Mark Webber took a big step towards closing the gap with his teammate Sebastian Vettel at Valencia last weekend.
That is the view of Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who in the past days has admitted it is “very, very likely” Australian Webber, 34, will be offered a new contract for the 2012 season.
The reigning champions have reportedly toyed with the idea of signing Lewis Hamilton or perhaps Nico Rosberg but have instead decided to stick with Webber for at least another year.
Webber has struggled to match runaway championship leader Vettel’s pace in the dominant RB7 so far this season but at Valencia qualified on the front row and was only narrowly beaten to second place by Fernando Alonso.
“I think it was the closest I have been (to Vettel) for a while,” admitted the driver. “I think it’s getting better.”
Webber has said he has struggled to adjust following the departure of long-time tyre supplier Bridgestone.
“It was the best race of the season from Mark in terms of the performance from the tyres,” Horner, referring to Webber’s podium at Valencia, is quoted by France’s L’Equipe.
“He has never been this close to Seb (in 2011) and he controlled it well. I hope he will stay on his (Vettel’s) heels because it’s no secret that he has had problems with the tyres this year.
“Now he understands them better,” revealed Horner. “Just look at the difference in this race; for 90 per cent he was 4-5 seconds from Seb. I hope this result gives him great confidence for the future.”
Webber won last year’s British grand prix at Silverstone, famously scowling on the radio afterwards that it was “Not bad for a no.2 driver”.
“The characteristics of the (Silverstone) circuit have suited us well in past seasons. The test will remain if it’s the same this time around,” he said on Thursday, no doubt referring to the FIA’s blown exhaust clampdown.
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