Mark Webber is, to some, one of the most promising F1 drivers and would be winning races tomorrow if he was in a McLaren or Ferrari.
Others feel the hype doesn?óÔé¼Ôäót match reality, Webber has thrown away opportunities and never passes up an opportunity to whinge to the press.
Webber had an unusual route into Formula 1, spending time in sports car racing on the way. It included an appearance for Mercedes in the 1999 Le Mans 24 Hours where, famously, the cars suffered stability problems and Webber crashed twice when his took off without warning.
If Le Mans was a nightmare his arrival in F1 in 2002 was fairytale stuff. Webber scored two points on his debut for Minardi ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ in the days when two points meant fifth place ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ at the home race for himself and team owner Paul Stoddart.
The rest of the year followed more predictable lines for the back-of-the-grid team. At the end of the year he switched to Jaguar, where he made light work of team mate Antonio Pizzonia, the Brazilian being dropped from the team before the end of the season.
Webber is a qualifying specialist but rarely gets tarred with the same ?óÔé¼?£fast on Saturday, slow on Sunday?óÔé¼Ôäó brush as, say, Jarno Trulli. Webber surprised the paddock by getting his Jaguar into the top three at Interlagos and the Hungaroring in 2003 and Sepang in 2004. His record this year versus Red Bull team mate David Coulthard is 7-1 to Webber?óÔé¼Ôäós advantage.
However the time he spent at Williams from 2005-6 ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ against the advice of manager Flavio Briatore ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ did little to enhance Webber?óÔé¼Ôäós reputation. Nick Heidfeld proved a tougher team mate than many expected in 2005. In 2006 his car was painfully unreliable, robbing Webber of potentially strong results at Monte-Carlo and Melbourne among others.
Misfortune continued to dog him on his ?óÔé¼?£return?óÔé¼Ôäó to Red Bull (formerly Jaguar) in 2007 as he suffered the most race-ending mechanical failures of any driver on the grid for a second year in row. His frustration was plain for all to see at Fuji last year, when he was poised to take second place or perhaps better before being taken out by half-team mate Sebastian Vettel.
In 2008 he finally has a car that?óÔé¼Ôäós both quick and reliable and Webber?óÔé¼Ôäós been delivering points finishes with greater regularity than at any time in his F1 career.
Some remain unconvinced of his potential, however, and his plain-spoken approach with the media makes easy ammunition for his critics: ?óÔé¼?£he whinges too much?óÔé¼Ôäó, ?óÔé¼?£he shouldn?óÔé¼Ôäót get involved in politics?óÔé¼Ôäó etc?óÔé¼?ª
I have no time for these complaints. I think it?óÔé¼Ôäós a poor state of affairs that many F1 drivers ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ usually on the instruction of their teams ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ shy so far away from controversy when talking to the media that they never say anything interesting at all.
Webber has not always made the correct choice of teams in the past and he faces potentially another tricky choice now. Red Bull are clearly improving, but is that progress coming fast enough?
Question marks hang over Fernando Alonso?óÔé¼Ôäós future at Renault, and Briatore?óÔé¼Ôäós presence at the team potentially creates a route to it for Webber. Should he go down that path? Or would walking away from the Milton Keynes team for a second time simply be repeating an old mistake?
Read more about Mark Webber: Mark Webber biography