Gerhard Berger has criticised Mark Webber for taking too big a risk in his battle with Fernando Alonso at Spa two weeks ago.
Red Bull’s Australian driver has confirmed there was light contact with the Ferrari as he passed his Spanish friend on the outside through the fearsome and fabled Eau Rouge corner at close to top speed.
“I tell you what … that boy must have some balls to do that,” exclaimed team boss Christian Horner, who has signed up the 35-year-old for 2012.
Alonso described it as a “nice duel”, while David Coulthard confided in Webber that – whilst commentating for British television – he actually stepped back “because I thought you were going to come through the screen!”
“Whichever way you look at it,” Coulthard’s BBC colleague Martin Brundle said, “that pass was spectacularly impressive, skilful, and brave.
“Webber may not have won a race for more than a year but he won my eternal respect for that one.”
Not everyone, however, was impressed.
Gerhard Berger told Austrian television Servus TV that the duel reminded him of 1985, when Stefan Bellof was killed after a duel in Eau Rouge with Jacky Ickx during a sports car race.
“Mark is getting a lot of praise but I think it was stupid,” Berger, a ten-time grand prix winner, said.
“If you think of the Bellof crash … he (Webber) would have passed Alonso on the next straight anyway. It was totally unnecessary, at one of the most dangerous places out there.
“If you take off there, you’re dead,” added Berger.
Webber, however, insists the pass was “particularly enjoyable”, made possible only because of the respect shared with Alonso.
“There are a few guys on the grid you can enjoy something like that with. You can really take each other to the limit,” he said.