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No worries for Webber in putting pedal to the metal

By Alan Baldwin

JEREZ, Spain (Reuters) - Australian Mark Webber has peace of mind when he puts his foot down now that he has had a 38cm long titanium rod removed from his leg.

The Red Bull Formula One driver made light of the surgery, which he had over the winter, after his first day in the cockpit at the Jerez test track but recognized that it was one less thing to worry about.

"I felt pretty comfortable pretty quickly," he told reporters.

"The leg's no problem at all. I'm probably a little bit behind on condition but not much. I'll be ready to go for Melbourne, I'm clearly on target so that's all fine. I felt better in the car than I probably thought I would, actually.

"At one point it was a little bit stiff but it's normal. It will be fine. When the adrenalin's going, it's zero problems," added the 36-year-old, who was in the car for lengthy stints on Tuesday when he covered 73 laps.

Webber broke his right leg after colliding with a car in a cycling accident in Tasmania in 2008 and has raced with the rod and screws inserted ever since.

He said it had not been a concern in the cockpit, with drivers protected in a carbon fiber 'tub' in the event of a crash, but was more of a worry in his regular routine away from the racetrack.

"It never affected me, mate, really when I was racing. It affected me when I was doing other sports, to be fair. Maybe water-skiing or mountain biking." he said.

"I knew it was not going to be beneficial to re-break my leg with the rod in there.

"Now I have it out I'm not going to be crazy but it's just peace of mind from the recreational point of view," added Webber, who starts the season in front of his home Melbourne crowd on March 17.

The Australian, whose contract with the world champions expires at the end of the season, took a few weeks off from his normal training schedule but got back up to speed last month.

He said then that some of the "niggles and pain" he had experienced over the last three years in training now seemed a thing of the past.

The memory would stay with him, however.

"The mind is a great thing. It never forgets. I won't forget the pain I had when I broke my leg. I'm actually getting a little bit more wise as I get old, believe it or not," he grinned.

(Editing by Alison Wildey)

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