have Daniel Ricciardo’s second-place finish at the Australian Grand Prix reinstated.
A double punishment to the 24-year-old for a pitlane error in Malaysia two weeks later didn’t help either, but Webber on Thursday backed his successor – and the team – to turn things around.
“He’ll ride this out,” he told Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast.
“It’s normal to have a bit of (bad luck) – well, not maybe so much in his first few events with the start to the season he’s had, but he’ll just knuckle down and get on with it.
“As a youngster coming in, I think they’re going to give him a great chance to do well and that’s what the team needs to do now.
“They’re not the benchmark either, anymore. The team’s under a little bit of heat early in the championship. They’re a quality team and they’ll be back, under the leadership of Adrian Newey – particularly on the design front.
“But Mercedes have got the run on them at the moment, with that car they’re doing well. So they need to work together as a team, for sure.”
Webber, who begins his new life as a sportscar driver with Porsche in the World Endurance Championship season opener at Silverstone this weekend, said Ricciardo’s flying start to the year – minus the mishaps – came as no surprise to him.
The Australian predicted a tight battle between him and new teammate Sebastian Vettel, “and that’s turning out to be the case”.
“Everyone was probably saying that I was probably talking it up a bit, but it was honest.
“He’s at the right age where he can ruffle a few feathers and that’s exactly what he’s done and doing well.
“There’s not many people happier than me to see the Aussie flag and see him going well.”
F1 action heads to Shanghai this weekend for the Chinese Grand Prix.