Mar.25 (GMM) After a demoralising 2011, Mark Webber is back.
Unfortunately for the Australian, however, the new Red Bull is not yet a McLaren-beater.
Teammate Sebastian Vettel scored back to back titles in the RB8's two predecessors but in Australia and Malaysia was out-qualified by Webber.
German commentator Christian Danner said Webber's boost of form is "significant".
Triple world champion Niki Lauda added on German television RTL that the 35-year-old Australian seems to be dealing better than Vettel with the new generation of Pirelli.
And while behind the McLarens and a Mercedes, and identical in pace to Kimi Raikkonen's Lotus on Saturday, the Adrian Newey-penned car in Webber's hands in Malaysia is not sluggish.
"Mark is just two tenths from pole position, so we are not hopeless," Dr Helmut Marko is quoted by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.
But they're not winning yet, either.
"I think the race can go a little better for us here," said Vettel after qualifying sixth on Saturday, "but I think you can see that we don't have an easy car to drive.
"We are aware of it and we are working hard," he is quoted by Spain's Marca newspaper.