Sunday, 28 April 2013

New driver line ups for 2013: Good fortunes or bad decisions?

As the dust settles on the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the Formula One spectacle travels to Europe, it is a perfect time to consider whether changes made regarding driver line up for the 2013 season have proved fortuitous or frustrating.  

Confusion about why Lewis Hamilton would leave an established successful team such as McLaren for struggling Mercedes created mass speculation when the move was announced last year.  A positive change in his demeanour was evident immediately as he exuded an air of liberation, freed from the McLaren confines.  He spoke of his new team with fondness, with his smile revealing his relish for a fresh challenge, however mountainous that challenge may prove to be.  With the season underway, a welcome surprise of a car that is outperforming the expectations of the team neatly iced the cake.  A third place finish in Malaysia, followed by pole position and subsequent third in China spelled out a good start for Lewis and the team. Bahrain proved more disappointing as a gearbox penalty sent him from fourth to ninth on the grid, but with an end result of fifth, it could have been worse and considering the problems McLaren are suffering after developing their car more radically than the rest of the field, his was a quality move in terms of success on the track not to mention general disposition. 

As soon as the Mercedes deal was announced, McLaren revealed that Mexican Sergio Perez would fill the hole left by Lewis Hamilton.  It seemed a hasty decision and the possible funding he could bring to the team through his Carlos Slim connection was widely regarded as the driving force behind the decision.  The moment the ink was dry on the contract, the form shown by Perez to earn his new position plunged, and had until Bahrain, failed to re emerge.  Going to a team like McLaren launches a young driver into the spotlight and Perez is yet to show he has the capacity to deal with such a pressurised situation.  When asked if he was ready for a McLaren drive Martin Whitmarsh talked about the Mexican being the same age as Lewis Hamilton when he made his Formula One debut.  The difference, however, is that Lewis had grown up with the team, developing his knowledge and understanding of the pressures and how the team work over a number of years.  In his maiden year he was able to take the fight to his double World Champion team mate Fernando Alonso.  Checo’s task has not been made easy due to the uncompetitive MP4 – 28 but his performances can be measured against those of his team mate who achieved more with the substandard machinery in the first three races.   A glimpse of a racier Perez shone through at the Sakhir circuit as he fought hard for position against his team mate amongst others, but at times it seemed as though his racing was teetering over the limit, fuelled by pressure to perform.  McLaren will be pleased at a revival in form, but will need to ensure he reigns in his tactics on the battle field. 

A driver widely regarded as more deserving of the seat at McLaren is Nico Hulkenberg who instead made a somewhat sideways step with his move to Sauber from Force India.  What seemed like a sideways move at the close of the 2012 season now looks like a backward one considering the increased performance demonstrated by his old team so far.  The crushing blow dealt by the necessary withdrawal of his new Sauber from the race in Australia due to a fuel tank problem, was slightly atoned for with an eighth place in Malaysia, but Hulkenberg was reported as demanding more from the team.  Although perhaps not a true reflection of positions due to pit stop sequence, he enjoyed a stint leading the race in China; a reminder to all watching of his shining promise.  Sauber may not possess the potential that attracted the promising young German to the Swiss team, but strong performances in this unfavourable CO32 could make the talent of Nico more luminescent.  He will need to overlook the fortunes of his old team and look ahead to the upgrades promised for Barcelona.  Hired to drive alongside Hulkenberg at Sauber was Mexican Esteban Gutierrez who takes the struggling rookie prize which is perhaps understandable as he starts with no Formula One experience to his name besides winter testing.

After leaving their second driver decision until the dusky hour of winter testing, Force India laid their hopes in the hands of Adrian Sutil, bringing him back from his year in the racing wilderness.  It looked to be an inspired decision as he used the season curtain raiser in Australia to show the world of Formula One what they had been missing.  Malaysia was a disastrous weekend for the team with both Sutil and Paul di Resta’s races terminated due to problems with their wheelnut system during pitstops.  Contact with Gutierrez in China and Massa in Bahrain has halted the momentum of Sutil’s return, revealing another positive to arise from his rehiring; the renewed buoyancy of team mate Paul di Resta.  Outqualifying the German in China, Paul went on to finish in eighth position, then topped that result by equalling a career best fourth place a week later in Bahrain.  The slight nudge off track dealt to the Scot by Adrian, showboated the fierce competition between them.  As long as the team mate rivalry remains at a positive simmer, rather than a destructive boil, the reappearance of Sutil within the team is a positive one.


