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Page last updated at 21:35 GMT, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Mark Webber says Red Bull favour Sebastian Vettel

Brazilian Grand Prix, Interlagos, 5-7 November
Qualifying: 1500-1720 on BBC One, Red Button, online and 5 live sports extra
Race: 1510-1815 on BBC One, Red Button, online and Radio 5 live sports extra

Red Bull's Mark Webber faces the press in Sao Paulo
Webber had to deal with some difficult questions about favouritism at Red Bull

By Sarah Holt and Andrew Benson
BBC Sport in Sao Paulo

Mark Webber has reopened the controversy about favouritism at Red Bull by saying the team support Sebastian Vettel more than him.

Webber has been Red Bull's leading contender in the championship since May but the team are refusing to ask Vettel to back the Australian's title bid.

It was suggested to Webber in a news conference that he did not feel the team were emotionally behind him.

Webber said "it's obvious, isn't it?" but added it was "absolutely fine".

The 34-year-old is second in the championship heading into Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix, 11 points behind the leader, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is third, four points ahead of German Vettel.

I've had a great opportunity with a great car to go and do some great things this year and I have done that

Mark Webber

The fifth contender, McLaren's Jenson Button, is 42 points behind Spaniard Alonso with only 50 available in the final two races, here and in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Webber's remarks came in a news conference in which he was quizzed on the team's unwillingness to put their weight behind him as their best way of beating Alonso.

After a number of responses in which he was clearly searching for the right way to respond to the line of questioning, it was suggested to him that he still seemed to think the team were not fully behind him.

He replied: "Technically everything's been very, very good."

But when it was then suggested that he did not feel the team were emotionally behind him, he replied: "It's obvious, isn't it?

"When young new chargers come on to the block, that's the way it is, which is absolutely fine because I've had a great opportunity with a great car to go and do some great things this year and I have done that. I've got favourites in life. That's how it is. It's human nature."

Mark Webber

Webber aware of need for a Grand Prix victory

He added: "I think I wasn't supposed to be in the hunt. At all. So it's been maybe quite inconvenient, but I've enjoyed every bit of it."

Webber has been with Red Bull since 2007, when they were a midfield contender.

But the team have made it clear that they are building their future around 23-year-old Vettel, who joined in 2009 after being part of their driver development programme.

The issue of the team's apparent preference for Vettel has been a running theme this season.

Webber led the championship for the first time this year after the Monaco Grand Prix in May. He lost it to Hamilton, regained it, and then lost it to Alonso after crashing out of the last race in South Korea two weeks ago, where Vettel retired from the lead with an engine failure.

When Webber's comments were put to team principal Christian Horner, he said: "It's not inconvenient [that Mark has been leading the championship].

"Mark has had tremendous support from the team. The team have given him a great car and we've done our best to give them both equal equipment.

FIVE-WAY BATTLE EXPLAINED
1 ALONSO 231pts
2 WEBBER 220pts
3 HAMILTON 210pts
4 VETTEL 206pts
5 BUTTON 189pts
If Alonso wins in Brazil, he will be champion unless Webber is higher than fifth
If Alonso is second, he will be champion unless Webber is higher than eighth, Hamilton higher than fourth or Vettel wins
If Alonso is third, he will be champion unless Webber finishes in the top 10, Hamilton in the top four and Vettel in the top three
If Alonso does not finish on the podium, it will go to Abu Dhabi
Button can only stay in contention if he finishes first or second but is out if Alonso finishes in the top six or if Webber is in the top two
Vettel must beat Alonso on track to stay in contention

"I'd have to understand what Mark was meaning by those comments. He's probably referring to the support of Sebastian by Helmut Marko [Red Bull's special adviser, who is close to team owner Dietrich Mateschitz].

"But that doesn't change how the team operate. Dietrich has always been very clear - he doesn't mind whether it's the oldest or the youngest world champion. We've given both as much support as we can.

"Obviously it would have been very convenient for Mark if we'd said Seb would be his rear gunner for the last few races. But that was never going to be the way we went racing - whichever way round the drivers were."

The controversy was heightened in the last week when former F1 driver Gerhard Berger, who is close to Mateschitz, said on Red Bull's own TV station that he thought Webber had let his car run back across the track after his crash in Korea in an attempt to take out one of his championship rivals - he ended up hitting Mercedes's Nico Rosberg.

Webber responded sarcastically to those remarks on Thursday by saying: "First of all, I lost control of the car and then I've regained control and tried to take someone out. I'm a bit of a genius, aren't I?"

He added: "Gerhard has had some pretty nasty accidents in his time and so have I. I would never put myself or anyone else in any more danger than I need to."

Horner said Berger's comments were "purely his personal view".

He added: "They're nothing to do with the team and it's certainly not a team view. We have always believed in freedom of speech."

Horner admitted that the team were open to the possibility of asking one driver to support the other in one of the final two races if the mathematics of the championship made it the obvious tactic.

Vettel said he was still "full of hope" that he could win the world championship.

ANDREW BENSON'S BLOG

"We've seen how much things can change in one weekend," he said.

With Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa making it clear he will help Alonso, McLaren are also in the awkward position of deciding when to ask Button to do the same.

Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said this week that the team would make the decision depending on the situation in the race.

Button said that this weekend they would not be allowed to do that as team orders are banned in F1, but that he would make his own decision on the matter.

"[Martin] won't ask me, no," added Button. "The team won't ask me to do anything because that's illegal.

"If I can't win the race, I'll make what I feel is the right decision during the race and it will be entirely my decision."

Hamilton agreed that he did not need Button's help on the track and that the best outcome would be for McLaren to perform strongly as a team.

"We can help ourselves by just getting the best out of the car," added Hamilton.

"It would be great to have both of us at the best that we've been all year, both of us right up there and doing that to divide the group - that's the only way we can help each other."

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton makes case for title challenge

Hamilton needs results to go his way on Sunday if he is to regain the title he won at Interlagos in 2008, but he remained upbeat about his chances.

"It is still in my hands and I am generally quite relaxed," said Hamilton.

"Whatever results I'm able to achieve puts me in a stronger or weaker position. I just have to finish ahead of them and hope what goes on behind me is positive for me.

"If I win the next two races I put myself in the best position possible. I never have problems giving up. I always push to the last moment.

"The gap seems a lot but anything can happen."

Button, who captured his 2009 crown in Brazil, conceded it has now become difficult to defend his title.

"I want to fight for it again," Button said. "Most of this season I have been fighting for the world championship. Now it's very difficult to continue fighting, but there's still a bit of hope.

"I want to win the race so that's my main aim. It'll be pretty close around this circuit which makes the fight for the title even better."



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see also
Massa to assist Alonso title bid
04 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Button may play supporting role
03 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton happy to chase for title
02 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
I am not a number two, says Massa
29 Jul 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull drivers play blame game
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso secures controversial win
26 Jul 10 |  Formula 1


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