They may be the beneficiaries of equal treatment and opportunity out on the racetrack, if Dietrich Mateschitz is to be believed, but Sebastian Vettel's new contract with Red Bull Racing means he and Mark Webber are anything but equal in the financial remuneration stakes, according to the Australian media.
Several sources in Webber's home country claim that the extension to Vettel's current deal with the defending double F1 World Champions that ties the German to Red Bull until at least the end of 2014 has seen the 23-year-old's salary increase to £10 million per year with immediate effect, whilst his team-mate reputedly remains on a rather more modest £5 million retainer.
The team will doubtless argue that it needed to up the ante in order to stave off the advances of rivals circling around the sport's youngest-ever title-winner with a view to poaching him away from RBR, with Ferrari regarded as the most earnest in its overtures and Webber conceding that 'driving those red cars has always held that romantic attraction'.
The revelation will do little, however, to quell notions that there is very much a hierarchy between the pair, in the wake of constant accusations of favouritism towards Vettel in 2010 and Webber's public outburst on the slowing-down lap following his sublime British Grand Prix triumph that it had not been a bad effort for a 'number two driver'.
Recognising that he is likely now into the autumn of his F1 career and adamant that he will not continue beyond what he deems to be his sell-by-date, the 34-year-old is taking his own future one season at a time – but as for Vettel, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner admits he is delighted by his protégé's
renewed dedication to the cause.
“I'm sure he had loads of approaches and inquiries, but he didn't take any of them seriously,” the Englishman remarked. “That's one of the reasons we were keen to get this finalised at the start of the year – to avoid speculation. His future is with Red Bull for the foreseeable future, and this is a clear commitment from Red Bull to run at the front with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren.”
“The reason why I'll stay until 2014 with Red Bull Racing is that I feel very comfortable in the team,” added Vettel. “I am proud to be part of the team, and I am proud of what we have archived so far and will achieve together in the future.”