Red Bull has conspired to get itself into more hot water, with allegations surfacing that it favoured Sebastian Vettel by taking its new-design front wing off Webber’s car and using it on Vettel’s after the German’s own wing inexplicably failed during Saturday’s free practice session (pictured).
Only weeks after the fall-out from the pair’s collision at the Turkish Grand Prix – an issue that was appallingly handled by the team and led to suggestions that it favoured the German ahead of the Australian – unwanted media focus has once again been cast the team’s way.
With Vettel having taken pole position and consigning his team-mate to start from second place on the less-favourable ‘dirty’ side of the grid, Webber was clearly irritated in the post-qualifying press conference, and dryly suggested that the team would be “happy” with the qualifying result.
Showing next to no indication that he has learned from the Turkish Grand Prix fall-out, team boss Christian Horner has
done everything he could to dig a hole for the team tried to clarify the situation with the media throng.
While claiming that neither driver was favoured, Horner’s answer – when asked to defend the team’s actions – seemed to be contradictory when he stated that the outfit had a duty to hand the wing to the driver who was leading the championship, but that there was no lap-time difference between the new wing design and its predecessor.
Which begs the question of why it was used at all? Surely there must be some performance advantage in having it?
Does this mean the team favours Vettel, Horner was asked. “I don’t think so. I think that you could see today that the performance today between the guys was very, very close and very, very tight,” he answered.
“Unfortunately we found ourselves in a situation with only one front wing of a certain specification which was slightly different in characteristics. Both drivers tried it yesterday and one had a better preference for it over the other. And it was tried by both again this morning.
“Unfortunately sometimes I have to make a difficult decision – and with only one wing available and the facts to hand that we had, and based on championship position – which was the criteria that we used – that wing went to Sebastian today.”
Horner argued that if the team was to adopt a policy of favouring one driver over the other, then it wouldn’t have let Webber have the wing design at all, based on the argument he had just put forth, adding that the team had not catered for the scenario of Vettel’s wing breaking,” he said.
“We will continue to support both drivers in the best and absolute fairest way that we can. But on some occasions you have to make a difficult decision, and today was one of those instances.
“Our job is to do the best job we can as a team. Sometimes you have to make difficult decisions. It is the first time we have been in a situation where we have only had one component, and I am sure that happens up and down the pit lane.
“Obviously when you have two drivers running at the front, there is perhaps a bit more emotion attached to it. But if you take away the emotion and you look at the facts, it was an entirely logical thing to do.
When asked to respond to suggestions that Webber had been “stitched up” by the decision, Horner’s answer was probably the most sensible of the entire session.
“I don’t think he was stitched up at all. It is a difficult situation where we haven’t got two components. If I’d have given it to Mark you’ve the same situation in reverse.
“Mark knows the way we operate as a team,” he added. “He knows that with that decision there was no malice behind it. There was no manipulation. It was purely that we found ourselves with a single component and, from a team point of view, some days I have to make difficult decisions.”
I’m sure there will be more to come on this one!