AUGUST 4, 2011
Horner: I'm expecting Webber at Red Bull next year
Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says he expects to sit down with Mark Webber during F1's summer break and agree 2012 terms with the Australian.
Webber currently lies second in the world championship to team mate Sebastian Vettel, and has looked competitive in recent races, with pole positions at both Silverstone and Nurburgring. He only qualified sixth in Hungary versus Vettel's pole, but that was unrepresentative after he made a mistake with the DRS button.
"I was a tad early on it," he explained. "It only works when you have 100% throttle and mine was at 98%. I thought my speed was okay when I went across the line to start the lap but I was forgetting that was the first time I'd had the benefit of KERS. My first sector time was therefore a disaster but from T5 to the end of the lap, I was equal with Sebastian."
Horner denied that Red Bull's Helmut Marko had 'retired' Webber at the end of 2012 in an Australian TV interview.
"I don't think Helmut said that," Horner explained. "I think he was focusing more on Daniel Ricciardo and things can get lost in translation. We're talking to Mark about next year and I'm expecting him to be here next year. He's a popular member of the team and he could have another two, three, four years.
"That's down to him -- he's still very competitive and very hungry. I think something's been lost in translation there. We always agreed that at the end of the summer we'd sit down and talk. Mark and I have got a very good relationship and conversations with Mark tend to be fairly straightforward. Both sides are keen to continue so during the next few weeks we'll take the opportunity to sit down while we've got this break and take a look at next year."
Questioned on Ricciardo's future, Horner said: "Daniel is on a development phase. He's got this opportunity to come into F1, he looks a really interesting talent but he's just started to cut his teeth. He got the opportunity with HRT and it's hard to benchmark his ability because, effectively, he's only racing his team mate. But it's a great opportunity for him that I'm sure he'll make the most of."
There is varying speculation surrounding the delay in announcing Webber for 2012. One suggestion is that he may decide to hang up his helmet at the end of the year, a second is that there are factions within Red Bull investigating the possibility of luring Lewis Hamilton away from McLaren, and a third is that Webber may even switch to a Ferrari seat alongside Fernando Alonso. Luca di Montezemolo recently came out in public support of Felipe Massa, however.