As Mark Webber prepares for his final grand prix this weekend, and admits that he is happy to be calling it a day before he starts losing his edge, Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel attempted to play down the tensions that have often been evident in their relationship.
They clashed famously while disputing the lead of the Turkish GP in 2010, and more recently in Malaysia when Vettel cynically disobeyed team orders to maintain station behind Webber, who had turned his engine down, to steal a victory that his current 145-point advantage over title runner-up Fernando Alonso suggests he didn’t really need. And there are likely to be more fireworks this weekend. Webber would like nothing more than to sign off with a win, while another victory for Vettel would bring him equal with Alberto Ascari’s record feat from the 1952 and ’53 seasons of winning nine consecutive grands prix.
Team boss Christian Horner has admitted: "It would be great to see Mark win his final race, and a nice way to sign out, but Sebastian is going to be going for that record as well. As usual it will be a straight fight between the pair of them. Mark would not want to be gifted a win."
Webber has privately made that crystal clear, and yesterday reiterated with his customary candour why at 37 he’s choosing to race in endurance events for Porsche next year.
"I'm on a little bit of a slippery slope now," he admitted. "You've got to be careful not to test it too much in terms of your performance and what you used to be able to do. I still think I'm driving well, but I don't want to be around when I’m not driving well."
He said that the reality that he will be driving an F1 car in anger for the final time won’t hit home until Sunday.
It still feels like a normal race at the moment," he said. "I'm looking forward to Sunday in many ways, in terms of pushing for a good result, but also I'm ready to stop and looking forward to the extended winter that I'll have and the new challenges around the corner.
"There’ll be aspects that I’ll miss, but I’m pretty relaxed right now. I wouldn't be leaving if there weren't things I was happy to leave behind. If there were more positives than negatives, then I would stay."