Jules Bianchi’s move from role as reserve driver at Force India to full race seat at Marussia has been advantageous for both parties.  Developments made on the 2013 Marussia including the introduction of KERS and wind tunnel technologies have been complimented by the skills of the young Frenchman.  Together, they started the season by achieving their target to outperform Caterham and have shown they have the capacity and potential to take the battle to the tail end of the lower mid field. 

With the increasing need for drivers carrying currency, Caterham made the decision to change both their drivers for the 2013 season.  The departure of Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen made way for rookie Giedo van der Garde, and Charles Pic, who switched from Marussia.  Completely changing the driver line up seems to indicate a slightly cracked team in terms of knowledge of, and comparisons with last year’s car as Kovalainen have now been drafted in by the team for the first practice sessions in Bahrain and Spain. The Finn’s experience is being used by the team to support the development of upgrades as they head to the European leg of the season, and so far they are reaping the benefits of his wisdom and knowledge with Charles Pic out qualifying and completing the race ahead of both Marussia’s for the first time this season.


The hype surrounding Valtteri Bottas as a replacement for Bruno Senna for 2013 has been dampened and almost dissipated in the first three races as the uncompetitive Williams has caused the Finn to appear almost anonymous.  Although not managing to shine through other events unfolding on the track in the same way Jules Bianchi has, he outperformed his more experienced team mate in the first three races of the season. 

With a long way still to go until the close of the season, it may seem early to judge whether changes have been made for the better or worse, but with the flat out world of Formula One moving so rapidly, little time is given to make them work. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Drivers mourn real racing: Does Formula One need the ‘excitement’ Pirelli tyres bring?

Five World Champions driving for the best teams on the grid, two of which have multiple titles.  A clutch of drivers on a mission to prove their racing prowess so they can secure a more prominent seat for next season.  A batch of rookie drivers fighting to stay in a sport that has no room for underachievement.  Fierce rivalries between team mates simmering, ready to detonate.   Twenty two of the most similar cars in terms of development seen for a long time.  With this much potential, 2013 should be all about spine tingling, electrifying racing. 

Hearing Jenson Button request permission to challenge Lewis Hamilton for position in Shanghai laid bare the issue of attacking, wheel to wheel racing being replaced by careful, tiptoeing on broken glass type driving.  The tyre issue has long been smoldering  but was bought to the boil with this public appeal over team radio. 

Permission to race? Jenson and Lewis  Photo:  

Following the race on Sunday, Sebastian Vettel told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, “At the moment it is not much to do with racing.”  His team mate Mark Webber also expressed his concerns, likening current Formula One to American wrestling due to the fabricated nature of the competition.  Flat out, on the limit racing is fuel for drivers.  It is in their nature, forms their genetic structure.  Creeping cautiously around the circuit, hoping to gain position over rivals with a clever pit and tyre strategy is not what motivates and excites them.

Whether it was the breathtaking Villeneuve and Arnoux battle at Dijon in 1979, the rousing racing based on foundations of fierce rivalry between Senna and Prost between 1988 and 1990, or the intoxicating contest between Niki Lauda and James Hunt for the 1976 title, today’s drivers were all inspired by displays of thrilling, breakneck driving.  Every time they slide into their car, they must feel a pang of desire to follow in their forefather’s footsteps and really go racing. 

The drivers are not happy, the teams are not happy, the fans are not happy.  Pirelli were asked to make a tyre compound that would make racing more exciting, but why is this needed when all the ingredients for enthralling racing are already there?   So far 2013 seems like a wasted opportunity because the potential it has naturally got is being suffocated by artificiality.  Niki Lauda has hinted that Pirelli may bring a revised compound to Spain,
“I can break the good news that the situation will change from Barcelona.  Then it will get better,”

Hopefully his words ring true.  The capacity this season has for competitive, white knuckle racing leaves no room for simulated, predictable stories like that experienced in China. 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Jules Bianchi: All eyes are watching the dynamic and promising talent.

