SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom, July 2011 (AFP) - Red Bull chief Christian Horner mounted a rapid damage limitation exercise on Monday as the dust settled on an incident-filled British Grand Prix highlighted by a potential
'team orders' row in his team.
The normally mild-mannered boss admitted he was surprised by Mark Webber's decision to ignore his instructions from the pit wall - and did his best to paper over a rift that may yet blow this year's championship wide open.
Horner, who had been under great strain throughout a weekend of rows and meetings over the controversial mid-season introduction of new technical rules, looked stretched to the limits of his patience as a post-race media scrum focused on Red Bull's decisions.
He did his best to justify why he ordered a procession and not a race in the closing laps as Australian Webber, in a clearly faster car, closed in on second-placed Red Bull team-mate and championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
"This is something we have to discuss in private, behind closed doors," he said. "But, at the end of the day, the team is the biggest thing - and no individual is bigger than the team."
Webber, who admitted he was furious and had not obeyed the orders as he fought to beat his team-mate, will clearly need some convincing - 12 months earlier he had won at Silverstone and famously quipped "not bad for a number two driver" on his slowing down lap.
Vettel, struggling for competitive speed on worn tyres, came home second behind triumphant Ferrari hero Spaniard Fernando Alonso, who registered the Italian team's first win this season and set up a possible revival in fortunes.
The second placed finish helped defending champion Vettel increase his runaway lead in the title race to 80 points ahead of Webber, who is now second - but with little hope of fighting for the title if Red Bull have chosen to back Vettel against him.
"I can understand Mark's frustration in that, but had it been the other way around it would have been exactly the same," said Horner. "It happened a couple of years ago in Turkey when exactly the same thing happened with Sebastian, so it makes no sense from a team point of view to risk both of your cars. It was obvious that neither was going to concede.
"And, as we saw with (Felipe) Massa and (Lewis) Hamilton at the last corner, who very nearly made contact, it made no sense from a team point of view to allow them to continue to fight over those last couple of laps.
"Mark obviously chose to ignore that and didn't make the pass in any event, but that is the team's position." Horner refused to say if he will take disciplinary action against Webber, who has yet to agree terms for a contract with Red Bull for 2012, and added that it was the team's belief that both drivers will continue to be free to fight for race wins so long as that does not create a risk for the team.
He said: "From a team perspective, I made it quite clear in the drivers' briefing in the morning -- in front of the engineers -- that the biggest thing was about getting a team result in front of all of the staff.
"Now both drivers have come away with Sebastian having extended his lead in the world championship, Mark having moved into second and the team having increased its lead in the constructors' championship.
"At the end of the day, the team championship is every bit as important as the drivers' to us and we risked giving away 33 points in the last three laps by allowing our drivers to fight it out.
"As we have seen previously, that can have dire consequences. We said okay, we have allowed them to race up until that point and, with three laps to go, rather than risk both of them being in the fence, it was the right decision."