Mark Webber's refusal to obey team orders not to challenge his team-mate Sebastian Vettel for second place in the closing laps at Silverstone yesterday, and his insistence that he was not happy with the request made by the Red Bull principal Christian Horner, has fuelled speculation that he will not renew his contract for next year.
The insertion of his fellow Australian, the rookie Daniel Ricciardo, into the HRT team further strengthened the suggestion that Webber will be moving on. Ricciardo is a Red Bull protégé and so putting him into HRT this weekend – he was last of the finishers, in 19th place – rather than into Red Bull's other team, Toro Rosso, as had been expected, suggests that they are letting him get experience prior to him replacing Webber in 2012.
Vettel now has a 110-point lead in the championship, which effectively means that he can retire in the next four races and still be in front. "I am not fine with it," Webber said. "That is the answer to that. If Fernando [Alonso] retires on the last lap, we are fighting for the win. Of course I ignored the team because I wanted to try and get a place. I wasn't going to crash with anyone. I was trying to do my best [despite] the amount of one-way conversation I was having, [and] Seb was doing his best."
A year ago Webber won this race despite Vettel being given his new front wing after his own broke in practice, and said to Horner on the radio during his victory lap: "Not bad for a No 2 driver."
This time he said he did not feel like that. "I just want to race until the end. Four or five laps to go, they started to chat to me about holding my position. Seb wanted the points but I also wanted to get some more as well."
Webber now has 124, enough for second place overall but not very far ahead of Alonso's 112 or the 109 of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
The argument revived 2010 suggestions that Red Bull's Austrian hierarchy will always favour the German, but Vettel said he was quite happy to race when he was accused to relying on the team to fight his battles for him.
"I try to stay ahead, nothing wrong with that," he said. "If you have the cars quite isolated in second and third, with the first guy and the fourth guy pretty far away, from the team's point of view there is no point racing and doing something stupid. The difference between second and third is not massive but we naturally try to race. I tried to hold position. Mark tried to pass me [but] I could stay ahead. Clearly you could see he is quicker. If I [was not] racing then I would just wave him past.
"If it was the other way around, there is no point – of course I would like to overtake Mark at that stage, so no point trying to do something stupid. I don't see why there is such a fuss. I think we were racing. It was not a scheduled 'I move right, he moves right, I brake here, he brakes there...' He tried to race me as hard as he could, he didn't find a way past. To me it is quite amusing."