It’s particularly interesting to note that Daniel Ricciardo’s mid-season appointment to the Hispania Racing driving line-up has done nothing to stop the suggestions that Mark Webber will be replaced at Red Bull next year.

Indeed, the British media continues to tout Lewis Hamilton as an ideal replacement for the Australian, citing apparent clauses in his McLaren contract that allow him to jump ship if he fails to win the 2011 title, or making reference to his little visit to the Red Bull Racing motorhome after the Canadian Grand Prix.

But it would seem that Red Bull Racing’s team principal, Christian Horner, has now put the kybosh on any further speculation by stating that a Hamilton-Vettel line-up would not be good for team harmony.

“You have to look at the reality, at how these things work, and history dictates that two world-class drivers in the same team has not always been the best pairing,” he is quoted as saying. “You only have to think of Senna-Prost, Piquet-Mansell, or even Alonso and Hamilton.

“A Hamilton-Vettel combination, on paper, would look very attractive. But what we have to look at is the dynamics of a partnership and it’s difficult to see how two sportsmen at the absolute top of their game could work in harmony under one roof.”

One theme that’s been fairly consistent from Horner’s viewpoint is that the team is happy with its current pairing of Vettel and Webber, and that it will make the appropriate approaches to Webber to renew a contract with him as and when the moment is suitable.

But these latest comments from Horner certainly don’t cast Webber very favourably – or indeed Hamilton’s team-mate Jenson Button – as it would indicate he doesn’t consider either team-mate to be top-shelf in comparison to Vettel or Hamilton.

But this still does not explain why Ricciardo has been cast at Hispania Racing. It can only suggest that the Red Bull group has bigger plans for him, and that has to include a plan for him to replace Webber at Red Bull Racing next year.

If, as previous rumours have suggested, Ricciardo was going to replace one of the Toro Rosso drivers, then this logically would have occurred already.

Certainly such an arrangement would keep Vettel happy, in that he’ll have a compliant number-two to follow in his wheeltracks and earn his keep until Vettel decides to look for something else outside of Red Bull.

The alternative is that the Red Bull group could be using Ricciardo at HRT as a way of forcing Webber to kowtow to a more subordinate role within the team if he is to be re-signed.

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.