From the moment he stepped foot into his first kart at the age of three, it was evident that Jules Bianchi and racing would be a harmonious union.  In the words of his father, “he was born in a kart.”   His descent from a racing line of drivers, bought an inevitability that he would have racing blood coursing through his veins ensuring a natural proficiency at hustling his car around a track.  Starting with his Grandfather Mauro, who was a triple winner of the world title in the GT category, the line continued onto his Great Uncle Lucien who brought his Ferrari home to win the twelve hours of Sepang in 1962 and guided his Ford to victory at Le Mans in 1968.  Lucien Bianchi also entered nineteen Formula One races, one of which saw him grace the third step of the podium in Monaco in 1968.  So far he seems to be continuing their racing line, tracing their winning ways. 

Karting days

 In his first year of competition out of the junior category, Bianchi became the Asia – Pacific champion in 2005  and followed this up neatly by becoming the French Formula A karting champion a year later.  Achieving five pole positions, five wins, eleven podiums and ten fastest laps out of a mere thirteen races, made him a spectacular winner of the National Formula Renault title in 2007.   He continued his winning form into the 2008 season when two wins and seven podium appearances helped secure third place, followed by victory in the Masters category at Zolder.  Driving for Nicholas Todt’s ART Grand Prix team in the 2009 Formula Euro season, Jules took the championship with six pole positions, nine wins, seven fastest laps and twelve podiums. 

Photo: F1fanatic

His impressive form spanning five seasons added to his growing reputation as a naturally gifted driver.   Mix speed over a single lap with consistency throughout a race and season, top it off with the ability to take the win when not starting from pole, and you have the recipe for a well rounded, sagacious driver.  His introduction to official members of the Ferrari team in the Spa pit lane came as no surprise and at just twenty years old he became the first young driver to sign for the fledgling Ferrari Young Drivers Programme.  The nurturing the Maranello team gave to Felipe Massa through the early part of his career, including a spell on loan to Sauber for three seasons to prepare him for a Ferrari seat, was the inspiration behind the young driver academy.  Jules Bianchi’s contract with the Scuderia was christened on his inaugural drive of the Prancing horse at a young drivers test at Jerez in 2009.  Under the watchful eye of Ferrari test driver, Andrea Bertolini, and reaping the benefit of his invaluable advice, Jules drove for 91 laps finishing the morning session third fastest just behind current Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo. 


Speaking just prior to the test, in response to a question about where he saw himself a year on, Bianchi said, “ I hope to finish in the top three in GP2 and to have shown my talent so that I can move up still further.  If things don’t go that well, then it would be further motivation to do well the following year.  One thing’s for sure I’m not the sort to let adversity get me down.”  This attitude is deeply admirable, and the ability to use mistakes and difficulties as positive learning opportunities will almost certainly have added to the long list of exceptional qualities he possesses, and successes he has already amassed.     

2010 saw the fruitful partnership between Jules Bianchi and ART Grand Prix continue into GP2 where they came third after achieving three pole positions and four podiums.  Rumours about the Frenchman hijacking the Ferrari test driver role from Giancarlo Fisichello became rife prior to the season, but the rumours were unfounded, with the role put on hold until 2011; a season in which he also drove for Lotus Art in GP2.

Despite the 2011 challenge not being the most successful one of his career, Ferrari continued to show their belief in the masterly sparkle Bianchi delivered on track, by advocating him for the role of reserve driver at Force India for the 2012 season. Following the path previously treaded by Nico Hulkenberg, Bianchi drove on nine Friday practice sessions for the team, and when a race seat became available for 2013  it was widely assumed he would be promoted, as the German had previously.   Speculations continued throughout the winter, until the first Barcelona test, when Force India used the track time to not only test their car, but also to test the skills of Bianchi and Adrian Sutil.  The German was chosen to return to the team after being absent for a year, and has since proved himself worthy of the choice.  Subsequent confirmation that Force India will extend their collaboration with Mercedes regarding engines for the new turbo era in 2014, may have been a deciding factor in their decision.   Team boss Vijay Mallya stated, “I can’t think of a better partner to work with as F1 enters a new and exciting era.”  The strong links Bianchi has with Ferrari could have been seen as a barrier to this partnership. 


