Mark Webber is fully deserving of his place in the Red Bull Racing line-up, and will keep it if he continues to perform at the required level, according to team boss Christian Horner.
The 36-year old is now the oldest driver in the F1 field, but remains a part of the championship-winning squad for a seventh season, running alongside triple titleist Sebastian Vettel in one of the strongest pairings on the grid. Despite rumblings that some sections of the RBR set-up remain opposed to Webber's inclusion, Horner has no doubt that the Australian is a worthy occupant of the #2 entry.
'The last three years have apparently been Mark's last,” the team boss said of the ongoing run of one-year deals between the pair, “Yet he has been retained by the team because of what he has done in the car, and again the same rules apply this year.
“We want the strongest pairing and Mark has contributed significantly to our constructors' world championships over the last three years, and even came close to winning his own title in 2010. He has been employed by the team to do the best job he can and he knows what's expected of him. There are an awful lot of drivers who would like to be sat in a Red Bull car, but Mark is there on merit and, while he delivers for the team, he will have that place.”
Speaking to the media in Melbourne, Horner admitted that it was unfortunate for Webber to have been paired with someone of Vettel's calibre, but insisted that he had no doubt that the Australian – who will once again try to win his home event this weekend – is still a force to be reckoned with.
"The difficulty for Mark is [that] he is constantly judged against a young man in the other car who has achieved so much,” Horner noted, “What Seb's done in 101 races - with 26 victories, being a three-time world champion, youngest points scorer, pole winner, race winner - is remarkable.
“Mark's constantly being measured against a driver [who] is, in my view, the best of a generation and that makes it harder for him. But, at the same time, Mark measures the opportunity of being measured against the best. He has also demonstrated [that], on his day, he can be unbeatable - he just needs to string a campaign together, with 19 of those performances.
'He's improved as he's matured. Last year, he drove very well and, if he can get off to a good start and build up some momentum this season, that will be important for his campaign.
“Above all, if we didn't think he could still do it then we wouldn't have taken him for another year with the team.”
Webber also remains happy to keep signing short extensions with RBR, telling journalists in Melbourne that the ploy represented 'a no brainer' for both parties.
"We have been successful over the past few years,” he added, “That is the team's position and it's obviously good to hear."