(Disclaimer: I'm a Webber fan and see things through glasses tinted as such)
Amateur armchair expert hat on:
I think Webber's problem is not speed but his consistency, and it has been since he started in F1. His baseline is still very fast – better than much of the field - but he is only occasionally and irregularly superlative.
On his day, Webber can convincingly beat Vettel, or anyone else on the grid. I think Vettel is the quicker driver, both in terms of potential lap time and baseline, day-in, day-out consistency at a range of circuits. But when I see races like Silverstone 2010, Germany 2009, China 2011 or Monaco 2010, I believe that there are occasions when MW is almost unbeatable. Certain tracks and certain situations just seem to bring out the speed in him.
However, I don't believe that MW is ever really 'on it' for more than a handful of race weekends in a season. Unfortunately, these exceptional days/weekends seem to be getting fewer and further between.
Sometimes, Webber will excel on one day of the weekend and then look decidedly mediocre on others. Sepang 04 and Spain 05 are cases in point – great qualifying and an ordinary race. Other times - notably in the early years with Red Bull – he’s just looked, well, average.
The other problem has been Webber’s starts. They were pretty poor in 2009 and 2010 and then outright shocking in 2011. Mark lost an overall 23 places in starts in 2011, the worst performance of any driver last year.
I think MW needs to do three things:
1. Perfect his starts. If he’d maintained his grid positions in 2011, Mark would have scored an extra 30 points (excluding the accident in Monza).
2. Pick and choose his races. Webber can definitely win races at his favoured tracks (Monaco, Catalunya, Silverstone, Interlagos and a few others), so maybe he should choose these to build his season round.
3. Get angry. MW seems to perform best when he’s pissed off. Maybe he should have someone in a Helmut Marko mask smack him in the chops right before quail/race time…