A team who didn’t consider a Ferrari connection to be an obstacle were Marussia, who in danger of heading into 2013 without a second driver due to the collapse of their deal with Brazilian Luiz Razia, pounced on the chance to ink a deal with the Frenchman.  In a cyclonic start to the season, Bianchi was fitted with a race seat within hours of the ink being dry, led the MR02 round the Circuit de Catalunya for the final two days of testing and completed laps in the simulator before being unleashed at the opening race of the season in Australia two weeks later. 

Qualifying nineteenth in Melbourne, Bianchi made up four places and finished fifteenth in his maiden Grand Prix with a fastest lap only 1.2 seconds off that set by winner Kimi Raikkonen.  With the aim for Marussia prior to the race being to overcome the Caterhams, Bianchi showed his promise by not only winning this battle, but by demonstrating he can challenge the likes of the Williams and Toro Rosso.  His form continued into Malaysia where he took Sepang by storm, qualifying nineteenth and finishing thirteenth.  Again he left the Caterhams for dust and took the fight to the lower midfield.  Considering that he hadn’t been afforded the luxury of lots of time on track, or off, to gain a full understanding of the MR02, it has been a truly impressive start. 


Max Chilton, the other rookie in the team, must feel as though he a driving alongside an experienced team mate.  Although benefiting from more track time in a Formula One car as a result of his test driver roles, Bianchi is still a rookie in terms of qualifying and races and has shown the world, and Max, just what can be achieved by unfledged practitioner.   Spurred on by his performance in the first two races of the season, Bianchi is keen to maintain the impetus gained by both the team, and him so far, and as they arrive in Shanghai with some new developments, is positive about their chances of closing the gap to those in front. 

With the Ferrari Academy being a concept initiated as a result of Felipe Massa’s development within the team, it is ironic that he is now precariously in danger of being toppled in favour of the first young driver signed to that programme.   Jules Bianchi has shown that the idea of a race seat at the Maranello team is never far from his mind, “It is something we have in mind because I already have a contract with them in the academy, so we want for sure to do something in the future.”  This young Frenchman has raced with a luminosity difficult for any to miss, and coupled  with an intelligent and perceptive attitude has shown that it might just be time to make way for a new crop of dynamic, scarlet veined talent. 

Ryan Smith: A talented young karter talks about racing in the British Rental Karting Championship and his hopes for the future.

Performing at the pinnacle of motor sport commandeering a Formula One car majestically around the most beautiful racing circuits in the world, is a dream for so many young people.  A few of those harbouring this dream embark on a long journey of learning and polishing the skills they will need to enter this world.  With many different series and categories existing to provide aspiring young racers with arenas to do just that, I interviewed Ryan Smith, an eighteen year old from Edinburgh to find out what it is like to race in the British Rental Kart Championships and how he sees his future. 

       The British Rental Karting Championship is a series run over six races, held at varying tracks with the goal being that the competitors demonstrate the skills needed not only to achieve well at one type of circuit, but to be able to adapt driving skill and style to all types.  Races are held inside and outside with other variations including speed and length of the track, therefore the drivers achieving well in the Championship are those who can master them all. However well a driver can adapt to different tracks though, there will always be one that is more suited to their individual style. 

        “I like the bigger circuits, they tend to suit my style a bit more and there is plenty of room to overtake.  We have a mix of bigger and smaller circuits on our calendar, but on the smaller circuits it can be impossible to overtake cleanly, even if you are much quicker than the guy in front.”  “Raceland in Edinburgh is my favourite, without a doubt.  It is my home circuit and it is a great circuit to race on.  The next round of BRKC is being held there so I am hoping I can make up a lot of points there, and hopefully get my first win.”

        Although still working towards his first win, Ryan has graced the podium after coming third in round two this season.  His appearance was slightly tinged with disappointment though. 
        “It was a great feeling getting to spray the champagne for the first time, but at the same time I was disappointed because I had lost second on the run to the line.  But it was still a great result, even if I couldn’t quite see it that way at the time.” 

