Yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix delivered some controversy, at least within the Red Bull team. Against team orders, Sebastian Vettel passed Mark Webber – banging wheels with his team-mate along the way – and went on to win the race. Webber was understandably furious afterwards, as was Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Vettel has been roundly criticised in the media, with some going as far as to question his morals. I don’t see how disobeying a team order has much to do with morality, but I do understand what drove Sebastian Vettel to risk the internal harmony of his team in pursuit of victory.
Vettel is a champion. That’s not referring to his achievements, but rather to his approach to everything he does. He wins. All the time. His preparation is meticulous, his attention to detail reminiscent of Michael Schumacher at his peak, and his performance on the track is almost always flawless. Vettel is capable only of domination. He knows no other way.
So when his team principal tells him not to win, as happened yesterday in Malaysia, there is no chance he will obey that instruction. He knows perfectly well how important his victory at Sepang could prove to be in the greater scheme of this year’s championship. Although it is too early in the season to know who will challenge for the title, every result counts. A victory is not more or less important depending on when it occurs during the season or whether or not the team management supported it.
The 2013 Red Bull RB9 could well prove to be the fastest car in the field. If that is the case, then Vettel’s main rival for the championship will be his own team-mate. Looking at yesterday’s drama from that perspective, Webber showed a major chink in his armour – he thought that Vettel, easily the dominant driver of his generation, would stop wanting to win just because his team said he should. Webber let his guard down, and Vettel took the advantage that was presented to him.
It doesn’t matter to Vettel that his team told him to finish second. He broke no rules of Formula One. His points cannot be taken away; the victory is valid. If the team doesn’t like the situation, they are certainly not going to fire him – he’s won the title three years running, what kind of fool team boss would kick him out? If anyone leaves, it will be Webber, and that will be to his own detriment.
Vettel’s actions may be unpopular, but they show a ruthlessness that could very well take this remarkable 25-year old German to a fourth consecutive World Championship this season, and perhaps on to just about every record in the sport by the end of his career. Vettel is not in Formula One to be liked. He is there to win. And in the words of Ayrton Senna, perhaps the greatest of all Formula One drivers, “Nice men don’t win.”
Red Bull have been referred to the stewards at the German Grand Prix for having illegal engine maps.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer examined the engine maps on both RB8 cars and considered them to be in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the 2012 Formula One Technical Regulations as he found the maximum torque output in a certain range of revs to be significantly less than the engines are known to be capable of producing.
In addition, Jo Bauer considered that the illegal engine maps would also alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the cars, which is illegal under this season’s regulations.
The stewards are currently looking into the potential breach, which could result in penalties for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. If the cars are found to be illegal, Vettel and Webber may be excluded from the results of qualifying and demoted to the back of the grid. They may even be required to start from the pitlane, as they would be required to change the engine maps for the race, which would put them in breach of parc ferme regulations.
It seems unlikely that the Red Bulls will not be allowed to race.
“If someone said to me that you can have three wishes, my first would have been to get into racing, my second to be in Formula 1, my third to drive for Ferrari.” – Gilles Villeneuve
Villeneuve’s view of Ferrari’s place in racing is shared by the vast majority of drivers. As Sebastian Vettel recently put it, “…if you asked the 24 drivers in Formula One if they would like to go to Ferrari in their career, all 24 would say ‘yeah, clearly’, and it is the same with me.” Yet, Mark Webber chose not to go to Ferrari in 2013, and instead re-signed with Red Bull.
On the face of it, Webber’s decision might seem sound. Red Bull have had the best car for the last two seasons, and their 2012 car is gradually beginning to pull away in the development race at the front of the field. Red Bull have legendary designer Adrian Newey shaping their impressive aerodynamics, and with Newey showing no signs of leaving, it is likely that next year’s RB9 will be just as competitive as this year’s RB8.
Perhaps Webber was wary of being number two to Fernando Alonso. Although he has yet to be World Champion, Webber is no slouch behind the wheel, as his two wins so far in 2012 show. He would not want to find himself in the position of Felipe Massa, who is very clearly the second Ferrari driver.
But the upside to driving for Ferrari is just so enormous, it makes no sense that Webber would choose not to go there. Ferrari has resources that no other team can match, and they are showing it this season with the development of the F2012. The car started the year well off the pace, and in less than half a season has become a front-runner, with Fernando Alonso now leading the championship.
Aside from the financial implications of a move to Ferrari, the team is so steeped in Formula One history that any driver would want to become associated with the famous marque. Consider the great drivers who have driven for Ferrari: Schumacher, Fangio, Prost, Lauda, Alonso, Farina, Andretti, Scheckter and Hawthorn are but a few of the legendary names to have raced for the most famous of Formula One teams.
Ferrari have the largest following in Formula One, with fans all over the world, so much so that every race must feel like a home race for a Ferrari driver. Racing for Ferrari at Monza must be a remarkable experience, as the tifosi cover every possible spectator space around the circuit, adorned with Ferrari clothing, flags and signs in support of their heroes.
If making it to Formula One is the dream of racing drivers, then racing for Ferrari is the dream of Formula One drivers. Webber had the chance to realise that dream, and he let it go. The opportunity is unlikely to come again.
Red Bull have announced that Mark Webber will continue to drive for the team in 2013, following his win at the British Grand Prix on Sunday.
