Red Bull play down Webber's 'No 2' claim

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The Independent Online

Only hours after 115,000 spectators and 6.8 million BBC television viewers had cheered his dominant victory in the British Grand Prix, Mark Webber sat down with his Red Bull team at their headquarters in Milton Keynes as they pledged to thrash out the differences that opened up again on Saturday afternoon.

No sooner had the scars from the controversial clash in the Turkish GP between Webber and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel started to heal than the team took away Webber's new front wing and gave it to Vettel for qualifying. As Webber's race performance with the standard wing demonstrated, the team could have withdrawn the sole new version and avoided a situation where Webber remarked over the radio on his slowing down lap that it had not been a bad effort "for a No 2 driver". He and Vettel are supposed to have equal billing within the Austrian-owned team.

Immediately after the victory had made Webber the only world championship contender to have won three races, the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, assured him that the team would sit down to clear the air.

Webber said he wanted to address the issues once and for all to avoid a repeat in the future, having made it clear in the post-race press conference that he would not have signed a fresh contract in Turkey if he had known the team would resort to favouritism.

Horner was at pains to play down Webber's post-race radio comment, saying: "Mark is king of the one-liners, as we all know. I think the biggest thing is that he has won the British Grand Prix and I am more than happy with his drive. It was a throw-away comment and I don't take it with any malice behind it. He was upset about the decision yesterday, and I can only imagine that he was disappointed he didn't get the wing yesterday. But I can't cut it in half."

He also confirmed that Webber's new contract gives him equal status with Vettel, whom Red Bull are trying to tie up until 2015.

"Mark has not signed a contract as a No 2 driver. He knows the lengths that the team have gone to, to try and achieve parity. He knows how much we have done to support him," said Horner. "Looking objectively at it, he as a sportsman will recognise that sometimes difficult decisions have to be made."