Sebastian Vettel has rejected suggestions Daniel Ricciardo’s appointment as his teammate next year makes him the undisputed ‘number 1’ at Red Bull.
Although the German has won the past three world championships for the team, and is currently running away with a fourth consecutive title in 2013, his teammate Mark Webber has always pushed for equal status.
But with Webber now departing for Le Mans, the energy drink-owned team has decided to replace him with a younger Australian, Ricciardo, who is being promoted from the second Red Bull outfit Toro Rosso.
Ricciardo, 24, has secured the post despite Red Bull’s admission it considered signing Kimi Raikkonen.
It gives the impression Red Bull, although insisting identical equipment and support will be supplied to both drivers in 2014, wanted to give Vettel clear air with de-facto ‘number 1’ status in deference to his title successes.
German Vettel, however, denied that claim in conversation with the Spanish daily Marca.
“It makes no sense to talk about team leadership,” said the 26-year-old.
“At every team there are two drivers and both have the same opportunities, but in the end there can only be one winner.
“‘Number 1’ or ‘number 2’ is something that seems pretty outdated in formula one today,” Vettel insisted.
Throughout Red Bull’s deliberations, Vettel said publicly that he wanted to be paired with his friend Raikkonen next year.
So is he happy the Red Bull junior Ricciardo ultimately got the nod?
“In the end it doesn’t matter who your teammate is,” said Vettel.
“The important thing is to integrate in the team so you can be pushing all in the same direction.”
He insisted that, despite their eventually broken personal relationship, he was always able to work ‘professionally’ with Webber — even after the damaging ‘multi-21’ affair of Malaysia.
Marca asked Vettel if he will be giving the veteran Australian a parting gift, to mark the end of their five-year partnership.
“Maybe a box of chocolates,” Vettel, who said earlier this year that he took victory in Malaysia because Webber did not ‘deserve’ it, joked.
“To be honest, I think we were always very successful together and he was a very difficult driver to beat.
“He contributed a lot to the team; really positive things. Many more positive than negative,” added Vettel.
© RIF | GMM