After calming words from Red Bull team principal Christian Horner to attempt to end the row over preferential treatment between drivers, Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko has weighed in today, saying that Webber needs to remember that he was no-where before Red Bull gave him a competitive car.
“If Mark imagines there’s a conspiracy between us and Vettel against him, then he is on the wrong track,” Marko said. “If I was Vettel then I would have suspected the opposite. Which car has permanently had something damaged?
“Did Mark have the defective spark plug in Bahrain, the loose wheel in Australia, the broken brake disc in Barcelona, the defective chassis in Monte Carlo, the transmission problems in Montreal and now the broken wing at Silverstone?”
“Mark is having a great season, and has also improved big time, but he should not forget that he owes much of this to the team. Where was he two years ago?
“Then he could not even dream of grand prix victories. Today, we have given him a car that he can win on his own.”
Marko’s comments probably reflect the feeling inside the senior echelons of the team. They probably have their opinions of Webber’s ability level and he is surpassing them this season, as we have seen in the past with drivers who suddenly get their hands on a competitive car after years of toiling.
But the point is that a team needs its drivers to deliver and if one of them isn’t, then it’s crucial that the other one does. There was nothing stopping Vettel winning the British Grand Prix from pole position on Sunday. But he didn’t manage it and Webber did.
Webber has nothing to lose here from taking the stance he has. Unlike Barrichello or Coulthard at the time when they were getting the number two treatment from Ferrari and McLaren respectively, Webber is not thinking about his future and so he fees free to speak out.
He has signed for one more year in 2011 and is likely to retire at the end of that, to go out at the top rather than carry on. This is just my impression based on an interview we did for Australian TV in Montreal, where he spoke about deliberations on whether to carry on or not.
In Germany there is a feeling that Flavio Briatore may have a hand in this, Webber’s erstwhile manager until he was banned from motor sport involvement until the end of 2012 over the Singapore race fixing scandal.
Briatore has been in the paddock recently in the company of Bernie Ecclestone, with whom many believe he will start working. According to some German opinions, he may have advised Webber to play hardball in public.
The only thing about that is that he is close to Ecclestone and Ecclestone is very close to Vettel and wants the youngster to succeed. This row is not good for Vettel. And if it’s not good for Vettel then it’s unlikely to make Ecclestone happy.
But there does seem to be a steeliness about Webber lately and he has been quoting other things “Flav” has been saying to him, so it’s possible there is something in it.
Either way, it will be interesting to see whether Marko’s intervention today changes things again.
* You can hear a discussion on this subject and other matters of the moment in a 2 hour Formula 1 special radio show on TalkSport tomorrow Saturday 17 July from 12-2pm.
I’m hosting the programme (the first time I’ve hosted a radio show (!) together with Eddie Irvine. Should be interesting. To listen go to 1089 Medium wave in the UK or www.talksport.net elsewhere in the world.