Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz insists that Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have been, and will continue to be, treated absolutely equally by his Formula 1 team, even if there is a risk that the policy costs his team the title.
With Red Bull Racing having been engulfed in a "favoritism" storm over the front wing controversy at the British Grand Prix, the squad has spent the last week calming the situation down. Following talks between Webber and team principal Christian Horner in Milton Keynes last week, the Australian admitted that he had spoken out too much in venting his frustrations in public after the event, and said it was time to move on. Now Mateschitz has spoken at length for the first time about the fallout from Silverstone – and made it clear that he has always demanded that both Webber and Vettel be treated equally.
When asked by German newspaper Kleine Zeitung why he does not believe Red Bull Racing should install a number one, Mateschitz said: "Because this philosophy is not keeping with my understanding of racing. You cannot just program a champion. Our two drivers know that they have to beat a) the other and b) they still need each other to take away as many points as possible from the competition."
Mateschitz said that it was vital the team does not interfere in the driver rivalry – after admitting that the front wing situation in Silverstone was a unique circumstance.
"If you ask me today who will be champion, I say one of our two drivers," he said. "But the pits must not interfere, because then the problems begin in earnest."
He added: "We do not have a number one and a number two driver. Both drivers have cars to exactly the same standard. The problem with the new wing at Silverstone was the first exception."
When it was put to him that letting both drivers continue to race head to head on equal terms opened up the risk of letting one of the team's rivals through to win the title, Mateschitz said: "I think it is unlikely, but I would not rule it out. And if it should happen, my God we are talking about racing. The image of blood, sweat and tears is not by chance."
Mateschitz confirmed that he was not consulted by the team about the front wing choice before qualifying, and said the matter had become such a big story because it was communicated incorrectly both internally and to the media. He also refused to criticize Webber for speaking out about the situation post-race – which was first highlighted when the Australian said over the radio, "Not bad for a number two."
"It was unnecessary but on the other side, Mark has done nothing wrong," the Red Bull magnate said.
When asked if it would be better for the team to gag the drivers, he said: "Such a thing would not be our style. Everyone can tell the truth – which is one of the highest virtues of Red Bull."