        With 110 drivers entered for the championship over the season, Ryan is currently running an impressive seventh, and at the pointy end of the table will be looking around at his main rivals. 
        “There are so many great drivers that it is impossible to only highlight one driver as a main rival, but I think the person everyone wants to beat is Lee Hackett.  He is the reigning champion and current championship leader.  I have had two incredible races with him over the past year.  He is a great driver and very difficult to beat, so to have a close race with him is always good.”

       Lee Hackett has taken victories at two rounds so far this year, but this doesn’t mean he can’t be caught as Ryan explained,
       “Each driver is allowed to drop their worst result at the end of the season, and on drop round scores there are only two points between Lee and Sean Brierley.  They are both very good drivers so I think it will be very close between them for the title this year.”

       Ryan may not have been too far away from this battle but for some slight disappointments. 
       “I was originally hoping for a top three finish at the end of the year but my season hasn’t gone quite as well as planned, but I would be happy finishing in the top five.” 

       Passion for racing is often ignited by older generations and Ryan is no different, although it was a certain British Formula One driver who motivated him to make the leap into the world of motor sport.
       “My Dad and my Uncle used to race, so hearing them talk about it made me want to try it, but I couldn’t due to football commitments.  But when Lewis Hamilton joined F1, I thought it was really cool so I got my parents to take me, and it went from there.” “I have always admired Lewis Hamilton a lot.  He has a great driving style and watching him race is what made me want to start racing.”  
        Lewis Hamilton is joined by some legendary drivers on Ryan’s list of inspirational racers.       “I also take a lot of inspiration from Ayrton Senna and Sir Jackie Stewart.  They are both legends of the sport and were incredible drivers.”

       First driving a kart in the same year Lewis Hamilton made his Formula One debut, Ryan had to wait until 2009 to drive a proper race when he joined the Junior Championship at Raceland, his local circuit, and finished third in the championship in his first year.  It was then time to think about his next steps. 
      “I really enjoyed racing at Raceland, but there was only so much I could do there and I wanted to get into a more serious championship.  When I heard about BRKC I thought I’d give it a go”.  Last year I was originally planning on only doing the first round, but I ended up doing the whole season and finished seventh in the end.”

       Being able to progress in this currency controlled sport is the biggest challenge faced by young drivers,
      “I would love to get into single seater racing.  It feels like that would be the best way for me to go from karting.”  “Motor sport is a very expensive business, and to go any further I would need to get a lot of sponsorship.  I think that I could go pretty well if I was given the opportunity.  I just hope that one day I am given the opportunity to prove what I could do at the next level.”

     For every young driver there is an ultimate goal being strived for,
     “ I want to make a career for myself as a racing driver and to be successful.” 
    The most successful in this business reach Formula One and hopefully one day we will see Ryan getting to drive the F1 circuit that most excites him,
    “Spa – Francorchamps.  I just love the combination of corners and the fast, flowing nature of the circuit.  Especially Eau Rouge.  Going through there at full speed in an F1 car must be insane.” 

And he may drive there in an Audi R8 or an Aston Martin; his favourite road cars…

If anyone is interested in sponsoring Ryan, contact him via twitter @ryansmith94

History of team orders in Formula One: What can current drivers learn from the past effects of defiance or compliance?

Respect:  The fundamental factor in determining whether a driver will obey or defy a command from their team.  Team orders have been prevalent ever since the first roar of a Formula One engine vibrated through the air, imprinting itself on a multitude of eardrums.  Since the dawn of the driver’s championship in 1956, calls to follow instructions from the team have been met with obedience, or defiance demonstrating the level of respect a driver possesses both for the man in equal machinery and the team they drive for.

