Mark Webber's miserable weekend in China, coming so soon after the controversy of Malaysia, set tongues wagging in F1 circles, but the rumourmongers were quickly silenced by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner.
Webber, having been denied a well-deserved victory at Sepang after team-mate Sebastian Vettel surged past despite team orders to hold station, was on the receiving end of all of Red Bull's bad luck in Shanghai, running out of fuel in qualifying before picking up a penalty that condemned him to the back of the grid. If he thought his misfortune would end there, however, he was wrong as, just as he was beginning to climb through the field, a botched pit-stop left him three-wheeling into retirement. To cap his weekend, the Australian then picked up a three-place grid penalty for his part in an early collision with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne….
It's not the first time that controversy has been followed by heart-ache for Webber, but Horner insisted that any suggestion that the team was working against the veteran was nothing but nonsense.
"It's complete rubbish, forget 'conspiracy'," Horner snapped at a reporter who dared to suggest that the team may be working towards a situation where it could again back Vettel, "We're all about trying to get two cars to the finish as high as we can [and] anybody who thinks there is a conspiracy against either driver does not know what they are looking at. There is no
Webber admitted in his post-race statement that 'we have had a few problems this weekend', and was immediately rumoured to have agreed terms with Porsche to help spearhead its return to the sports prototype ranks from next season, but will now look to bounce back in Bahrain as F1 returns to action on Friday.
The Australian is currently on another one-year extension with Red Bull, but team owner Dietrich Mateschitz has not ruled out bringing him back to partner Vettel in 2014, despite the animosity between the two drivers being at an all-time high following the 'Multi21' affair in Malaysia.