Red Bull Racing is keen to retain the services of both Sebastian Vettel and the in-form Mark Webber into the 2011 F1 World Championship campaign, the energy drinks-backed outfit has hinted – but contract discussions are some way off yet.
Whilst Vettel remains contracted to Red Bull beyond the end of the present campaign, Webber's is up for renewal, and both men – who now share the lead in the 2010 title chase following a second one-two finish of the season in Monaco last weekend – have been linked of late with Ferrari [see separate story – click here
Although he insists there is no rush to re-sign Webber – who swept to a second consecutive lights-to-flag victory around the tortuous, unforgiving streets of Monte Carlo off the back of his first triumph of the campaign in Barcelona seven days earlier, meaning the Australian has now gone an astonishing 144 uninterrupted laps in the lead – RBR team principal Christian Horner did acknowledge that the 33-year-old has done an exceptional job of selling himself of late, 'has found a great rhythm' and is 'in a very good place at the moment'.
“The team and Mark are very relaxed about the situation,” the Englishman stressed, according to Planet-F1
. “He is an important member of the team and he is driving fantastically well at the moment. He enjoys driving here, and we enjoy having him – but we have not spoken and have no real interest in speaking with any of our drivers. When the time gets to it, we will sit down and look at the paperwork.
“I said to Ann, his partner, 'I don't know what you have been giving Mark for breakfast, but please keep giving it to him!' His form has been exemplary in the last ten days, and at two very different tracks. You can tell he is completely at one with his car and his confidence is high.”
After Monaco, Webber and Vettel both sit at the head of the chase for the crown six races into the campaign – and RBR is 20 points clear of nearest challenger Ferrari and 27 in front of McLaren-Mercedes in the constructors' table – but Horner warns that nothing can be taken for granted, fully expecting the Milton Keynes-based squad's adversaries to fight back with a vengeance.
“It's very early in the championship,” he stressed, “and it's foolish to underestimate your opposition, especially quality teams like Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes. They are teams with great pedigrees, and there is still a long way to go. The best situation is to have both of our drivers at the front of the field. We treat them fairly, with the priority to beat everybody else, although I am sure between the two of them we will see the ebb-and-flow from now until the end of the season.”
Despite Horner's reticence on the matter, however, Red Bull motor sport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko made clear that the intention for next year is very much to maintain the status quo on the driving front, with Webber having made himself all-but indispensable over the past few weeks – and having likely strengthened his bargaining position into the deal.
“It is our desire to continue with Vettel and Webber,” the Austrian ex-grand prix ace told the APA
news agency. “We know what [Webber] is worth to us It is important that both drivers are at a high level of performance, with each one pushing the other to excellence. They must be going to the limit, for themselves but subsequently for the car.”