Seldom shy of expressing his opinions – even when they fly in the face of all conventional wisdom – controversial Red Bull motorsport advisor Dr. Helmut Marko has claimed that Mark Webber would never have got near enough to challenge his team-mate Sebastian Vettel for the F1 2010 World Championship crown had it not been for the young German's chronic ill-fortune in the reliability stakes.
Vettel and Webber endured a distinctly frosty relationship last season, highlighted by notable flashpoints such as Istanbul and Silverstone – but the fact that both remained in the title chase right down to the Abu Dhabi finale posed a problem for Red Bull Racing, with questions arising as to whether or not Webber, as the then better-placed of the pair, should be favoured.
In the end, of course, the energy drinks-backed outfit stuck steadfastly to its policy of favouring neither driver over the other and of refusing to implement team orders – unlike some of its rivals – and that dogged persistence in the face of considerable criticism and opposition was vindicated by Webber's off-colour form in the UAE and Vettel's imperious charge to championship glory.
Marko, however, suggests that without the kind of mechanical mishaps that cost the sport's new youngest-ever title-winner valuable points in Bahrain, Australia, Barcelona and Korea, Vettel – who set an astonishing ten pole positions over the course of the campaign, five more than any other driver – would have been home-and-dry and well beyond Webber's reach long before Yas Marina, and that consequently the issue of 'team orders' would never have been raised.
“Without the 66 points he lost due to technical defects, the stand-off with Mark Webber would never have occurred,” the Austrian – Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz's right-hand man and widely-perceived to be a key Vettel supporter inside the team – told Sport Bild
, suggesting that the 23-year-old's true dominance last year was masked by the fragility of the equipment underneath him.
And even though team orders have now been legalised by the FIA for 2011 in the wake of the well-documented Hockenheim fracas
, Marko insisted RBR will not be altering its approach.
“We don't use them because the sporting aspect should be the primary focus of F1,” the 67-year-old stressed.