Christian Horner has denied conspiracy theories claiming Red Bull Racing sabotaged Mark Webber during the Chinese Grand Prix.
Webber had a race to forget in Shanghai, but some fans suggested his torrid luck was down, in part, to the team as a reaction to the events three weeks earlier at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
There, world champion Sebastian Vettel ignored team-orders to let Webber win the race, instead taking it upon himself to battle for and eventually take the win in Kuala Lumpur.
After crisis talks back at their Tilbrook base, Vettel apologised to the team and to Webber, but admitted he didn’t trust his team-mate and claimed he ‘didn’t deserve’ to win in Malaysia.
Webber’s Chinese Grand Prix was compromised 24 hours before the cars even took the to grid as his RB9 ran out of fuel during qualifying, forcing him to start from the pit-lane for Sunday’s race.
The race started well for the Australian though, climbing up to fifth place on his unique strategy, which saw him change off the softer tyres after just one lap.
But Webber collided with Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso on lap 15 after an late move up the inside was unnoticed by the Frenchman, forcing Webber back to the pits for a new front wing and tyres.
One of those tyres though wasn’t attached properly as he left the pits, and dislodged from the car as Webber cruised back to the pits. He was forced into retirement there and then. He was also handed a three-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix for the reckless manoeuvre, while Red Bull were fined $5,000 for releasing an unsafe car onto the circuit.
Horner though laughed off suggestions that his team were deliberately hindering Webber as a result of the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“That’s complete rubbish,” he said. “Forget about conspiracy, we are all about trying to get two cars to the finish as high as we can. Anybody who thinks that there is a conspiracy here against one of our drivers doesn’t know what they are looking at. Mark knows exactly what happened. There is no conspiracy.
“I think he’ll be fine. He’s a tough competitor, he was driving very well and he was coming back through the field. We made some big changes overnight to gear ratios, downforce levels and set-up to assist him to do that and as we could see with the way these tyres are working it was going very well for him and he was back in the thick of it.
“The contact was unfortunate and then to have to retire the car was even more unfortunate. Obviously our objective is to get both cars to the finish as high as we can.”
Speaking about the wheel problem, Horner said: “All four wheels were changed and the nose was changed and the report from the gunman, who obviously had extra time because it wasn’t a hasty stop because of the nose change, was that the right rear was secure and done up tightly. Until we get the car back it’s difficult to make any assumptions.”