Red Bull team principal Christian Horner maintains that Mark Webber will be free to challenge for race wins this season, despite ordering the Australian to remain behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel in the battle for second at Silverstone on Sunday.
Twelve months on from his infamous 'not bad for a number two driver' quote, Webber was made to feel just that as he received 'four or five' messages from the pit-wall instructing him to hold station in third place, despite appearing to have a faster car than Vettel. The Australian later pointed out that, had eventual winner Fernando Alonso run into problems on the final lap, the battle would have been for victory and the 25 points that went with it. Despite Vettel holding a commanding 77-point advantage heading into the race, Webber insisted that he still has title ambitions and deserved the chance to gain as many points as possible towards that cause.
Horner, however, insisted that he had to do the best for the team and, despite recognising Webber's ambition, claimed that allowing the pair to race through the final few laps would have been 'absolute stupidity'.
"We did not want to see our drivers in the fence in the last two laps, which is how it would have ended up," he told the BBC
, "Mark is not out of the championship race, but we could not afford to risk losing points. Mark should be fine with that, he is a team player. Second and third is a very strong result. Had it been the other way round, it would have been exactly the same.
"He will be free to race for wins in the future - he qualified on pole here, so he had the opportunity to win this race. It just didn't pan out for him today. We gave him every chance but, from a team perspective, I made it quite clear in the drivers' briefing this morning - to both
drivers, in front of the engineers - that the biggest thing was about getting a team
result in front of all of the staff who put in so much effort into both those cars - and for the constructors' championship.
"We've come away with Sebastian having extended his lead in the drivers' championship, Mark moving into second and the team extending its lead in the constructors' championship, [but] we risked giving away 33 points in the last three laps by allowing our drivers to fight it out [and], as we have seen previously, that can have dire consequences."
With RBR now almost out of sight in the teams' competition, Webber may have grounds to complain about that being a reason to prevent him from challenging his younger team-mate in a season where he has yet to finish in front of the #1 machine, but Horner insisted that he would talk to the Australian about his role.
"It's something he and I will talk about in private
," Horner emphasised, "I can understand that, sometimes, a driver may be frustrated with an instruction, but my responsibility is to ensure that the team optimises its results. We didn't stop them racing at the start, [but] there comes a point in the race where it would be absolute stupidity to allow them to jeopardise it. There would have been absolutely no benefit in both cars coming back on a tow truck."