Christian Horner has admitted that he stands by the decision that unintentionally acted as the catalyst for a sarcastic outburst from an unhappy Mark Webber in the immediate aftermath of last weekend's British Grand Prix – leading to Red Bull Racing's fifth victory of F1 2010 being overshadowed by renewed claims of favouritism inside the team.
Webber proclaimed on the pits-to-car radio after he had taken the chequered flag at Silverstone to become the 'winningest' competitor of the campaign to-date that his performance had been 'not bad for a number two driver' – a clear allusion to the incident just ahead of qualifying the previous day, when the developmental front wing on the Australian's RB6 had been removed to be fitted onto team-mate Sebastian Vettel's car instead, arguably denying the New South Wales native pole position and causing accusations of favouritism within the camp to once again rise uncomfortably to the surface.
Still palpably angry and feeling hard done-by, Webber subsequently reflected in the post-race press conference that he 'would never have signed a contract again for next year if I believed that was the way it was going to be going forward' – and clear-the-air talks were held this week between the man from Queanbeyan and RBR team principal Horner, whose decision it had been to swap the wing over based on Vettel's higher championship position.
However, following a barbecue at the Englishman's house – during which Vettel and Webber performed karaoke together with a rendition of Don McLean's 'American Pie' – and some 'rational' discussion about 'some comments raised after the race', Horner insists that harmony has now been restored.
“It was great to see both drivers letting their hair down a bit and having a bit of fun,” the 36-year-old – a former racer himself – told Reuters
. “So much was made of Mark's comments after the race, but the most important thing is that the team achieved their eleventh grand prix win at the weekend, which was the result of hard work by all of the team.
“It was a shared success with team-mates and colleagues, winning one of the most prestigious and important races for the second year in succession, which all got a little bit overshadowed. I'm more annoyed about the points we lost because of the unlucky contact with Sebastian and Lewis [Hamilton] than anything else of the weekend.”
Going on to praise the invaluable contribution that Webber has made in Red Bull's success story since joining the Milton Keynes-based squad back in 2007, Horner conceded that with so much at stake this year and two fiercely-competitive rivals within the same team, tensions will inevitably on occasion run high and – as happened at Silverstone and in Istanbul a month-and-a-half earlier – controversy will likely follow.
“Obviously there's tension, competitive tension between the drivers but they are contracted to the team to push,” he underlined. “It's not because of what they look like but the speed they have. I can understand [Webber's] frustration on Saturday, but it was important for us to run that component. We need to keep pushing the boundaries. I still think it was the right decision, and Mark knows me long enough and vice-versa to know that this shouldn't be an issue at all moving forward.
“He's now a genuine world championship contender and has been driving fantastically well. No individual is bigger than the team. We have won more races than any other team, [secured] nine out of ten poles and we are set for a really exciting second half of the championship. We have to concentrate on it race-by-race.”