LONDON Jan 29 Australian Formula One driver Mark Webber has hit back at criticism from Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko by accusing the Austrian of having his own agenda at the world championship-winning team.
"Look, everyone at this level has their own agendas and it's been evident for a long time now that I've never been a part of Marko's," Webber said in a Q+A on his personal website (www.markwebber.com).
Austrian Marko, who is close to Red Bull's billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz and Germany's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel, was quoted earlier this month as saying Webber could win races but struggled to handle the pressure of a championship challenge.
"It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable but he can't maintain his form throughout the year," he said in Red Bull's house magazine Red Bulletin.
Marko added that Webber's form fell "easily into a downward spiral" if something went against him and suggested that losing out to Vettel in the 2010 title race had been a huge psychological blow.
The Austrian, whose career as an F1 racer ended when he was blinded in one eye, was also quoted by Germany's Sport Bild as saying Vettel had beaten Webber in all four years of their partnership and that would not change.
"The statistic speaks for itself. There is no reason to think the balance of power will change," he added.
Webber, who enjoys a good relationship with team principal Christian Horner, has been at Red Bull for longer than Vettel and will be starting his seventh - and possibly final - season with the British-based team, with the first race in Melbourne on March 17.
The 36-year-old, whose contract expires at the end of the season, said he was in good shape after having surgery last month to remove a 40-cm titanium rod in his right leg.
Webber broke his leg after colliding with a car in a cycling accident in Tasmania in 2008.
"The surgery went very smoothly and my recovery was exceptional. I had a few weeks off from my normal training schedule but I was able to ease myself back into it by the first week of January and now I'm back into it properly," he said.
"I didn't really know what to expect from having it removed, apart from my own peace of mind, but I'm very happy that some of the niggles and pain I've sometimes experienced with my training over the past three years already seem to be a thing of the past." (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Clare Fallon)
Our top photos from the last 24 hours.