Formula 1: Red Bull dismiss conspiracy against Mark Webber


Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has rejected claims of a team conspiracy against Mark Webber. The driver had a race filled with problems in China, as a lack of fuel in the car in qualifying put him at the back of the grid and then a wheel fell off during the race. Asked whether Red Bull might be trying to disadvantage Webber, Horner said: "That is complete rubbish. Forget conspiracy. It is all about trying to get two cars to finish as high as we can."

Webber's problems came in the first race after the much debated team orders row at Red Bull in Malaysia. His team-mate Sebastian Vettel, thought to be the team's favoured driver, had ignored an order not to pass Webber to win in Malaysia and, although the German has apologised, he said in China he would "probably" do the same again. Red Bull reacted by saying they will reduce the use of team orders in future.

During the qualifying session in China Webber's car stopped out on the track and was later found not to have enough fuel in it to provide the required sample. That incident sparked suggestions the issue was planned by the team in order to ensure Webber was kept away from Vettel in the race. Webber was forced to retire from the race when his right rear wheel came off because it had not been correctly secured at a pit stop. Ironically, the wheel narrowly missed Vettel's car, which was passing by at that very moment.

Red Bull were fined 5,000 euros (£4,262) for an unsafe release from the pits. Horner said: "Anybody that thinks there is a conspiracy here against one or either or any drivers doesn't know what they are looking at." The team said there was a problem with a refuelling rig that had delivered three too few litres into the car. Webber had avoided answering a question about why it had happened, but Horner said: "Mark knows exactly what happened. Exactly. That's it. There is no conspiracy." Horner added that the respective equipment, a fuel 'bowser', would be examined at the team's factory to find out exactly what had gone wrong.

Webber, who has a three-place grid penalty for this weekend's race in Bahrain for colliding with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne to trigger the pit stop that led to his problem, admitted China had been a nightmare weekend for him. "You could not script it, could you?" he said. "They know there were a lot of things on the weekend, some in my hands but a lot of them out of my hands. Red Bull are a world-class team. They know there are small things we can focus on, incremental steps here and there. We had some problems which can happen. But as a complete team we don't want to make a habit of those problems."

The next race in the Formula 1 calendar is the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, and Mark Webber is not among the top three favourites to win the race according to the bookmakers. Here are the outright win odds at Bet365:

Fernando Alonso - 9/4
Sebastian Vettel - 5/2
Kimi Raikkonen - 7/2
Lewis Hamilton - 8/1
Mark Webber - 14/1
Nico Rosberg - 14/1

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