Feuding team mates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel will not stay together at Formula One champions Red Bull after this season, according to Italian Flavio Briatore.
Briatore, the former Renault team boss who has been part of Webber’s management throughout his grand prix career, told Italy’s RAI radio that he had spoken to the Australian by telephone on Monday after the Malaysian Grand Prix.
He said Webber was still furious with triple world champion Vettel winning at Sepang after ignoring team orders and overtaking him in the closing laps.
“I don’t think the relationship can be sewn together again,” added Briatore.
Asked if he expected one of the two to leave the team at the end of 2013, the Italian replied: “For sure. Last year already there were problems.”
Webber, who will be 37 this year, is out of contract at the end of the season while Vettel is tied to Red Bull until at least the end of 2014.
He and Vettel have had several flare-ups since the start of their pairing in 2009, including a collision at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix that cost Webber a victory and sent the German out of the race.
Webber has long maintained that the team favours Vettel, despite their insistence that the two have equal status.
Briatore said Malaysia had showed that Vettel was in charge at Red Bull, rather than team principal Christian Horner.
Webber’s father Alan calmed speculation that his son could stay away from the third round of the championship in China on April 14.
“We’ll be up in China for the next one,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, adding: “I think it will take a while (for Vettel) to earn the respect and trust again.”
Vettel apologized to Webber after taking his 27th grand prix win and recognized he had made a mistake in going against the team instructions.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who is close to 25-year-old Vettel with whom he occasionally plays backgammon in his paddock motorhome, criticized Red Bull for causing the controversy.
“At this stage of the championship, I do not believe there should be any team orders,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “It does not matter who it is.”
“Maybe there will be a stage when he (Vettel) would like Mark to help him, but I don’t think Mark is going to come up front and do it,” added the 82-year-old of the possible consequences for the champion.