Red Bull boss backs Mark Webber to return stronger

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The Independent Online

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner is convinced Mark Webber will return a stronger driver and character after his experiences this season.

In the wake of Sebastian Vettel's triumph in becoming the youngest world champion in Formula One history on Sunday, Webber very much emerged as the forgotten man.

It had all been so different in the build-up to Sunday's race in Abu Dhabi as Webber trailed Fernando Alonso by eight points, and with much of the debate focusing on whether Vettel would at some point come to the Australian's aid should the opportunity arise.

It was Webber, though, who found himself in need of a helping hand, one that failed to materialise after he qualified fifth at the Yas Marina circuit.

Instead, Webber trundled home eighth behind Vettel, and whilst the party raged outside in the team's garage and paddock building, the 34-year-old tucked himself away in his room.

The suspicion now will be that Webber has missed out on what is likely to be the best opportunity of his career to become champion.

Horner, however, is fully behind Webber to make an impact next year after watching him claim five pole positions and four race wins for his best season in F1.

"Take nothing away from Mark, he's had an unbelievable year," said Horner.

"Mark can be very, very proud of what he's achieved. We're all very proud of what he's done. He's been an awesome competitor.

"He's taken this championship into the last race. He led during the summer, and he could well have won it himself at different stages of the year.

"Overall, he's been a big part of the success of this team, and he has pushed Sebastian to the limit. They've been so close on so many occasions."

Horner appreciates Vettel's success will not sit easily with Webber, in particular given his comments at various stages of the season when he felt the team were more supportive of the young German.

Horner maintains nothing could be further from the truth, and once Webber is over his obvious disappointment, he will be determined to come back fighting.

"It's tough for Mark. He will look across at the jubilation on the other side, but he knows he's had equal equipment all year," added Horner.

"He knows the support he's had from the team, so I've told him he should hold his head high and be proud of what he's achieved this year.

"I'm sure given a few days to digest things, to reflect he will come back even more motivated and stronger for next year."