x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Webber proves his mettle

Red Bull's favouritism towards teammate Vettel was surprising in that it was done in such an obvious manner.

The Red Bull driver Mark Webber was angry that his team had appeared to favour Sebastian Vettel but put that behind him to win Sunday's race at Silverstone.
The Red Bull driver Mark Webber was angry that his team had appeared to favour Sebastian Vettel but put that behind him to win Sunday's race at Silverstone.

The British Grand Prix was an important race for Mark Webber. Not only did he win, but he won in the old car of his Red Bull teammate, Sebastian Vettel, after he had damaged his own chassis in Valencia. He needed to show immediately that he was not going to be slowed by using a chassis his teammate had not liked, and he was fast throughout the meeting, which was pleasing to see.

It was a difficult weekend for him because of the controversy that came on Saturday, when the team chose to swap a part from his car to Vettel's. But Webber came back strongly and showed his strength of character on Sunday. As a driver, it is a horrible situation when you feel the team is favouring your teammate. It is not a nice experience. It was a very strange act by Red Bull. It was caused by Vettel's new front wing breaking during free practice, but for the team to then decide to take the only other new one off Webber's car and put it on Vettel's instead, leaving Webber with the older specification, was surprising to say the least.

I am not sure of the circumstan-ces and whether it happened when his back was turned, but you could see by his body language after qualifying just how upset he was. There had been rumours earlier in the season that the team were favouring Vettel and this incident only goes to back up those claims. It is surprising, though, they chose to do it in such an obvious manner. But credit to Webber. He got his head down on race day and concentrated on getting a good start and beating Vettel off the line, which he did.

Webber pushed Vettel wide coming out of the first corner, but he did not do anything wrong. If you look at the start, Vettel moved over on him and they were both just being hard, but fair, with each other. It was unfortunate that Vettel got a puncture from contact with Lewis Hamilton's following McLaren-Mercedes, but it was just a racing incident. The German drove very well to recover and finish seventh, though he did have some help with the safety car period as it bunched up the field and gained him almost a lap on the midfield pack.

But Webber did a very good job. He stayed composed at the front, kept a gap to Hamilton, did a professional job - and then delivered a little jab at the team on the radio at the end just to let everyone know he was not happy with how he had been treated. Where he and the team go from here will be interesting. They are due to hold talks this week and it is going to be difficult for Christian Horner, the Red Bull team boss, to sort things out.

It is always difficult when you have two drivers in the same team fighting for the championship. While it is a nice problem for Red Bull to have - they have a fast car and two excellent drivers - it is important they calm any bad feelings. I backed Webber to be world champion at the start of the season and I stand by that view. We saw on Sunday just what a tough character he is and how he reacts when in adversity, and I expect we will see more of that in the coming races.

He drove aggressively and he will need to continue driving like that. He has a tough battle within the team with Vettel and also has to overtake the McLaren boys Hamilton and Jenson Button in the championship standings. Webber feels aggrieved by how he was treated at Silverstone, but he reacted perfectly on the track and now if he can continue doing that he can be the world champion. sports@thenational.ae