Drivers-turned-pundits Niki Lauda and David Coulthard have defended Red Bull’s use of team orders at Silverstone.An openly unhappy Mark Webber ignored the instruction to hold station behind Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps of the British grand prix.
Despite team orders now being legal under Jean Todt’s reign as FIA president, Sunday’s incident has reopened the old debate about unfettered racing versus the interests of a team of hundreds of staff.
So was Red Bull wrong to clip Webber’s wings?
“No, not at all,” triple world champion and now RTL pundit Lauda told Germany’s motorsport-magazin.com.
“I can perfectly understand Horner making that call over the radio, simply because he was worried about his two cars. That’s fine by me.”
British pundit Coulthard agrees with Lauda, although he is aware that the readers of his Telegraph column may not.
He insisted: “You cannot expect teams who have sponsorship contracts worth millions to risk throwing away valuable points at that late stage of the race.”
The obvious implication is that Webber’s stance might affect his negotiations for a new contract with Red Bull, with boss Christian Horner already flagging private talks this week.
1996 world champion Damon Hill said: “If he was asked not to overtake, that’s a bit serious for a racing driver.”
But Coulthard, a former Red Bull driver and still a consultant to the energy drink’s premier team, doubts Webber’s reaction will affect his future.
“(Owner) Dietrich Mateschitz wants a fighter; he wants two guys battling hard for wins. He does not want a pussycat,” said the Scot.