Red Bull Racing’s team principal, Christian Horner, has called for greater understanding of Sebastian Vettel, and believes that the young German charger is learning from his mistakes.
Despite starting the season as a hot favourite for the 2010 Drivers’ Championship crown, the 23-year-old’s title ambitions have been given a serious dent by a serious of mechanical setbacks and driving errors.
His latest driving error – where he collided with McLaren’s Jenson Button – triggered howls of criticism from certain sections of the paddock and the F1 media about his apparent readiness to take the Drivers’ Championship.
His other major gaffes have been his collision with team-mate Mark Webber at Turkey, his opening-lap puncture at Silverstone, a drive-through penalty at Hungary and that error-ridden race at Belgium (pictured brilliantly by Brazilian satirist Bruno Mantovani).
The Red Bull protégé also lost a brace of bigger points hauls with an engine issue at Bahrain, and a wheel rim failure while leading in Australia.
Trying to excuse some of the incidents, Horner told German-language Spowrtwoche: “He’s a great driver, but he’s young and not so experienced — he’s learning.”
With Vettel now lagging behind the championship-leading Lewis Hamilton to the tune of 31 points, Horner added: “What he has to do now is remain calm and focused.”
With Webber – widely considered to be the team’s less-favoured son – having won more races than any other driver in 2010 and just a handful of points from assuming the championship lead himself, Horner heaped praise on the Australian veteran.
“Mark is in the form of his life,” he said, while insisting that neither driver would, or could, operate as a de-facto number-one driver while the championship remained open.
“We definitely favour neither one of them, they both have the same opportunities,” Horner said, seemingly ignoring the front wing saga that threatened to destabilise intra-team harmony at the British Grand Prix.
“We try to operate as transparently as possible,” he added.
Another issue seemingly bubbling under the surface is the perception that Webber has an uncomfortable relationship with Red Bull advisor Dr Helmut Marko. The veteran driver is believed to have a much closer relationship to Horner and Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz instead.
Horner admitted that Webber was “not as close with some people in the organisation as he is with others.”
As for Webber, well he’s still subtly hinting that the team will need to make a decision as to which driver it supports for the remainder of the season, or it risks losing the chance of securing either, or both, Championships.
“I concentrate on myself and do what I have to do,” Webber recently told Austrian TV show Sport und Talk aus dem Hangar 7.
“It’s been a positive season for me. I cannot control Sebastian — he does what he does. And obviously the team will make decisions in the future,” he hinted.
Do you think Vettel is championship-winning material? Do you believe the team should throw its weight behind Webber at this stage of the championship race? Post your comments below…