Red Bull Racing chief technical officer Adrian Newey has confessed that he would like to see F1 veteran Mark Webber remain on-board alongside Sebastian Vettel into another season in 2012 – arguing that the Australian has made a 'significant' contribution to the energy drinks-backed outfit's tremendous recent success and praising him as 'a pillar of the team from the start'.
There has been considerable speculation over Webber's future in the sport in recent months, with both the man himself as well as Red Bull team principal Christian Horner seeming to send out distinctly mixed messages about whether or not there is likely to be a place at the inn for the 34-year-old – now undoubtedly in the autumn of his F1 career – next year, and even whether he will still have the necessary desire and motivation to carry on.
Webber's current contract with the reigning constructors' world champions expires at the end of the F1 2011 campaign, but when pressed as to whether he would regard a Vettel/Lewis Hamilton driver line-up – one that has been mooted on several occasions – as a 'fantasy' pairing for the Milton Keynes-based squad, to quote the words of Helmut Marko, Newey is quick to defend the team's elder statesman, who has struggled to match Vettel's searing raw pace this year but is, the Englishman insists, now 'closing' the gap.
“I'm hoping Mark continues next season,” the 52-year-old design genius told British newspaper The Guardian
. “Apart from being a great person, his contribution has been significant. He's been a pillar of the team from the start.
“Seb is very perceptive in his feedback in some regards, and Mark is very perceptive in other areas. We listen to both, and it helps the car. At the moment, [Vettel] is really on top of his game. It's certainly not a case that Mark has been driving any slower – that's for sure. Mark's just taken a bit longer to adapt to the Pirelli tires, but the gap is closing.”
Webber has driven for RBR since 2007.