Wednesday 24 May 2017

F1: Red Bull owner insists on equal status for Webber

Tom Cary

RED BULL owner Dietrich Mateschitz has broken his silence in the team's ongoing driver favouritism row to declare that he would rather lose this year's championship than back one of his charges over the other.

The Austrian businessman, co-founder of the energy drinks giant, said that to have a No 1 driver was not in keeping with his "understanding of racing".

"You cannot just programme a champion," Mateschitz said. "Our two drivers know that, one, they have to beat each other and, two, they still need each other to take away as many points as possible from the competition. We do not have a No 1 and a No 2 driver. Both drivers have cars to exactly the same standard."

Red Bull have been engulfed in controversy ever since Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel collided at the Turkish Grand Prix in May. Webber intimated afterwards that the team favoured his young German team-mate, and Mateschitz's motorsport adviser Dr Helmut Marko fuelled the controversy by openly backing Vettel in the incident.

Although Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has repeatedly insisted that he gives his two drivers equal opportunities, the paddock remains largely sceptical and the situation boiled over again in spectacular fashion at Silverstone two weekends ago after the team opted to give Vettel a new front wing for qualifying which had been on Webber's car during morning practice.

Clearly furious, the Australian won the race the next day before telling Horner over the team radio: "Not bad for a No 2 driver."

Webber later said he would not have signed a recent contract extension had he known how he would be treated. Although he now says he regrets those comments, it has not stopped widespread speculation that Vettel (23) is preferred for marketing reasons.

Mateschitz, though, denied that he has any preference. "If you ask me today who will be champion, I say one of our two drivers. But the pits must not interfere," he said. "The problem with the new wing at Silverstone was the first exception."

Mateschitz insisted he was not consulted on that decision, adding that while he knows letting two fierce rivals go head-to-head could wreck the team's title chances, it is a risk he is prepared to take. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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