x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

'Smoke and mirrors' equation at McLaren

Mark Webber is convinced there will come a time when Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton suffer an on-track shunt.

It need not be all sweetness and light between Jenson Button, front, and Lewis Hamilton, as both McLaren drivers will look to win the world drivers' championship again.
It need not be all sweetness and light between Jenson Button, front, and Lewis Hamilton, as both McLaren drivers will look to win the world drivers' championship again.

Mark Webber is convinced there will come a time when Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton suffer an on-track shunt. Webber also feels there is a touch of "smoke and mirrors" to their relationship at McLaren which the British duo insist is harmonious. But like his partnership with teammate Sebastian Vettel at Red Bull-Renault, there is a rivalry, simply because of who they are and what they are striving for.

That was amply demonstrated after their accident at the Turkish Grand Prix at the end of May that wrecked a near-certain one-two. Vettel's failed pass on Webber resulted in the German spinning into retirement and the Australian finishing third behind the McLaren pair. Webber simply states his relationship now with Vettel is "pretty good", but it is not all sweetness and light, believing that to also be the case at McLaren despite what is portrayed.

"If Seb's drowning in the ocean then I'll go and help him out. We don't hate each other's guts," said Webber, speaking ahead of Sunday's British Grand Prix at the Red Bull factory in Milton Keynes in England. "If you look at Jarno [Trulli] and Heikki [Kovalainen, at Lotus], there's not much at stake so they're going to get on. "But when you're at the front and both trying to win there's going to be a healthy competitive rivalry. It's totally natural. It's not easy to have a beautiful, fuzzy, warm relationship when your teammate is clearly a competitor.

"That is absolutely the case at McLaren, too. They are working hard to put smoke and mirrors up because those two are racing hard," he added. When it was put to Webber that Hamilton and Button had not been involved in an incident, although they came close to doing so in Turkey, he said: "Not yet. "If you're always racing at the front, inevitably it's going to come. I don't want the headlines to be 'Jenson and Hamilton are going to hit each other this weekend'. That's not what I'm saying.

"It's inevitable because of what's at stake, and that they're both hungry, both driven." Meanwhile, Robert Kubica has signed a contract extension with Renault until the end of the 2012 Formula One season. The Polish driver has impressed in his first season with the team, scoring podiums in Australia and Monaco, and sits sixth in the drivers' standings heading into this weekend's race at Silverstone. Kubica said: "It was a straightforward decision for me to continue with a team where I feel at home.

"What's important for me is to be in the right atmosphere, with a good group of people," he added. * PA