Christian Horner has responded to the barrage of criticism directed at Red Bull Racing in recent weeks by insisting that the energy drinks-backed outfit 'will act differently' next time out in Germany – after British Grand Prix winner Mark Webber fired a broadside at his team by claiming his performance had been 'not bad for a number two driver'.
There has been tension hanging in the air at Red Bull ever since the infamous Turkish Grand Prix collision between Webber and team-mate Sebastian Vettel as the pair duelled over the lead in Istanbul a month-and-a-half ago. Since then, whilst publicly the team has attempted to paper over the widening cracks in its drivers' relationship, behind-the-scenes it would appear all is still far from well.
The fact that team principal Horner and RBR motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko were quick to blame Webber for the Turkish coming-together when the vast majority of paddock observers held Vettel responsible led to accusations of favouritism within the Milton Keynes-based squad towards the man it regards as its future, and the events of last weekend at Silverstone only served to antagonise that situation.
After the new developmental front wing on Vettel's RB6 broke during Saturday morning practice, the similar appendage on Webber's car was removed to be fitted to the German's ahead of qualifying – enabling him to narrowly pip his team-mate to pole position, with Horner reasoning that the switch had been made in deference to the Heppenheim native's stronger championship position and marginally superior FP3 pace.
The Australian gained revenge the following day by beating the pole-sitter away from the start-line – rebuffing Vettel's attempt to squeeze him towards the pit wall as he did so – and strolling away to a comfortable and dominant victory, thereby becoming the first driver this season to triumph three times.
On the slowing-down lap afterwards, he made his feelings very clear that he does not remotely appreciate being treated like a second-string driver [see separate story – click here
] and added in the post-race press conference that 'honestly, I would never have signed a contract again for next year if I believed that was the way it was going to be going forward', describing the result as 'an appointment with karma' and predicting 'some pretty decent chats' ahead with team management. Bridges palpably need to be rebuilt.
“It was a great race for Mark, a great pit-stop and he always had the pace in-hand to stay ahead of Lewis [Hamilton],” Horner told the BBC
, adding that further clear-the-air talks will be held with his aggrieved driver if needs be. “It's great to win the British Grand Prix. Mark is now ahead [of Vettel] in the points, so we will act differently at the next race. We have a great team result at this race, and sometimes difficult team decisions have to be made.
“There is very little difference between them, and as a team we try to give them the same components; this weekend we couldn't because of an incident – but we will continue trying to catch the McLarens. Mark is pushing very hard, but sometimes you have to make very difficult team decisions. We won the race and we should just be really happy about it.
“Of course, we will talk about it, and if the air needs to be cleared it will be cleared. Mark has been with us when we were battling for tenth and eleventh places. He knows how hard the team has worked as a group to get ourselves into a position to be running at the front and winning grands prix.
“I don't think either driver needs motivation, but when you have two drivers competing for the world championship, there can be tension between the two of them. We don't hide that fact, [but] we do not have a number one and number two driver here. The only time we would is if at the end of the championship one driver, based on the points, could not realistically compete for the title. Both Mark and Seb are team drivers.”
Vettel would scarcely be drawn on the brewing friction inside the team that is threatening to derail its title challenge altogether, and after finishing a delayed seventh following an opening lap puncture at Silverstone, the 23-year-old would only concede: “I am obviously focussed on myself but, especially with what has happened in the past, people have their opinions and I have mine.”