Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz insists that giving Mark Webber equal status to two-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel is the only way to ensure that Red Bull Racing will be in position to defend its titles.
Much has been made of the supposed favouritism towards the German within the RBR camp, starting two seasons ago when he was given the latest-spec front wing from Webber's car after trashing his own in practice for the British Grand Prix. Despite that, Webber won the race, and 'celebrated' with the now infamous 'not bad for a number two driver' quote.
That incident built on a clash between the two while disputing the lead in Turkey, and the unrest continued for most of the year, but Webber still inked another extension to his contract having remained in contention for title to the season finale. Then, in 2011, again at Silverstone, Webber was told to hold station while closing on Vettel in a battle for second place, reigniting suggestions that he was being subjugated.
Mateschitz, however, insists that the Australian needs to be treated the same as his team-mate, lest Red Bull come under pressure from the likes of McLaren and Ferrari in 2012. "Absolutely. Both get the same equipment," the Austrian told the Salzburger Nachrichten
newspaper, "We really have no choice except to defend our two world titles. The only change is that Mark has a new chief mechanic.
Regardless of promises from on high, however, Webber knows that he needs to put himself in a position where it is Vettel getting the calls to hold station.
“I think that what is key is if you can tee the grands prix up early, you need to be trying to be leading early and then it makes it less of a chance for those sorts of phone calls to happen,” he told Australia's Sunday Age
, “Obviously, I was very strong in the back part of the races last year, extremely quick, and it was a real strength, but the team aren't super confident with two guys having a crack at each other. If you have yourself in a much better position from the start to the mid-part of the grand prix - ie. [running] the other way round - then that helps your situation.”
While he can point to both poor starts and, occasionally, poor starting positions, Webber insists that 'luck' cannot be blamed, or relied upon, to put him ahead of Vettel in 2012.
“I don't think you're 'owed' anything, no-one is owed anything," he pointed out, "You've got to go out there and get on with it. I've done plenty of that. I tore through my junior career, performed on certain days when it was either career on or career off, so, yeah, I've had a bit of a rub of the green here and there.
"I've been very fortunate in many situations and I see myself still like that. I love the chance to test myself at this level - and I've still got some unfinished business.”