Christian Horner has dropped another heavy hint that Mark Webber will be staying put at Red Bull Racing for a sixth successive campaign in F1 2012 – quipping of potential successor Lewis Hamilton that 'I really don't think blue is his colour...'
Webber's future at the energy drinks-backed outfit has been the subject of intense speculation inside the F1 paddock for some time, off the back of an underwhelming start to the season in 2011 during which the Australian has failed to win a race – as defending world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel has triumphed on no fewer than six occasions – and has succeeded in out-qualifying the young German only once.
The 34-year-old has blamed his troubles largely upon difficulties in adapting his driving style to Pirelli's tyres, and allied to his advancing years, it has been mooted that Webber could be shown the door to make way for disaffected McLaren-Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, who has barely concealed his frustration this year at his own team's continuing inability to provide him with a title-challenging car.
Webber is one of the few leading members of RBR not to have signed a long-term contract with the Milton Keynes-based squad last year – but team principal Horner suggests that is not a cause for concern.
“That's very, very likely,” the Englishman told Red Bull-linked Austrian broadcaster Servus TV
, when asked if Webber would be re-signed for 2012. “We have agreed to sit down a bit later and then focus on next year. I really don't think blue is [Hamilton's] colour... For Red Bull, the most important thing is the harmony.”
Former grand prix-winner Johnny Herbert, however – a man whose F1 career ended just before Webber's began – argued that Red Bull might do well to give some thought to its driver line-up, writing in his column for UAE newspaper The National
: “He is showing none of the fire that he showed last season, which helped him fight Vettel and make the championship so exciting. Until he finds it again, I do not see him competing for wins.”
Webber has also been mentioned in connection with Lotus Renault GP, whose managing director Eric Boullier is a self-confessed fan and has revealed that 'the day he wants to leave Red Bull, he has my number and he knows I am interested' [see separate story – click here
]. He has similarly been linked with replacing Felipe Massa at Ferrari.