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'Risky' for Webber to 'air his dirty laundry in public'

14 July 2010

David Coulthard has warned his former F1 team-mate Mark Webber that 'airing his dirty laundry in public is a risky strategy' in the wake of the Australian's post-race comment to his team that his commanding British Grand Prix victory last weekend was 'not bad for a number two driver'.

Webber felt aggrieved at Silverstone after the developmental front wing on his RB6 had been removed prior to qualifying to be fitted onto the sister car of Red Bull Racing team-mate Sebastian Vettel instead, after the German's had broken at the end of FP3 on Saturday morning.

Whilst team principal Christian Horner explained that the decision had been taken based purely upon the 23-year-old's superior championship position and practice pace, the Australian – and the majority of F1 fans, judging by reaction to the incident – felt there was more than a hint of favouritism to the move, and in the post-race press conference he admitted that he 'would never have signed a contract again for next year if I believed that was the way it was going to be going forward'.

Coulthard – who partnered Webber at Red Bull from 2007 to 2008, and remains good friends with him today – has suggested the New South Wales native's openly outspoken and critical stance was a bold or perhaps foolhardy one to take...and one that could either strengthen his position within the team and his world championship challenge, or else make it untenable for him to remain there.

“There are two ways of running a race team,” the 13-time grand prix-winner turned BBC F1 pundit wrote in his regular column for The Daily Telegraph. “You can either go the Ferrari-Schumacher route, with one driver openly backed over the other, or you can go for an equal partnership. The first is the most effective way of winning a championship but morally dubious; the second is the fairer system, but is incredibly volatile and difficult to put into practice. My preference is for the second system. I once turned down the chance of a move to Ferrari as I would not accept being a signed-up number two to Michael.

“Red Bull are clearly a team trying to do it the fair way, whatever Mark Webber may have said at Silverstone. I have a huge amount of respect for Mark, and he had his own reasons for saying what he did. He clearly felt aggrieved that the team gave Sebastian Vettel his wing prior to qualifying, and he saw an opportunity to turn the situation in his favour by making his feelings plain to the media. That is his prerogative.

“In many respects, that bloody-minded attitude is what I wish I had shown on the two occasions during my career – at Jerez in 1997 and Melbourne a year later – when I was asked to make way for my McLaren team-mate, Mika Hakkinen. I will never know whether my compliance cost me the chance of a championship. Arguably Mika was the more complete driver anyway, but perhaps those incidents gave him additional confidence or subconsciously dented mine, as well as my self-esteem.

“That is not to say, though, that I agree with Mark. As Christian Horner explained, his team were in an invidious position. With just one new front wing and two hungry drivers, he applied a logic he felt would give Red Bull the best chance of winning the championship. That is his prerogative.

“Okay, so the logic helped Sebastian as the leading driver, but to be fair to the team, with the standings now reversed, they have already said they will apply the same logic next time, which would help Mark. The mistake Red Bull made, and which Christian has admitted, was that they did not go into the weekend with that system already in-place and publicly known; that way, they would not have left themselves open to accusations of partisanship.

“Red Bull would doubtless prefer it if Mark aired his grievances in private. Mark, who suspects Red Bull's Austrian owners would prefer Vettel to win the championship, clearly feels he can gain more leverage by going public and trying to shame the team whenever he feels hard done-by. It is a risky strategy. If it goes wrong, the relationship with the team could sour irreparably. If it comes off, he could consolidate his position, attract public sympathy and be remembered as a steely champion who battled against the odds to win his title.

“This is undoubtedly a very big test for Christian, [but] I think he is up to it. He started the healing process with some appalling karaoke at the post-race party on Sunday night. It is easy to forget that Red Bull won the race on Sunday with a car that was out-of-this-world – Adrian Newey has now designed eleven British Grand Prix-winning cars, and the team are in great shape. Red Bull learnt from Istanbul and they will learn from this. When the dust settles, I think they will take more positives than negatives.”


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