Red Bull Racing has admitted that it is in no rush to secure the services of Mark Webber, confident that the Australian will re-sign for another season despite the team having been caught by its rivals on track in recent races.
Webber coyly accepted that he had few better options than to remain at Milton Keynes during a BBC
interview at the German Grand Prix, and insists that he has no plans to retire at the end of the current campaign, as was being speculated several races ago, but team boss Christian Horner has revealed that he only plans to talk with his driver at some point during the forthcoming summer break.
“We're talking with Mark about next year, [but] I'm expecting him to be here next year," he told journalists in Budapest, "He's a popular member of the team, [and] he could have another two, three, four years. That's down to him - he's still very competitive and very hungry. We always agreed that, later in the summer, we'd sit down and talk."
Horner added that he wasn't expecting any problems negotiating with Webber, despite a recent run-in over team orders and an apparent dip in form by both team and driver.
"Mark and I have got a very good relationship," the Briton claimed, "Conversations with Mark, as you all know, tend to be fairly straightforward. Both sides are keen to continue [and], during the next few weeks, we'll take this opportunity to sit down and look at next year.”
Red Bull's Helmut Marko, never one to shy away from a dig at protégé Sebastian Vettel's team-mate, has suggested that Webber's thoughts of retirement may have merely been put on hold for twelve months, giving the team extra time to develop possible replacement Daniel Ricciardo, who is currently on secondment at HRT. Horner, however, insists that 'the other Australian' hasn't been discussed.
“Things can get lost in translation,” he pointed out, “I think Daniel is on a development phase, [and] he looks like a really interesting talent, but he's just starting to cut his teeth in F1.
"He's got his opportunity with HRT, and it's a great opportunity for him, which I'm sure he'll hopefully make the most of, [but] it's hard to benchmark his ability because, effectively, he's only racing his team-mate.”
Even though his team has not won in three races, the last success coming courtesy of Vettel in Valencia in June, Horner had reason to be satisfied with the German's second place in Hungary, as his main rivals - including Webber - failed to capitalise. Instead, Jenson Button took an emotional victory on the occasion of his 200th F1 start, but could not improve on his fifth place in the standings, while Vettel increased his advantage over his team-mate, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to 85 points or more.
"Excluding our own drivers, Jenson was the one we wanted as the winner," Horner admitted, "We are not disappointed. In situations like that, it's always a lottery."
While the F1 factories now go into a two-week mandatory shut-down over the summer, Red Bull is expected to introduce a raft of new parts when the season resumes at Spa, including a revised diffuser.