Red Bull's Christian Horner backs Mark Webber in wake of Helmut Marko criticism
Australian driver, meanwhile, says he still feels he has 100% support
By James Galloway. Last Updated: February 4, 2013 11:33am
Kravitz on Red Bull's RB9
Christian Horner has attempted to distance the management at the World Champion team from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko's criticisms of Mark Webber, insisting they remain "very happy" with the veteran Australian's performances.
The relationship between Webber and Marko, an influential figure inside Red Bull motorsport and close to owner Dietrich Mateschitz, was put back under the spotlight last month when the latter made disparaging remarks about the driver's ability to sustain a season-long championship challenge.
"I think Webber is on an equal footing with Vettel as regards support from the team, but that's the least of his worries. There is a deeper sense that Webber does not have the confidence of Helmut Marko, who is the link between the team and its owner and a key ally of Dietrich Materschitz. Webber has to deal with that."
Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz
Having criticised the Australian in public before - most famously in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 Turkish GP collision between Red Bull's two drivers - Marko's latest comments have served to reignite speculation over Webber's future at Milton Keynes.
However, asked about the remarks at the launch of the team's 2013 car on Sunday, Red Bull Team Principal Horner made clear that Webber remained a valued member of the team and very much still had equal status with his three-times World Champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel heading into the new season.
"As we all know Helmut can be outspoken at times and some of his comments, that reflect his opinion, and sometimes these things can be misinterpreted," Horner said.
Webber dismisses comments
"But if we weren't happy with Mark we would have never signed him to be with the team for this year. We are very happy with Mark. We give both drivers equal opportunity and it's ultimately down to what they do on the circuit and in the team that is very much the opinion, the approach and we will continue to do that.
"For us it doesn't matter which driver wins as long as it's a driver in one of these cars. Both of these guys are here because we believe they are the best, we want them in the team and obviously the team do the very best we can to support both drivers."
Although Webber had addressed the criticism of him on his personal website last week, Sunday's launch marked the first time the 36-year-old had been asked about the comments in public.
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The nine-times GP winner insisted he still felt he had the complete support of the team required to mount another title challenge in the forthcoming campaign.
"I think I can have a crack at the championship again this year - as I have done in previous seasons. So that is my goal and that's what I'm getting up each day and thinking about and working hard with the team on doing that," Webber declared.
"They [the team] know that I need 100% support. You cannot fight for World Championships with 90, you need 100, and that's what we're going in to 2013 with this in place and I'm comfortable with that."