Red Bull have dismissed reports that Australian Mark Webber is certain to leave the Formula One world champions at the end of the season after Sunday’s Malaysian Grand prix team orders furore.
“It’s pure speculation that Mark will not drive with the team next year,” Red Bull said when asked about comments by Webber’s manager Flavio Briatore that he was sure the current lineup would not continue.
“Mark’s contract has been renewed for the last few years on an annual basis - he has continually chosen to drive for the team each year and the team has similarly wanted to continue working with him as he is an excellent driver and a competitive racer.
“We are two races into the current season and it’s far too early to be talking about next year.”
Webber’s future at a team who have won the last three championships has been called into question after Sunday’s race led to a breakdown in trust between the drivers.
World champion Sebastian Vettel overtook Webber, despite being instructed not to by the team because of the need to look after the tyres and save fuel.
Webber, at 36 the oldest driver in Formula One, had turned his engine down in response to the orders from the pitwall and was furious with the 25-year-old German for putting himself above the team.
Others, including Briatore, questioned who was really in charge at Red Bull.
The Italian, who was banned from Formula One after the Renault team he led were found to have ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet junior to crash deliberately to help his team mate Fernando Alonso, accused Horner of weakness in a RAI radio chatshow in Italy.
Red Bull pointed out that a weak principal would not have steered the team to three successive titles - a feat only ever managed by three other outfits - while managing such a competitive pairing.
The team added that the pairing of Webber and Vettel had won 35 races, taken 80 podiums and and 13 one-two finishes since their first season together in 2009.
“This successful period includes some spells of intense on-track rivalry between the two drivers, which began in Turkey 2010 and has seen both drivers ignoring team orders at different times,” it said.
“The team has managed the situation each time in its own way behind closed doors.”