In the opening years of Formula One, team orders were more extreme, with leading drivers in a team often commandeering the car of a team mate if a mechanical failure or incident on track were to befall them.  Going into the 1956 season as a triple world champion, Juan Manuel Fangio enjoyed team leader status at Ferrari.  In the closing race of the season at Monza, the Argentinean’s retirement left his team mate, Peter Collins, with the opportunity to grab the championship for himself. However, in a display of gallant respect for Fangio, he willingly sacrificed his own car, and chances, so that Juan Manuel could cross the finishing line to claim his fourth championship victory.  To surrender one’s own ambitions for another shows an immense amount of respect for his team mate. Collins’ respect for Fangio may have been bolstered by the Argentinian’s own compliance with a request that he allow team mate to both drivers at the time, Stirling Moss, past to win the 1955 British Grand Prix.  Being a value that is fluidic between two parties, respect shown for another can invite it to be returned. 

Fangio and Collins.

 A driver on the receiving end of both a call to obey an order and being disadvantaged by defiance of one was Gilles Villeneuve.   Team mate Jody Schekter was helped to win the 1979 driver’s title after Gilles dutifully abided by Ferrari’s wish that the South African take the victory in Monza, leaving himself second in the race and championship.   Exhibiting respect for Ferrari and his team mate in this way did not, however, help him three years later at Imola in 1982.  Gilles’ team mate Didier Peroni won the race, or as Gilles believed, pillaged what should have been his victory, after Peroni rebelled against the Ferrari rule that drivers stay in the positions held when initially reaching first and second positions.   This disregard for team orders had devastating consequences, as unable to free himself from the fog of fury, and determined to secure pole position over Peroni, Villenueve attacked qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix with a fervour that resulted in the tragic loss of his life. 

Destructive in definition, defiance of team orders is damaging to relationships within a team.  Relations at Williams became strained after the 1981 Brazilian Grand Prix.  Team orders stated that reigning Champion Alan Jones should be handed the lead should a one-two situation arise.  At only round two of the season, Carlos Reutemann paraded his umbrage at this by preventing Jones from passing.  Bad blood broiled between the two becoming a contributing factor in the retirement of Jones at the end of the season.  A subsequent row with team boss, Frank Williams signalled his departure from Formula One following the 1982 Brazilian Grand Prix, a year after his rebellion.  The lack of respect for the team made evident by his insubordination was clearly an issue that didn’t go away. 

Jones and Reutemann with Frank Williams.  Photo: Supplied

Another team mate relationship damaged by refusal to comply was the one between fellow French drivers  Rene Arnoux and Alain Prost.  Having previously shown the fervour and desire Arnoux had for victory in France through his exhilarating battle with Villenueve at Dijon in 1979, perhaps patriotism and longing to win a home race clouded his judgement at Paul Ricard 1982, when he refused to concede the victory to Renault team leader Prost.  In a season that saw the highest number of race winners in the history of the sport, the points lost were vital. 
Not being their usual policy to elect a clear number one driver, prior agreements to safeguard maximum points for the team was a familiar approach at McLaren.  It was one of these agreements that caused Prost to suffer another injustice.  Following a restart at the San Marino Grand Prix in 1989, Ayrton Senna reneged on a pre race agreement stating that the driver in the lead at the first turn will be left to lead the race.  The incident added fuel to an already simmering fire between the team mates.  A similar agreement was in place prior to the 1998 Australian Grand Prix.  Having reached turn one in first place, Mika Hakkinen was the driver to benefit from the team orders in order to take victory.  Mid way through the race, he lost his position to team mate David Coulthard following a mysterious call to come into the pits, leaving Coulthard to honour his part of the deal by handing back the place at the end of the race.  Though condemned for this move, the respect the Scot held for his team and team mate was clearly apparent.   

Coulthard hands back the lead.  Photo:

With team orders being such a prickly subject, drivers should take lessons from the past to help them handle it correctly.  While obsequiously obeying team orders ensures a harmonious working environment, defiance can have devastating effects.  

Monday, 1 April 2013

Blame for Red Bull’s team orders incident should lie with Helmut Marko.

With the utterance of the derogatory words “Get him out of the way, he is too slow” during the Malaysian Grand Prix, it was clear to the world that Sebastian Vettel holds little respect for Mark Webber.  The moment his Red Bull swept past to take the lead, defying instructions from the pitwall, his lack of respect for the team was also transparent.  

