German Newspaper Bild-Zeitung (lit. Picture Newspaper) reported that Team Red Bull was planning to replace Formula 1 driver Mark Webber with Kimi Raikkonen for the 2012 F1 season. This report comes a few days after Webber ignored team orders at the end of the British Grand Prix.
Webber was running third behind TRB teammate Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps of the race when he was told over the radio to hold his position. He ignored the call and continued pushing Vettel to the checkered flag.
Afterwards, Webber said that he ignored the order because he wanted to score the best finish possible. He wrote in his column for the Herald Sun:
The last stint was probably my best of the race and I was able to pass Lewis (Hamilton) pretty easily for third place. That gave the team a double podium and extended our lead in the constructors’ championship to 110 points. [Vettel] and I had a good battle late on. The team put in a few calls asking me to maintain the gap, but I kept pushing because you can never give up in F1. If Fernando [Alonso] had retired on the last lap, we would have been fighting for the lead. Obviously the team wanted the points for the world championship – and they got them – but so did I.
The team was worried that Vettel and Webber would crash, if they continued to push each other for position.
Bild called the planto replace Webber with Raikkonen “top secret” and cited a source “at the highest level.”
Raikkonen talked with TRB about a ride last year, and is said to have changed his mind about staying in rallying and NASCAR.
But, according to Autosport.com, TRB owner Dietrich Mateschitz said that there are absolutely no doubts that Webber will stay with the team next year. Mateschitz said:
Mark Webber will re-sign with us. This will happen for sure. He is very popular within the team, he feels very comfortable and it is an excellent relationship. He knows this and we know it. To be honest, Mark has no better choice than the fastest car and we have no better choice for a fast driver.
Mateschitz also said that he was fine with Webber’s actions during the British Grand Prix. He said:
This is no problem for us. Sebastian realized that Fernando Alonso was gone and could not be caught anymore, so he backed down. This let Mark close in. He would be a very bad racer had he not tried to attack and gain a position.