MARK WEBBER yesterday revealed he would never have re-signed for Red Bull Racing if he knew he would have been treated as shabbily as he was over the weekend.
It was an eye-opening riposte to team principal Christian Horner in the wake of a thoroughly-deserved British Grand Prix win in which a 115,000 Silverstone crowd were provided with some home comfort as heroes Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finished second and fourth.
It underlines the divisions that currently exist within the team, just weeks after Horner had seemingly repaired the damage in the wake of the accident between Webber and team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Turkey.
After narrowly avoiding a first-corner skirmish with Vettel, the 33-year-old Webber produced a faultless drive to claim the fifth win of his career and third this season, one he described as “an appointment with karma.”
After the chequered flag fell, Webber finally allowed his emotions to come to the fore as over the in-car radio he sniped: “Thanks guys – not bad for a number two driver.”
Horner later dismissed the remark as a “throw-away comment” from someone who is “king of the one-liners.”
But it was a clear indicator as to Webber’s mindset in the wake of events that unfolded on Saturday just before qualifying. Controversially, Horner opted to remove the new front wing from Webber’s car and hand it to Vettel after the one on the German’s car broke during final practice.
Webber’s thunderous look throughout the post-qualifying press conference spoke volumes, so in yesterday’s post-race exchange, he felt it the right time to get things off his chest and air his views.
“Yesterday I clearly wasn’t happy. I’m sure we’ll have some pretty decent chats tomorrow,” said Webber, when asked to clarify his ‘number two’ remark. “What happened shouldn’t have happened. I wasn’t massively in favour of the decision, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
Horner had made his decision based on championship position – Vettel went into the race 12 points ahead of Webber – and with the 23-year-old quicker in final practice.
So with Webber now seven points ahead of Vettel, will the Australian get preferential treatment at the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim in a fortnight should a similar situation arise?
“I should do,” replied Webber.
“Yesterday was a really unique situation. It was the first time the team had really had one component.”
Then, from out of nowhere, Webber pertinently added: “Honestly, I would never have signed a contract again for next year if I believed that was the way it was going to be going forward. Let’s see how it goes in the future, but I will just keep doing what I do and hopefully it’s enough.”
That was certainly not a one liner, no throw-away remark, and now Horner faces the most difficult task of his time in charge to keep Webber happy and to prevent his team from imploding.
Horner, who faced a grilling from the media, admitted he had no regrets about his decision, and will make the same one in the future should the need arise.
“I heard him say he’s a number two driver, but he’s not a number two driver, and he’s not signed a contract as a number two driver,” insisted Horner.
“We know Mark is a big competitor, and for sure he was fired up coming into this race. But he knows the lengths the team has gone to, with the weight difference there is between the two drivers, to try and achieve parity.
“He also knows the lengths the team has gone to support him, and I have no doubt that when he has a chance to reflect on this, then lessons can be learned. Of course we will talk about it, and if the air needs to be cleared it will be cleared.”
The Red Bull factory in Milton Keynes will be an interesting place to be a fly on the wall today, despite a win that has propelled Webber to within 17 points of championship leader Hamilton.
The in-fighting overshadowed a stunning race, one that saw Vettel suffer a puncture at first-corner Copse after what appeared to be the faintest of touches with Hamilton’s car, relegating him to last at the end of lap one.
But following a safety car to remove track debris caused by a broken rear wing on Pedro de la Rosa’s Sauber, Vettel climbed to seventh by race end as he produced a series of superb overtaking manoeuvres.
Then there was Button, who started 14th but finished fourth behind Nico Rosberg as he too drove a fine race, whilst it was another day of disaster for Ferrari. Felipe Massa’s race was ruined at the start by a puncture caused after bumping into team-mate Fernando Alonso, with the Brazilian finishing 15th.
As for the Spaniard, he later served a drive-through penalty for gaining a place on Robert Kubica when he cut across Vale corner, leaving him to trail home 14th.
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