Mark Webber has become very much Red Bull’s number two driver over the past three seasons. That’s more due to the extraordinary performance of his team-mate – triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel – than anything else, and Webber is still highly regarded in Formula One. But it has become clear over time that Red Bull want him to play a supporting role despite their publicly professed policy of driver equality.
Recently, Red Bull Racing Motorsport Director Dr. Helmut Marko criticised Mark Webber quite openly in an interview for The Red Bulletin, Red Bull’s own magazine:
“It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can’t maintain this form throughout the year. And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb’s rising form, it seems to me that Mark’s form somehow flattens out. Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral.”
While it certainly seems true that Vettel copes well with pressure, Webber is no slouch. He went into the final round of the 2010 season in Abu Dhabi ahead of Vettel on points and could have won the title if not for a strategic error that put him out of position on a track where overtaking was extremely difficult. For the first half of 2012, it was Webber who looked more like challenging Fernando Alonso for the title, although Vettel certainly found his feet in the second half of the season.
Perhaps Dr. Marko would do better to work within the team and find a solution to Webber’s difficulties under championship pressure rather than undermining his driver by discussing his weakness in public.