Sebastian Vettel insists he has “enormous respect” for Mark Webber as the often feuding Red Racing Bull duo attempt to repair their relationship before the Australian finally quits Formula One.
Webber, who is to compete in Porsche’s sports car programme from next season, remarked of Vettel that the four-time world champion was “in another category” following his seventh successive win at the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
It is all a far cry from the bad blood that has existed during the previous five years they have been teammates, sometimes resulting in on-track feuds, with the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix and Malaysia this year the low points of their relationship.
With just two grands prix remaining before Webber bids farewell, in the United States this weekend and Brazil next, Vettel said: “We’ve always had respect on the track when we’ve been fighting each other.
“I don’t think we’ve lacked respect. We’ve respected each other inside the car and the other’s abilities. As teammates for the last five years we’ve got to know each other very, very well.
“That means I know his strengths and I know … not his weaknesses, but corners where I might have an advantage for instance, and vice versa.
“It has always been very close, maybe closer than people remember, and I have appreciated that, so therefore I have enormous respect.”
The 26-year-old German acknowledged that he and Webber had not always seen eye-to-eye, but added their professionalism had ensured they had helped enjoy one of the most productive driving partnerships in F1 history.
“Being honest, if you look back, we’ve not had the best relationship on a personal level,” he said.
“But at the end of the day we’ve been very successful for the team, winning four constructors’ championships in a row, always scoring enough points for the team.”
In terms of Sunday’s race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, a venue that proved an enormous hit on its debut last year, Vettel can set yet another record.
Another victory will be his eighth in succession and surpass Michael Schumacher’s 2004 mark for consecutive wins in a season, which he matched in Abu Dhabi.
Alberto Ascari has the record for most successive wins at nine in F1, but that was split over two seasons, with six coming in 1952 and three in 1953.
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE