Christian Horner believes Red Bull Racing has the strongest driver line-up in F1 in Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, both of whom he claims are 'at the top of their game and pushing one another very hard' – and, most worryingly of all for the team's rivals, he suggests they are only going to get better still.
The German-Australian pairing have notched up a trio of one-two finishes for the energy drinks-backed outfit in 2009 to-date – equal to world championship leaders and key title protagonists Brawn GP – and remain unbeaten over the course of the last two grands prix in Britain and Germany.
The only minor headache that could cause for the powers-that-be at RBR is that whilst Brawn seemingly very much has its efforts placed behind Jenson Button in the chase for the crown, Vettel and Webber are but 1.5 points apart in the drivers' standings, and don't have the luxury of being able to take points away from each other as they have been doing in recent races. Horner is adamant, though, that team orders will not come into play until absolutely necessary – and a championship one-two is clearly what the Englishman has in his sights.
“Both men are being treated with total fairness within the team and are supplied with identical equipment,” he underlined. “We will continue to support both drivers equally. There's only a point-and-a-half between them, so obviously they are both in contention for the drivers' championship. There's a long way to go to catch up with Jenson Button.
“If and when we reach a point where there is a significant gap, or it becomes mathematically impossible for one of them to challenge for the championship, then they are both team players and one of them will play a supporting role should it be required. Our intention is to see both of them catch the lead Brawn as quickly as possible.
“When I saw Mark in early January, he'd forgotten to mention he'd also broken his shoulder! He couldn't put any weight on his right leg, and I remember thinking 'this is going to be interesting!' He was resolute in his determination to drive the new car at its launch, though. After he drove RB5 for the first time, there was a look of relief in his eyes, as I think he was unsure if he would still have the same feeling in his right foot and how he would cope with the bumps on-track. From then on, there was never any doubt he was going to be fit for Melbourne.
“In typical Aussie fashion, he carried the injury without letting on about how much pain and discomfort he was feeling. He's had great support, and his physios and trainers have done a great job. I think it's only now we are seeing Mark at the level of fitness he was at prior to his injury, and his recent results show he is absolutely in the form of his life.
“Sebastian is undoubtedly a star in the making. He shows remarkable maturity, given his lack of experience. He is a prodigious talent who will continue to get better. The best is yet to come from him. Our drivers are both at the top of their game at different stages in their careers, and they are pushing one another very hard. I think we've got the best driver line-up in F1 at the moment.”
Given that the man from Heppenheim is already being touted as 'the next Michael Schumacher' in some circles, that is a daunting prospect indeed – and in describing Webber as a 'very valued member of the team', it is clear that Horner has every intention of hanging onto both men beyond the end of the present campaign.