Christian Horner has insisted that Mark Webber knows that there is no favouritism in the Red Bull Racing camp, even though the Australian's reaction to the events of qualifying at the British Grand Prix would suggest otherwise.
Horner felt compelled to smooth the waters after it emerged that Sebastian Vettel had been handed the one remaining development front wing after damaging his in free practice, despite that fact that it had been fitted to Webber's car on Saturday morning. Webber was clearly unhappy with the situation during the post-qualifying press conference, and refused to answer questions from the media immediately after the session.
Horner, however, stressed that the Australian was not the victim of a pro-Vettel bias, and claimed that Webber knew as much.
"Mark knows how we operate as a team, he knows there was no malice behind it or manipulation," he told the BBC
, "Mark is a competitive guy, he's pushing hard, nobody likes to be beaten by their team-mate but, at the end of the day, they both drive for the team
. We have given Mark a great opportunity to drive for a front-running team, he's doing a great job and he's driving brilliantly well.
"Today, we had to make a difficult decision and, tomorrow, I would make the same decision because the team is bigger than any one individual. It was a team
decision. The drivers don't specify the car - they never have and they never will."
Horner went on to explain that, with designer Adrian Newey wanting to run the latest-spec wing in the race, a decision had to be made and, with both drivers similar on pace through practice, he opted to make it based on the championship standings as well as Vettel's pace in the final session prior to his own version of the wing breaking.
The German duly claimed his fifth pole position in ten rounds this year, and will line up on the front row alongside Webber as Red Bull continued to dominate the Silverstone event. The Australian was just over a tenth slower than the pole time, despite running with the older wing, but visibly appeared as if he had been denied the chance to shoot for pole just a month after he and Vettel clashed acrimoniously in Turkey.
On that occasion, Horner had to backtrack after initially blaming Webber for the accident and, having also had to retract accusations that Heikki Kovalainen had been to blame for the Australian's monstrous shunt in Valencia two weeks ago, now felt obliged to try and paper over the latest cracks to appear in the RBR team.
"We'll continue to support both
drivers in the best and fairest way we can, but sometimes you have a difficult decision and this was one," he maintained, "The performance between the guys was very close, very tight. Unfortunately, we found ourselves with only one front wing with a different specification that had a slightly different characteristic. Both drivers tried it on Friday, one had a better preferences for it over the other and it was tried by both again this morning. Both drivers swapped wings between the cars [on Friday] and the tests were inconclusive as to whether one wing was better than the other.
"Unfortunately, sometimes, I have to make a difficult decision and, with only one wing available, the facts we had at hand and, basically, based on championship decision as the criteria we used, that wing went to Sebastian today.