In the wake of the team's second explosive fall-out of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign, Christian Horner has asserted that 'any ill-feeling' following the events of last weekend's British Grand Prix 'is now resolved', that he 'doubts very much' that Mark Webber will look at jumping ship as a result of it and that Red Bull Racing is 'more together than ever'.
Tensions ran high at Silverstone when it emerged that a developmental front wing had been removed from Webber's RB6 ahead of qualifying to be put onto team-mate Sebastian Vettel's car instead, after the German's had broken during practice.
Horner explained that the decision had been his own and had been taken based purely on championship position and practice form, but in the light of Red Bull's support of Vettel over the embarrassing and costly Istanbul collision at the end of May – for which the vast majority of paddock observers deemed the 23-year-old to have been the guilty rather than innocent party – and converse public criticism of Webber, accusations swiftly resurfaced of favouritism at Milton Keynes.
Judging by his post-race comments that his dominant victory in the British Grand Prix had been 'not bad for a number two driver' [see separate story – click here
] – and his press conference admission 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' – the Australian likewise seemed to subscribe to that theory, but Horner is adamant that the New South Wales native is in no way a 'number two' driver and that there is only positive energy inside the team, seeking to downplay any notions of a schism and a breakdown in relations.
“Mark has not signed a contract as a number two driver,” the Englishman insisted. “He knows the lengths that the team has gone to, with the weight difference between the two drivers, to try and achieve parity. He knows how much we have done to support him. I have no doubt that when he has a chance to reflect on this, yes, lessons can be learned. At the end of the day he is a team player, and looking objectively at it, he as a sportsman will recognise that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made.
“Mark has a contract with us for the future. We've provided him with a car that has enabled him to run at the front, win grands prix and challenge for the world championship. I doubt very much that he is going to walk away from that.
“I can understand emotions running high in an intense battle with your team-mate, but the bottom line is he won the British Grand Prix with an excellent drive. He was flawless, he had a better start than his team-mate and that was the difference between the two of them. At the moment, there's a lot of competition between the two drivers who are both pushing very hard – it's actually a positive for the team to have two guys who are pushing each other so hard.
“We are more together as a team than we have ever been. You've only got to look at the commitment at the pit-stops where the car crews are combined, and that's the strength of this team that as a squad, as a group, they work for each other. That's why we can punch above our weight and take on the likes of McLaren and Ferrari, because of the team spirit. As for the drivers, I don't think there is any driver in this pit-lane that doesn't push for themselves, as well as the team. They're competitive animals, sportsmen at the end of the day, and that's what we employ them to be.”
Following the race at Silverstone, a visibly frustrated and angered Webber demanded 'clear-the-air' talks with team management, and Horner has stated that should a similar situation arise on Vettel's home turf over the weekend of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in a week-and-a-half's time, it will be Webber who benefits as the one who is now better-placed in the title standings.