Mark Webber has confronted head on the issue of his “number two” treatment by the Red Bull team in the aftermath of today’s British Grand Prix.
Yesterday, after a component failure, the team found itself able to provide the new front wing to its drivers. Technical director Adrian Newey insisted that the unit be races and so team boss Christian Horner had to decide which driver would get it. He chose Vettel based on championship position and performance in practice.
“I wasn’t happy clearly, ” said Webber after the race. “I’m sure we’ll have some pretty decent chats tomorrow. I don’t think things should (be done like that) and I wasn’t massively in favour of the decision, but that’s how things go sometimes. Some of the drivers offered me the front wings from their cars on the drivers’ parade lap. Seb didn’t. ”
Asked if, on the basis of yesterday’s decision, he should get the best bits on his car for the next race, now that he is back ahead in the championship he said, “Yeah, should do. Yesterday was a really unique situation, the first time the team had only one component.
“Honestly, I would never have signed the contract for next year if I believed thats the way it was going to be going forward. We’ll see how it goes in the future, but I’ll just keep doing what I do and hopefully it’s enough.”
Asked whether he would be demanding equal treatment from the team in their meeting this week he said, “Yep.
Asked if he was motivated by a desire to bounce back and “show them” today he said, “I’ve had a few hurdles in my career, but yes, I think you judge a person’s character by how they come back from adversity, all drivers have that at some part of their career. I’ve been around a while and maybe I’ve had more than others. You don’t want the challenges to be constantly happening.”
Webber has found himself walking in the footsteps of drivers like Rubens Barrichello at Ferrari and David Coulthard at McLaren, both of whom got the number two treatment on occasions. Webber, who has given his team mate a better run for his money this year than either of those drivers did, has chosen to confront it publicly, which Barrichello and Coulthard did not do.
The episode has been worse in image terms for Red Bull than the collision at Istanbul. I think Webber will probably regret the radio message, it was a bit petulant and he would probably have been better not to say that. But he is clearly very unhappy that the team acted as it did and the adrenalin got the better of him after the race. He was right however to state his position in the press conference.
The front wing episode this weekend was unnecessary – the team had a competitive advantage anyway and the small performance benefit to Vettel wasn’t worth the damage to team spirit and more importantly the perception of favouritism among the public, which has accrued from it.
I like Christian Horner very much and I think he has done an incredible job to build this team up from the shambles of what was Jaguar Racing, but on Saturday he should have stood up to Newey and decided that both drivers would run the old wing in the interests of fairness.