Red Bull driver Mark Webber has finally responded to disparaging comments made by the team’s special adviser Helmut Marko, with a scathing rebuttal, which is likely to create tensions within the team this season.
Marko made some surprisingly frank comments about Webber earlier this month in the Red Bulletin, the company’s in-house sports and leisure magazine,
“It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can’t maintain this form throughout the year, ” said Marko. “And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates.
“In comparison with Seb’s rising form, it seems to me that Mark’s form somehow flattens out. Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral.”
In a Q&A on his own website issued today, Webber goes further than a standard dismissal of the comments, saying,
“Look, everyone at this level has their own agendas and it’s been evident for some time that I’ve never been part of Marko’s.”
There have been many examples of Marko disparaging Webber in favour of his own protege Vettel. The aftermath of their notorious collision in Turkey in 2010 is one such; Marko immediately blamed Webber for the incident.
One of the more regrettable aspects of Red Bull’s rise to success has been the impression created by such comments from Marko and some of the operational decisions which appear to have favoured Vettel.
There is little doubt that German three times world champion is good enough to succeed in the cars he has had, without these episodes, but they create an impression that there is not a level playing field within the team.
This episode of parry and thrust, however has a different ring to it. Webber is on a rolling one year contract, which he negotiates directly with Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz. Webber revealed in another post that he spent New Year with the Red Bull owner on his private island in Fiji, so the links are strong.
However, it’s been clear for some time that Marko would prefer to dislodge him and have another of his development drivers in the seat. But the driver programme has yet to produce a driver of sufficient calibre.
Webber is indeed a bit too inconstant a performer at Drivers’ Championship level, but his points have been essential for Red Bull winning three consecutive Constructors’ Championships and his wins have prevented other drivers from collecting maximum points on days when Vettel didn’t win. So he has played a vital role in the development and success of Red Bull Racing.
Team principal Christian Horner will be keen to avoid the distraction of in house warfare, but there is no way to paper over the cracks that this insulting exchange has highlighted.
Elsewhere in Webber’s Q&A, he reveals that he had a 40cm section of titanium rod removed from his leg, a legacy of his mountain bike accident two years ago, in an operation on December 6th. He resumed training earlier this month and is at full speed again now.
Webber will work with engineer Simon Rennie, who was on Kimi Raikkonen’s crew at Lotus last year -it was he whom Raikkonen famously told to ‘Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing’, in Abu Dhabi last year.
Ciaron Pilbeam, Webber’s engineer of six years, has moved on to Lotus in a more senior engineering role.