Red Bull Racing – the in-form team as the 2009 F1 World Championship heads into its second half – has revealed that Mark Webber has re-signed to remain alongside Sebastian Vettel at the energy drinks-backed outfit next year, with Christian Horner contending that the duo constitute 'one of the strongest [line-ups] in the sport'.
Webber became the top flight's newest grand prix-winner when he overcame a drive-through penalty for inadvertent contact with Brawn GP rival Rubens Barrichello to storm to victory at his 130th attempt at the Nürburgring just under a fortnight ago, in so doing turning the tables on team-mate Vettel – a driver being tipped in some quarters as 'the next Michael Schumacher' and a multiple world champion in-waiting – on the German's home turf and establishing himself firmly as a genuine title contender in his own right.
Those qualities – especially coming off the back of a leg-breaking mountain-biking accident last November that left some wondering whether the Australian's driving would ever be the same again – have convinced Red Bull team principal Horner to snap up the 32-year-old's services for a fourth consecutive campaign.
“I'm delighted that we have re-signed Mark for 2010,” the Englishman enthused. “He has continued to show huge commitment and determination this season, especially following his bike accident at the end of last year.
“His recent results show he is in the form of his life – most notably with his win in the German Grand Prix – and he has the motivation to deliver at the highest level. It was therefore a straightforward decision to extend the relationship. We believe that the driver line-up of Mark and Sebastian is one of the strongest in the sport.
“I'm extremely happy that Red Bull and I have been able to agree to race together again next year,” echoed the New South Wales native, who has notched up six rostrum finishes from his 44 starts with the Milton Keynes-based squad, five of them this year.
“Even in the leaner and tougher years at the start of my relationship with the team, I've always enjoyed working with them, so now to go through this purple patch – which we hope will continue for a good while to come – makes the work even more enjoyable. We've got a very exciting finish to this year's championship, but I'm also looking forward to helping to develop and race the RB6 in the 2010 world championship.”
Elsewhere within the paddock, as the circus readies itself for its mid-summer break following this weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest and the annual F1 silly season gets into swing, other pieces of the 2010 driver puzzle are seemingly beginning to fall into place.
It has been widely speculated that double world champion Fernando Alonso is to jump ship from Renault to Ferrari in place of 2007 title-winner Kimi Raikkonen – who many surmise will walk away from single-seaters altogether, in favour of indulging his love of rallying on a more full-time basis – and now it appears that like Red Bull, Toyota is close to confirming both Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock for another season together.
The Italian and German represent one of the most consistent and reliable pairings in the present field, and between them have tallied eight podiums for the big-budget Japanese manufacturer, with Trulli having competed for the Cologne-based concern since the end of 2004. With no fewer than 208 grand prix starts under his belt, the man from Pescara is one of the three most experienced drivers on the grid – sitting eighth in the all-time list – and whilst he turned 35 earlier this month, the Abruzzese's passion and drive to succeed show few signs of diminishing.
There is no news emanating, however, from current world championship leaders Brawn GP, with suspicions that Rubens Barrichello's extraordinary post-race outburst in Germany – accusing the team of 'making him lose the race' [see separate story – click here
] – has burnt the Brazilian's bridges beyond repair, with 2008 GP2 Series vice-champion Bruno Senna waiting patiently in the wings to be given his chance. The nephew of the late, great Ayrton Senna was regarded as almost a shoe-in for the seat alongside Jenson Button for much of the winter, only to be overlooked in favour of his more experienced compatriot at the eleventh hour.