F1 2010 World Championship leader Mark Webber has confessed that although at stages this year he has felt like the number two driver at Red Bull Racing, right now he is confident that he is very much number one – as he conceded he barely knows team-mate Sebastian Vettel at all.
Whilst pre-season, all the predictions were that it would be compatriots and world champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at McLaren-Mercedes to fall out first, in actual fact it has been the relationship at Red Bull that has been the most fractious, with flashpoints such as those in Istanbul and at Silverstone laying bare just how tense the situation is between Messrs. Webber and Vettel.
After the pair contentiously collided in the Turkish Grand Prix back in May as they disputed the lead – with the vast majority of paddock observers pinpointing Vettel's impetuosity for the costly coming-together, but team management electing to publicly blame Webber, a decision they later came to regret – accusations of favouritism towards the young German within the energy drinks-backed outfit rose to the surface.
In the British Grand Prix six weeks later, the Australian made very clear his own feelings on the matter following the front wing controversy in qualifying, sardonically quipping that his dominant victory whilst Vettel ran off the track and picked up a puncture on only the opening lap was 'not bad for a number two driver', for all and sundry to hear. The Heppenheim native responded a handful of days later by claiming that he conversely was 'brought up to show respect' [see separate story – click here
], and-all-of-a-sudden battle lines were well-and-truly drawn.
In a revealing interview with Fox Sports
, Webber has admitted that the rivalry between the duo – and the global hype surrounding Vettel, whose reputation within the paddock is that of an F1 World Champion in-the-making – has only served to fuel his determination to clinch the drivers' crown himself. If he goes on to do so, many argue that the New South Wales-born star will have triumphed almost with one hand tied behind his back, needing to overcome not only his team-mate but also his own team on occasion, with the common consensus being that RBR are rather keener for one of their two drivers to succeed than the other.
“We don't hang out,” the 34-year-old reflected as he offered a fascinating insight into the intriguing partnership, candidly describing Vettel as 'no mate'. “We work for the team and we work professionally. We have a big age difference, so we didn't have much in common even before we began racing each other at this level. I would say he is not a bad guy, but I don't know him particularly well. I don't know him at all away from the racetrack.
“He is the new kid on the block and pulling trees up to a point. It was inevitable that he would become my rival. If it's not me, then it will be Lewis [Hamilton] or Jenson Button. Rivals in sport, well, that is what it is all about and it happens to be me at the moment.
“The rivalry has been pretty decent, and it has been great for me to lift the bar to another notch. I have been doing better on my side, and I can't control what he is doing. We sit across from each other at team meetings, but a large degree of our rivalry is natural. If your team-mate is doing better than you, or is constantly quicker than you week-in and week-out, you have to work out why he is doing that because he has the same equipment. That is an incredible challenge. If you get creamed by your team-mate constantly, then you won't be in this business long, [because] the team wants to have guys driving at the same level.
“[What happened at Silverstone] was an exceptional circumstance where the team only had one component. Up until then, they have had enough to prepare things to the same specification. I think the cars will be prepared identically in future, but the tactics might change at some stage.