Mark Webber has been given assurances over his future with Red Bull by the team’s owner Dietrich Mateschitz amid speculation Kimi Kimi Räikkönen was being lined up to replace him.
The rumour mill has been spinning frantically in the last two weeks over Webber’s future since Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders to claim victory from the Australian in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Mateschitz, who has long been a supporter of the Aston Clinton man, said that, if the 36-year-old Aussie wanted to continue, then he will be considered.
“Whether he retires, only he will choose but Mark is definitely a candidate for 2014,” Mateschitz told the German publication Speedweek.
“He is always welcome with us, so too would be a quick junior like (Jean-Eric) Vergne or (Daniel) Ricciardo from the Toro Rosso team. Sorry, I know it’s a diplomatic answer which leaves everything open, but that’s how it is. Everything else is pure speculation.”
Despite that backing Webber, speaking on Thursday, stopped short of committing himself beyond the current campaign.
“I’m definitely keen to finish the season – a lot of people were questioning that, but that wasn’t something on my mind,” Webber told the Shanghai drivers’ press conference.
“There was never any chance of me not coming to China - maybe to miss the debrief in Malaysia, but missing China wasn’t an option.”
As preparations got under way for the race on Thursday, though, the storm showed no signs of dissipating with Vettel insisting he would do the same thing again. Despite having apologised to the team in person at their Milton Keynes base in the wake of the controversy, the reigning World Champion declared he would not “apologise for winning” and insisted he would not have acted differently in an identical situation.
“In the moment, it might be different, but I would probably do the same,” the three-times title winner confirmed during a heated and fiery press conference.
Admitting that he wouldn’t have obeyed an instruction from team boss Christian Horner to give back first place to Webber, Vettel added: “Mark didn’t deserve that. The bottom line is I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won.”
The raging Red Bull war shows no sign of abating and Vettel even went as far to claim Webber has, in the past, hurt the team with his own actions.
“I never had support from his side. In terms of my relationship with Mark, I respect him a lot as a racing driver but I think there was more than one occasion in the past when he could have helped the team but didn’t,” Vettel added.
Meanwhile, on the track, straight-talking Stag at Mentmore co-owner Webber is pulling no punches about the latest host city on the calendar.
“As a destination, Shanghai isn’t my favourite place,” Webber said.
“It’s just a massive city that seems to go on and on, and the traffic on the roads is appalling. I’ve stayed near the circuit for the last few years and that’s helped a lot; it’s made it a much less stressful weekend.
“As for the circuit, I like it. It’s got a really good flow to it.”