Sydney: Mark Webber suggested on Sunday that the time was fast approaching for Red Bull to back him for the Formula One championship over accident-prone team mate Sebastian Vettel.
The Australian extended his advantage over Vettel to 28 points after finishing runner-up in Belgium, while losing the overall lead to McLaren`s race winner Lewis Hamilton.
With Hamilton a further three points ahead of Webber in the standings, the 34-year-old clearly felt he was now his team`s best bet for their first title.
"McLaren have won many championships, so they have a pretty good trophy cabinet," Webber told a post-race news conference when he and Hamilton were asked if they expected their teams to focus more on them from now on.
"Red Bull have a good trophy cabinet but not one like McLaren`s. So it depends on how hungry we are to try and do that. I think it`s too early at the moment (for preferential treatment).”
"Having said that, maybe there is a different strategy compared to McLaren," added Webber, who triggered a favouritism furore at Silverstone in July when he referred to himself as a `number two` driver.
"I`m not sure. It`s still too early at the moment but not far away, I would say."
Hamilton said he did not think there should be any preferential treatment at McLaren, who have won eight constructor`s titles and 12 drivers` crowns over the years as well as 169 races.
The 2008 champion`s win at Spa cut Red Bull`s lead in the constructors` standings to a single point with six races left.
Vettel failed to score in Belgium after crashing into McLaren`s Jenson Button, ending the defending champion`s race, and then collecting a drive through penalty.
The 23-year-old, who collided with Webber at the Turkish Grand Prix in May while challenging the Australian for the lead in the closing stages, then tangled with Force India`s Vitantonio Liuzzi and picked up a puncture.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner praised Webber`s performance, after a sluggish start blamed on the car`s anti-stall device, but made clear that both his men would continue to receive equal treatment.
"There are 150 points still available. The two guys (Hamilton and Webber) have broken away a little bit from the rest of the pack with the other three title protagonists (Vettel, Button and Fernando Alonso) not scoring today," he told reporters.
"But it`s still too early to be contemplating that. I think all five are still in this championship with the way that the points scoring is, the gap`s quite deceptive.”
"Mark is a sportsman and a realist and he knows the numbers as well as anyone else," added Horner. "He`s realistic enough to know that things can change very quickly but he`s in a great position."
Webber has won more races than anyone this season, four to Hamilton`s three, and Horner said the Australian was in the form of his life but Vettel was still there.
"It would be a foolish person to rule Sebastian out at the moment," he said.