YEONGAM, South Korea – Formula One championship leader Mark Webber says he will not back down from a challenge on the circuit, even from Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, as he seeks to protect a narrow advantage in the standings at this weekend's Korean Grand Prix.
Webber has a 14-point lead over Vettel and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso entering the third-to-last race of the season, with McLaren pair Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button also still in contention for the title.
Webber and Vettel have collided on the track already this season, causing some ill feeling between the pair.
While Webber has more to lose from a non-finish, and his pursuers must take risks, the Australian driver said he will not change his uncompromising style in South Korea.
"If there's a point in the future where we have to race each other again, we will do what we always do — which is try to get the best result out of whatever situation we have, irrespective of whether I'm racing Fernando or Lewis or JB or Seb.
"I know I need to finish races — all of us know that — and that is always in the front of your mind, but you're not going to give positions up either."
Webber has not won any of the past four races, but three podium finishes in that stretch have resulted in his points lead. However, the Red Bull driver was not prepared to enter into conversations about how many more points he may need to clinch the title.
"It's ridiculous to start calculating things because a lot of things can happen," Webber said. "I win the next two races — it's all over anyway.
"The gap has been edging away the right way in the last few races and hopefully I can continue to do that."
This weekend's race will take place on a Yeongam circuit that passed a delayed FIA inspection only 10 days before the cars were to take to the track for Friday's practice.
While the track surface itself has been passed for racing, much of the surrounding infrastructure, from spectator stands to car parks, still resembled a building site Thursday, with workers facing an uphill task to get the venue into a decent — let alone impressive — state.
There were questions over how many fans will attend after fears that the track would fail inspection caused a lag in ticket sales. In addition, the circuit is in an unpopulated area about four hours' drive from Seoul.
"They have tried incredibly hard to get things ready up against a bit of a deadline," Webber said. "It looks like it will be ready, properly ready, in a few years' time in terms of (the area) around here — it's a bit remote."
Alonso is coming off five consecutive podium finishes, including three wins, and was so pleased by his late championship charge that he declared 2010 his best season — high praise from a man who has already won two drivers' titles.
"It's not finished, we will see how it ends this year," Alonso said. "In terms of happiness, motivation, driving, team itself, etc., it's the best one."
Vettel won the previous race in Japan, where the Red Bull team finished 1-2 on a Suzuka track that played to the car's strength on high and mid-speed corners.
On paper, Yeongam will not be as friendly to Red Bull, with the three straights and heavy braking of the first sector of the lap more suited to McLaren and Ferrari.
"Sector one does not look like our home ground, but sector two and sector three should give us the possibility to catch up," Vettel said.
The unsuitability of the first sector should negate Red Bull's season-long dominance of qualifying. Even if Red Bull takes the front row again, there would be strong doubts over whether they could hold a lead to Turn 4.
"There is another 300 kilometers after that," Webber said. "It was the same at Spa where we thought we were vulnerable. If you are not leading at the end of the first lap you can still make an interesting race from there."
McLaren badly needs a strong showing in Korea, with Hamilton 28 points behind Webber, and defending F1 champion Button a further three points adrift of that. Anything other than finishing ahead of both Red Bull drivers and Alonso would likely end the team's title ambitions.
"This weekend we will have more of a fighting chance against the Red Bulls and Ferraris," Hamilton said.