Trust between the team mates was eroded during the Turkish Grand Prix in 2010. Running in first and second positions, Vettel attempted an overtaking manoeuvre on Mark resulting in a collision which put him out of the race and demoted Webber to third.  The short term ramifications of this incident was the loss of 28 points for the team, but long term, their fortieth lap smash left a relationship fragmented and fractured.    Although Vettel was the driver widely regarded to be at fault for the incident, Red Bull team advisor, Helmut Marko, came down firmly on his side apportioning the blame to Mark and his race engineer, Ciaron Pilbeam. 

The team mate tangle at Turkey that eroded trust between them.Photo:  

Following the race in Malaysia Mark Webber said that Sebastian will continue to be protected by the team.  Vettel is their protégé, they have nurtured him since he entered the Red Bull Junior team at the age of eleven and his relationship with Helmut Marko is strong.  The events in Istanbul, and ensuing defence of his actions by the team are an example of the protection Webber alluded to, and will have given the young German an inkling that he can do as he pleases.  If a child endures no consequences for behaviour, that behaviour will escalate. 

Three races later at the British Grand Prix, Mark Webber took victory despite having his new spec  front wing taken to replace Vettel’s, following damage caused by the German to the same part in practice.  Understandably still reeling from the blatant favouritism oozing from the aftermath of the race in Turkey, Webber was incensed by yet another example of spoilt Seb, and celebrated his win by making his feelings clear, “Not bad for a number two driver.”  A year later at Silverstone, hot on the tail of his sheltered team mate, Mark was told not to race him, an order the Australian chose to defy.  These actions can be understood considering the bias he battles against in the team.  Unfairness in any walk of life breeds bad feeling.

Helmut Marko further compounded the obvious nepotism surrounding the relationship between himself and Sebastian Vettel, and his disdain for Mark Webber by making negative comments about the performance and strength of the Australian earlier this year. 

Marko and Webber.  Photo:

Although the intended outcome of the recent episode of Red Bull team orders was in Mark Webber’s favour, the actual outcome was in total contrast.  Speaking after the race, Helmut Marko said, “But then came the attack against that strategy and it got out of control.  You couldn’t control it over the radio or anything like that.  Sebastian the racer came out and took the lead.”   In the same race Nico Rosberg respected team orders, so why can’t Vettel?  Who is to say that Nico is less hungry than Vettel?  Bernie Ecclestone’s defence made reference to the fact that he is a triple world champion so he knows what he is doing.  Do we make special allowances for drivers because they are championship winners?  The difference in the case of Vettel is that Red Bull and Helmut Marko in particular, have created and developed a selfish beast that can’t be tamed.  Who can halt petulance born from a culture of ‘what Seb wants, Seb gets?’

Sebastian Vettel has followed up his immediate apology for his actions in Malaysia by visiting the team’s base in Milton Keynes to make further admission of his mistake to members there.  As identified by Christian Horner, he has been surprised by the ferocity of the backlash.  Were his apologies genuine or were they compulsory to keep some measure of harmony in the team?  Having had Helmut Marko support him so staunchly, is it any wonder the team didn’t figure highly in his mind when he saw a chance for a win and pounced?    Maybe this incident will form part of a learning curve for him, helping him realise that he is not bigger than the team, and giving him an understanding of the effect selfish actions can have within a team environment. 

Vettel tries to make amends.  Photo:

As team principal, Horner’s priority is the constructor’s championship, so every decision made is a step towards that goal.  Having a united team striving towards the same goal is imperative for success and that means keeping Mark Webber happy; something he is well aware of.  Christian Horner explained that the conflict he needs to manage is not between the team mates, but between driver and team.  Vettel’s desire and greed for more wins and titles is all encompassing.  However he would not have amassed the trophies he has, were it not for the team and an impeccably designed car, but the safeguarding he has received from Helmut Marko has clouded his ability to recognise this.  Marko’s transparent love for Seb and equally obvious disparagement of Webber has been detrimental to the team and their aspirations.  If Vettel is unable to learn from this and if Helmut Marko fails to perceive what impact his partisan, biased treatment of the drivers has, then Horner will have a continuing battle to contend with.