Runaway F1 2011 World Championship leader Sebastian Vettel has outlined the two qualities he most seeks in a team-mate – honesty and respect – as Red Bull Racing have promised Mark Webber absolute equality of treatment over the remainder of the campaign.
The Red Bull 'favouritism' row so prevalent during 2010 reared its ugly head once more following the British Grand Prix at Silverstone just under a fortnight ago, as Webber – closing rapidly in on Vettel in the final laps and visibly eager to mount an assault on his team-mate's second place – was instructed from the pit wall to hold station in the interests of safely preserving a double podium finish.
It was an order with which the Australian was palpably unimpressed at the time – and this coming in the same race as had prompted his well-documented 'not bad for a number two driver' outburst only twelve months earlier – but subsequent discussions with team principal Christian Horner seem to have cleared the air somewhat, convincing Webber that had the positions been the other way round, the same instruction would have been given to Vettel and that the pair will henceforth be permitted to duel it out on-track this season 'most of the time'.
“We had a chat straight after the race debrief,” he told AFP
. “Christian put his view forward of how the situation built and [how] he came to the decision he made, and I put my case forward in how the situation built. We thought that we were both making the right decision – him to make the call for the team's interests, and I was in a situation where I was trying to improve my own position.
“We spoke about it. He guaranteed me that it would have been the same situation the other way around; if Seb was closing in on me, he would have still shut the race down. It was over pretty quick, really. It is not often that you are closing in the last few laps. We are still free to race most of the time – it was an awkward one but it is not often that things like that happen in terms of the time of the race, and up until then we will be racing.”
Webber revealed at the time that he had ignored 'probably four or five' messages to back off, and he has since explained that he did so with Horner's disapproving words in the wake of the contentious 2010 German Grand Prix – a race whose outcome was so cynically manipulated by Red Bull's chief rivals Ferrari – uppermost in his mind.
“That's why I made the decision,” the 34-year-old reflected. “I wasn't thinking about Hockenheim, but I was thinking about trying to pass Sebastian. He was not having the best stint, and I was having a reasonable stint so I was just trying to pass him.
“Nothing really changes for me. I am comfortable with what I did at Silverstone. The points are important, but it is [about] momentum and having the opportunity to improve. If Fernando [Alonso] stops on the last lap, which is unusual, but if he [does]...it makes it a bit more tricky. There are some questions that you guys need to ask Christian, which I cannot answer.”
Adamant that the falling-out has had no negative impact upon his contract negotiations with RBR, as he turns his attentions more towards the immediate short-term, Webber is keen to maintain the upward trend he has been on of late – with three podium finishes in swift succession – in this weekend's German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, a circuit around which he claimed his breakthrough top flight victory two years ago.