The Australian is currently second in the Drivers’ Championship and, along with Fernando Alonso, is one of only two drivers to have won more than one race this season. Considering that level of performance, it was only a matter of time before Red Bull moved to secure his services for next season. The contract that has been signed is just for 2013, continuing Webber’s recent trend of making decisions one year at a time.
With this announcement, Red Bull becomes the first of the front-running teams to confirm their 2013 driver line-up. Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Michael Schumacher at Mercedes and Felipe Massa at Ferrari have yet to announce their plans, creating speculation as to what will happen in those teams.
There has long been speculation that Ferrari will seek to replace Massa for 2013, with Webber rumoured as a possible replacement. Webber confirmed the contact saying, “There were discussions with Ferrari, but my decision was to stay here.”
Now that his immediate future is decided, Webber can get on with the business of trying to become the first Australian to win the World Championship since Alan Jones in 1980.
Mark Webber has become the second driver to win twice in 2012, by taking victory at a surprisingly dry Silverstone.
After a weekend of torrential rain, the sun shone brightly at Silverstone, which mean the teams went into the race not knowing how their dry tyres would last. Most of the top ten started the race on the softer option tyres, and found that they fell off quite quickly. Fernando Alonso had started from pole on the harder prime tyres, and it proved to be a good decision as the Spaniard easily maintained the lead before pitting later than most of his rivals.
For most of the race, it looked like Alonso was in complete control, but Mark Webber was always not too far behind in second. After the last round of pitstops, Webber made his move, reeling in the championship leader before passing with the aid of DRS. From that point on, there was no challenging the Australian as he calmly went on to take his second British Grand Prix win in three years.
Sebastian Vettel finished third for Red Bull after making a poor start from fourth on the grid. The World Champion found himself fighting with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa for much of the early part of the race, but eventually found his way past in the final round of pitstops. Massa had his strongest race since 2010, finishing fourth after his best drive of the year.
Raikkonen and Grosjean finished fifth and sixth respectively for Lotus, continuing their reasonably competitive season. Onboard footage from Raikkonen’s car showed lots of suspension travel on the Lotus, presumably as part of a wet weather setup that ultimately proved unnecessary and possibly prevented better finishing position.
Mercedes had a disappointing day, with Schumacher finishing seventh from third on the grid and Rosberg 15th from 11th at the start. There were no particular incidents that put the Mercedes drivers out of contention. It seemed that the car was just not on the pace. It is possible that it was simply a matter of driving in the dry with a wet weather setup, but if not there may be some head scratching at Brackley.
McLaren seemed similarly slow, with Hamilton not managing to improve on his eighth place grid position. Button started the race 16th, and improved to tenth, but never seemed to have the pace to challenge for more points.
The major on-track incident of the race occurred when Sergio Perez attempted to pass Pastor Maldonado round the outside of Brooklands corner at the end of the DRS zone. Maldonado lost the back end of his Williams and slid into the side of the Sauber, causing the two cars to engage in some synchronised spinning and ending Perez’s race. When interviewed by Lee McKenzie in the pitlane following the incident, the Mexican was very outspoken in his criticism of Maldonado, placing blame squarely at the feet of the Venezuelan and calling on the stewards to take harsh action against the Williams driver.
The results of this race showed the superiority of the Red Bull and Ferrari teams. The rest of the field had no answer to the pace of the front-runners, and will now have to play catch-up through the middle of the season. Two races – in Germany and Hungary – remain before the summer break, and Ferrari and Red Bull will each want to go into that break with a clear advantage.
At Monaco on Sunday, Sebastian Vettel started the race on the prime tyres, when the rest of the top 10 were on the option tyres. The prime tyre is more durable, which meant that Vettel could pit quite a bit later than those who started ahead of him.
When the front-runners pitted, Vettel found himself inheriting the lead, and he duly extended it, pulling away from fellow Red Bull driver Mark Webber with ease. It was at that point that the speculation started: was Webber backing the pack up to help Vettel?
Webber himself has dismissed claims that he was assisting Vettel, but the denial is not really necessary. If Red Bull were trying to push Vettel forward, they could have gone for a one-two, rather than fourth place.
The likely implementation of team orders would have been to have Webber hold the field up enough to get Vettel out in the lead after his pitstop, and then have the Red Bull drivers switch places on the track, creating a one-two and giving the win to the more dominant driver on the weekend. Team orders are legal, so the strategy would have been allowed. It would also have been a public declaration of dominance by the World Champions.
Red Bull didn’t do it like that, and the reason is simple: They know, as everyone else in racing knows, that wins are precious. You don’t mess around with the race lead, unless your drivers are already running in genuine, dominant, first and second places. Vettel was out of position, having not pitted, and Webber was already under pressure from those behind him. Any attempt to over-manipulate the race would likely have ended badly.
Webber himself said of the rumours of assistance: “The problem with trying to do that would be that you’re exposing yourself to even more pressure from the guys behind – Nico and Fernando in this case. And then the boys in the pits might mess up Seb’s stop and it would all be for nothing. You always get bitten on the bum when you get fancy. So you just don’t try.”
The rumours have distracted attention from what was, in the end, a very clever strategy by Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull. Vettel started ninth and finished fourth, all because he didn’t run in Q3 and could therefore start on the prime tyres. Red Bull should be applauded for putting together a very successful race weekend.
Mark Webber has won the Monaco Grand Prix to become the sixth winner in six races – a record for the start of a Formula One season. Read my full race report at :