Mark Webber will be Sebastian Vettel’s team mate for 2011 after the Red Bull team confirmed today that it was extending his contract. It will be Webber’s fifth season with the team.
It was expected anyway, but it seems that the furore over the collision between the pair last week and the reaction to it may have hastened the confirmation.
Webber, 33, is in the form of his career, leading the world championship with four poles and two wins this season. “It was an easy decision to remain with Red Bull Racing,” he said. “We began talking very early this year and were in a position to sign by the Barcelona Grand Prix. The decision to extend for a further year was a mutual one; it’s widely known that I’m not interested in hanging around in Formula 1 just for the sake of it and at this stage of my career, I’m happy to take one year at a time.
“I continue to feel very comfortable here – I have a fantastic relationship with the whole team and the factory at Milton Keynes feels like home. It’s been incredible to be part of the team as it’s moved forward from a mid-field competitor to one that is challenging for the Championship.”
Red Bull is based on the old Jaguar team, which was a serial failure in F1. Webber committed himself to them in 2003, but it didn’t work out and he went to Williams in 2005, just as the relationship with BMW fell apart. When presented with a chance to go back to Milton Keynes to what was now Red Bull in 2007 he took it and the team and he have risen up together. It doesn’t happen all that often in F1; Schumacher did it with Benetton and the Ferrari team of the late 1990s, Button did it last year but there aren’t many examples. Most of the winning is done by the established teams and newcomers don’t often get a chance to break into that dominance.
Webber speaks of a collective desire to win the world championship rather than a personal one. “I hope we experience more success together in the future and achieve our ultimate goal of winning the world championship, ” he says.
As a rule, F1 drivers’ income is 70% retainer and 30% bonus, based on podiums, wins and championship position. My sources suggest that Red Bull operates slightly differently with more like 40% retainer and 60% bonus. Vettel and Webber get around €3.5 million each in retainer and so they could more than double that on current trends of results this season. Next season Webber would expect to have a good car again, so he has a chance to earn very well.
The announcement comes ahead of what are likely to be two of the toughest races of the season for Red Bull. With long straights and no high speed corners, Montreal will be tricky, as will Valencia to a lesser extent.
Meanwhile Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko has been interviewed on Italian website 422.com and he confirms that Red Bull will not use the drag reducing F duct rear wing.
Here is a snatch of the Q&A with him.
What is now your position on the accident?
“The accident is over. We had the meeting in Thursday and
everything is over and solved, also for the drivers.”
Will it change anything in the way you manage the drivers in
the next few races?
“It will change nothing in our policy for the next few
races. The two drivers can still freely battle, but they
always have to let through each other. That was the
What do you answer to the criticism that you are favouring
“We don’t favour anyone. Clearly we have two drivers who
have the same rights.”
The second answer is the interesting one. It has obviously been decided that in a situation where one team mate decides to have a lunge for a pass, the one in the lead has to let him through. That should make for some interesting situations as the championship reaches its conclusion.
It’s good that Red Bull takes this attitude and wants its drivers to race. They have a lot to lose potentially, but I think that the fans will respect them for letting the drivers race, especially now that the whole area of the team allegedly favouring Vettel has been aired and put away again, which is a positive. And before you ask, there is no chance that this new deal for Webber is some kind of sop to let Vettel be the favoured runner for the championship. He would not have accepted a deal like that.