Mark Webber has described his relationship with the retiring Sebastian Vettel as “pretty tense” and “strained” during their rivalry at Red Bull.
The pair were team-mates from 2009 to 2013, a period in which Vettel won four World Championships, while Webber managed three third place finishes before retiring at the end of the 2013 season.
They also shared a team rivalry perhaps only beaten by Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in recent years, which came to a flashpoint in Malaysia in 2013 when the young German ignored a team order to overtake Webber and win the race.
Webber maintains they are friends now but has admitted things at the time got “pretty tense” and was “a bit strained.”
“I mean, god, we’re fine now,” Webber told F1.com. “It was obviously pretty tense when you’re fighting for championships at the front together. We had a few years where I was [in contention]; a couple of years where I wasn’t.
“It always gets a bit strained – it’s easier to be team mates when you’re fighting for points but obviously, championships and wins is a bit more challenging, which is obviously well-advertised in lots of different scenarios throughout the sport. We weren’t alone in that sense.
“Now, obviously he’s changed his whole position, hasn’t he? As his career’s gone on, especially in the last year or so, his whole position has changed in terms of what he’s motivated by and looking forward to in the next phase of his life, and fair play.”
Almost nine years later and Webber’s former team-mate has decided to join the Australian in retirement with Vettel announcing he was to leave the sport at the end of the 2022 season.
Webber described what Vettel managed to do at Red Bull as “an absolute masterclass” but said he believed the German had made the right call.
“Look: an incredible career, untouchable in the [championship] years. Certainly, he loved when Pirelli turned up and he was an absolute masterclass I think for a lot of us, in those years, through the blown diffuser days. And there was a lot of regulations that he certainly worked incredibly hard to understand and did a great job.
NEWS: Sebastian Vettel will retire from #F1 at the end of the 2022 season, bringing one of the greatest careers in the history of the sport to a close.
Read more from Sebastian, Lawrence Stroll and Mike Krack. ⬇️
— Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team (@AstonMartinF1) July 28, 2022
“And obviously he racked up a phenomenal amount of success in a short period of time, which is something that all of us colleagues have respect for.
“But I think he’s made the right call. Obviously, it’s totally down to the individual at that point, there’s no one else who can make that decision for you, but I don’t think it’s a surprise. I think it was pretty obvious it was coming and fair play, off he goes.”
What could come next for Sebastian Vettel?
Vettel has been pretty tight-lipped when it comes to his future following his retirement announcement and, in the video announcing his departure, he said he would take some time at the end of the year to decide whilst spending time with his family.
As one of the most successful drivers in F1 history, the 35-year-old would not be found wanting in terms of offers.
Webber suggested he could see his former team-mate in a different racing series but it would also come as no big surprise if he did not return to the cockpit.
Behind only Lewis Hamilton, Vettel is one of the most outspoken current drivers in terms of raising awareness of causes he believes in, particularly in relation to the environment and equal rights for women and the LGBTQ+ community.
Earlier this year, he took his foray into this world as he appeared on the BBC’s Question Time in the UK where he fielded questions about what he would do to combat climate change.
So he could perhaps move into an ambassadorial role within the sport and help move F1 closer to its stated environmental goals.
Time will tell in terms of what comes next but wherever Vettel decides to go, they will be lucky to have him.
Vettel’s current employers, Aston Martin, feature on our list of the five biggest disappointments of the 2022 season so far which you can read here.
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