March 11th (GMM).- He might have won the last three world championships on the trot, but Sebastian Vettel is not Red Bull's number 1 driver.
That is the claim of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, the Austrian billionaire who said Vettel's veteran teammate Mark Webber will continue to enjoy equal status in 2013.
"When he (Webber) has a strong day, he is a tough opponent for Vettel," the 68-year-old said during an interview with Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper.
"He has a hard time against Vettel, but the team guarantees him the same material and the same treatment," added Mateschitz.
"We are pleased to have two number one drivers," he insisted.
The fact remains, however, that Australian Webber only has a deal in place for this season, while Toro Rosso hopefuls Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne champ at the bit.
Asked if he has a chance of joining the senior team in 2014, Frenchman Vergne told RMC Sport: "It's too early to tell.
"Nobody is saying that Webber will retire in 2014. Maybe he will win races, maybe even the championship. For now, there are too many 'ifs' about 2014," he added.
Meanwhile, Mateschitz admitted that Mercedes has made progress over the winter, and named Kimi Raikkonen as a possible dark horse for the 2013 title race.
But he told Kleine Zeitung newspaper: "We assume that we (Red Bull) will surely once again be among the top two or three teams."