Mark Webber has become very much Red Bull’s number two driver over the past three seasons. That’s more due to the extraordinary performance of his team-mate – triple World Champion Sebastian Vettel – than anything else, and Webber is still highly regarded in Formula One. But it has become clear over time that Red Bull want him to play a supporting role despite their publicly professed policy of driver equality.
Recently, Red Bull Racing Motorsport Director Dr. Helmut Marko criticised Mark Webber quite openly in an interview for The Red Bulletin, Red Bull’s own magazine:
“It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can’t maintain this form throughout the year. And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb’s rising form, it seems to me that Mark’s form somehow flattens out. Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral.”
While it certainly seems true that Vettel copes well with pressure, Webber is no slouch. He went into the final round of the 2010 season in Abu Dhabi ahead of Vettel on points and could have won the title if not for a strategic error that put him out of position on a track where overtaking was extremely difficult. For the first half of 2012, it was Webber who looked more like challenging Fernando Alonso for the title, although Vettel certainly found his feet in the second half of the season.
Perhaps Dr. Marko would do better to work within the team and find a solution to Webber’s difficulties under championship pressure rather than undermining his driver by discussing his weakness in public.
Romain Grosjean is the 2012 Champion of Champions, after triumphing against a host of enormous names in motorsport. Grosjean defeated eight-time Le Mans 24-Hour winner Tom Kristensen 2-0 in the final of the individual competition.
There is no easy path to victory at the Race of Champions – with the best of the best from all motorsport disciplines competing, every race is tough and each victory along the way hard-earned. But Grosjean had, if anything, the most difficult possible path to the final. In the group stages, he was up against seven-time Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher, current Indycar Series Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and RoC Asia runner-up Kazuya Ohshima. Despite losing narrowly to Schumacher, Grosjean beat Hunter-Reay and Ohshima to proceed to the knock-out stages.
After the group stages, Grosjean’s path to victory became even more difficult. He was matched up against current triple Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel in the third quarter final, and was arguably not expected to proceed to the semi-finals. But an uncharacteristic error from Vettel – which shows just how hard he had to push against Grosjean – meant the German crashed out, and set-up a Grosjean-Schumacher semi-final. Grosjean avenged his earlier defeat to Schumacher by knocking the legendary German out of the competition.
The final was a best of three affair between Grosjean and Tom Kristensen. Kristensen had beaten last year’s winner Sebastian Ogier and former Formula One driver David Coulthard en route to the final, proving his speed in the process. But he was no match for Grosjean, who needed only two heats to seal his victory and become 2012 Champion of Champions.
After a mixed season in Formula One – with three podiums, a number of crashes and a race ban for causing a pile-up at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix – Grosjean was relieved to end the year with a victory. The young Frenchman said, “That’s what I’d call a crazy day! It got a bit tough in the group stages but I managed to make it through. Then I had to face Sebastian Vettel in the quarter-final before Michael Schumacher in the semi-final – the two Germans who beat us in yesterday’s RoC Nations Cup final. Then I had the final with Tom. We’ve had a good history at this event and I’ve raced him before so it was good to face him in the final. I got a bit of extra luck to be in the right car at the right time but it felt good.
“It’s been a tough end to the F1 season but I finally got back on the podium yesterday, and now this! It’s great to get this win before I head off for a holiday. Thanks to everyone in Thailand because the welcome has been fantastic.”
Grosjean has not yet been confirmed at Lotus for the 2013 Formula One season, but will be hoping for a favourable announcement from his team soon.
For the sixth year in succession, the German team of Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel has won the Race of Champions Nations Cup. This year’s victory was the result of a 2-0 thrashing of team France in the final.
Germany really does have the dream team of all dream teams – the most successful of all Formula One drivers and the newly crowned triple Formula One World Champion. So it comes as no surprise that Schumacher and Vettel won yet again. Their dominance in the final is perhaps a little surprising, considering who they were up against.
Team France consisted of Sebastain Ogier (2011 individual event Race of Champions winner) and Romain Grosjean who is a current Formula One driver and has displayed significant speed in the this year’s Formula One World Championship. But they had no answer to Germany – Schumacher dispatched Grosjean in the first heat of the final and Vettel won the “battle of the Sebs” in heat two to seal the team victory.
The Nations Cup took place yesterday, but the action is not over. Today sees the drivers compete in the individual Race of Champions, a title neither Schumacher nor Vettel has ever won although Schumacher has lost in the final twice. Vettel has not yet featured in a RoC individual final.
Today’s individual event sees drivers compete in groups before the top driver proceed to a knock-out stage. The groups are as follows:
Sebastian Ogier – World Rally Championship and 2011 RoC winner
Jamie Whincup – Four time V8 Supercar Champion
David Coulthard – 13 F1 Grand Prix victories
Benito Guerra – 2012 Production World Rally Champion
Tom Kristensen – eight time Le Mans 24-hour winner
Andy Priaulx – three time World Touring Car Champion
Ho-Pin Tung – F1 test driver and fastest RoC Asia qualifier
Nattavude Charoensukawattana – RoC Thailand winner
Sebastian Vettel – triple F1 World Champion
Jorge Lorenzo – double MotoGP World Champion
Mick Doohan – five time 500cc MotoGP World Champion
Tin Sritrai – RoC Thailand runner-up
Michael Schumacer – seven time F1 World Champion
Ryan Hunter-Reay – 2012 Indycar Series Champion
Kazuya Ohshima – Second fastest RoC Asia qualifier
Romain Grosjean – Current F1 driver with three 2012 podiums
Norbert Haug is set to leave Mercedes-Benz at the end of 2012, after a successful 22-year career as head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport.
Under Haug’s leadership, Mercedes-Benz has featured in top-level racing as a constructor and engine supplier and enjoyed considerable success, including six Formula One World Championships – as engine supplier to McLaren and Brawn – and 32 DTM titles. The only apparent failure under Haug’s leadership has been the return of the Silver Arrows to Formula One as a constructor – in three years the Mercedes Formula One team has managed only a single victory and has never looked like challenging for the World Championship, despite having the services of technical genius Ross Brawn and legendary driver Michael Schumacher.
Despite the underwhelming performance of the Formula One team, Haug’s achievements at the helm of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport have been significant and have established Mercedes-Benz very much at the forefront of world motorsport.
Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of parent company Daimler AG, paid tribute to Haug, saying, “Norbert Haug was the face of the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport programme for more than 20 years. For me, he put his stamp on a whole era and, as a highlight, he was responsible for the successful comeback of the Silver Arrows to Formula One. In the name of the Board of Management and the whole motorsport family, I would like to thank Norbert for his extraordinary commitment to the three-pointed star.”
Norbert Haug took his opportunity to thank Mercedes-Benz for a long and successful association: “I would like to thank the best car company in the world for more than 22 years, which never had a single moment without passion for me. I particularly wish to thank the Board for the trust and freedom they have always given me with all my activities. Since 1991, we had tremendous achievements and wins, for which I want to thank all of my colleagues. Unfortunately, with one victory in 2012 since founding our own Formula One works team in 2010, we couldn’t fulfil our own expectations. However, we have taken the right steps to be successful in the future. Our team and our drivers will do everything to achieve these goals.”