Mark Webber brushes off in-house critic before Red Bull launch

Red Bull, who have dominated Formula One for the past three seasons, will launch their 2013 car this weekend against a backdrop of harsh words exchanged between the driver Mark Webber and the team's influential adviser Helmut Marko.

Marko's recent criticism of Webber has put the driver under pressure to make an impressive start when the new season gets under way in his native Australia on 17 March.

Webber, an anglophile who lives in Buckinghamshire, will be 37 this year and is on only a one-year contract. His season trailed off last year after impressive victories at Monaco and Silverstone.

Earlier this month, in the team's in- house Red Bulletin magazine, Marko was critical of the driver's mental approach. He said: "It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can't maintain this form throughout the year. And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates.

"In comparison with Seb [Vettel's] rising form, it seems to me that Mark's form somehow flattens out. Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral."

Webber hit back at this on his website on Tuesday when he said: "Look, everyone at this level has their own agendas and it's been evident for a long time now that I've never been a part of Marko's."

Webber, who is going into his seventh season with the Milton Keynes-based team, is already under extra pressure as he prepares to work alongside a new engineer, Simon Rennie. He says: "It's going to be important to have a solid pre-season with him after spending some six years with Ciaron Pilbeam who I had a long and enjoyable relationship with, but he's no longer with the team."

Webber, who has seen his team-mate Sebastian Vettel win a hat-trick of titles, added: "I'm looking forward to starting the season in Australia having prepared very well for it over the past two months. But it's clear there's no point getting too far ahead of yourself, so it's a case of taking each week, test and race as it comes."

Webber had surgery last month to remove the final piece of a 40cm titanium rod from his right leg following a cycling accident in 2008.

Meanwhile, Lotus's highly regarded technical director, James Allison, will remain with the team, according to the team principal, Eric Boullier. Allison has been linked with McLaren and his former employers Ferrari, but Boullier said on Tuesday: "It's up to him, but my understanding is that definitely in 2013 he will be with us.

"I have a lot of trust in him and everybody does because he's a good communicator, a good co-ordinator, has very good technical skills and a good vision. He is very important in the organisation."

Allison has aroused the interest of McLaren, who may have to replace their own technical director, Paddy Lowe, if he moves to Mercedes, where he has attracted the attention of the team's nonexecutive chairman, Niki Lauda.

But it is understood that the cash-strapped Lotus team have given Allison budget assurances for the new season.

Powered by article was written by Paul Weaver, for on Tuesday 29th January 2013 21.14 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


image: © First Stop Tyres