By on March 25, 2013

Rubens Barrichello’s daughter once asked him why he looked so sad on the podium; to make his children as well as the tifosi feel better about Ferrari’s relentless approach to team orders, he decided to make sure he always smiled from then on. The contrast between the crinkled mouth and unsmiling eyes he displayed in the podiums after that makes for an interesting study in human dynamics. How can a man feel so conflicted about standing on the most important podium in the racing world, week in and week out?

At the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix yesterday, however, there were no smiling faces at all.

It was a day of team decisions and team orders. Fernando Alonso bashed his front wing in at the start and should have headed directly in for another, but with a drying track and the unlovable prospect of two pitstops within a few laps, he decided to stay out. Or perhaps the team decided. Ferrari’s pit crew were reportedly out and ready with a new nose when Alonso went by. Was that simple insurance? Or did the man himself decide to chance another lap? Ferrari’s official statement assigns responsibility for the decision to the team, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? Surely Alonso will miss these points later on in the season.

With Fernando off-track and Massa looking unlikely to challenge for the podium, it became a tale of two teams. First, the Mercedes team of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Few people have been paid as much to accomplish as little as Mr. Rosberg has in Formula One; during his years with Michael Schumacher he usually outqualified the old man but he could also be counted on to fall back during the start while the seven-time world champion pushed forward. He also frequently yielded to his brasher, braver former GP2 competitor Lewis Hamilton on-track in a fashion that can best be described as “wince-inducing”.

With Hamilton as his teammate, however, Rosberg appears to be slightly less meek about the whole thing. Near the end of the race, he and Hamilton raced for position and when Ross Brawn, the team principal, ordered them into line to finish the race, Rosberg complained over the radio in a manner that was clearly meant to be heard around the world — and was. “I could go so much faster,” he whined, “if he would get out of the way.”

“Lewis is also under control,” Brawn replied. In other words: Stop kidding yourself. Hamilton’s conserving fuel and in a straight fight he’d pull your panties off the same way he’s been doing it for over half a decade now. Mr. Hamilton, meanwhile, provided a moment of amusement when he inadvertently pitted at the McLaren garage for tires. The Woking crew, perhaps still feeling a little bitter about the way Hamilton has left the team for more money after being basically a charity project for Ron Dennis in his youth, waved him out and over to his new home. Still, Lewis looked sad on the podium, and in the after-race press statement indicated that Rosberg deserved the position. Gracious, but unnecessary. Only a blind man without access to Braille reports of the past five seasons could possibly think Rosberg will seriously contend against his teammate in 2013 for anything other than endorsement contracts. As much as I despise Lewis Hamilton as a human being, his talent exceeds Nico’s by an order of magnitude.

Two steps up the podium from Hamilton stood the triple world champion himself, young Sebastian Vettel. Your humble author had the pleasure of watching Vettel’s F1 debut at the USGP years ago and was impressed then and now. Yes, Sebastian has usually had the best car; no, it hasn’t been easy to put that best car on top three years running. At an age where most young men are incapable of completing college homework assignments on time or getting their Civics cleaned up in time for an import-drag-race event, Sebastian has driven at the highest level possible with astounding consistency. And if you think the car wins races by itself, an examination of Mark Webber’s record shows that it doesn’t.

That was surely on Vettel’s mind as the team orders came through to him at the final round of pitstops. Dial back the engines, conserve fuel, “multi21″ (which apparently means that the #2 driver may stay in front of the #1 driver). Your humble author does not pretend to have a sliver of Vettel’s talent, but as someone who possesses a hotter-than-average racing temperament I would be more than happy to suggest the German’s interior monologue:

Seven points. Seven points. They want me to hold station and give this idiot seven points. The championship is often won and lost on less, and they want me to circle around behind this half-ass, this indifferent starter, this whiner, this never-was. Oh, fuck that twice.

DRIVE’s Leo Parente, no stranger to competing at the sharp end of an open-wheel series himself, has said, “If you hate Seb for this, you hate a real racer.” I’m inclined to agree. Nominally speaking, it would have been the reasonable, team-oriented, responsible thing to do to follow Webber home. As a racer myself, I have to agree with Vettel. Mr. Webber will never win the world championship. He’s incapable of driving at the level required on a consistent basis. His starts are pathetic. He is difficult to pass, but he’s not a great passer. Most importantly, he fails again and again at the fundamental F1 skill of driving to plan with metronomic perfection for an entire stint. I’d love to ride some mountain bikes with Mark Webber, I admire him as an individual, I think that of the entire grid he’s probably one of the so-called best blokes out there, but he cannot and will not get the job done and in that situation TAKE THE SEVEN POINTS AWAY FROM HIM NOW.

The failing wasn’t Sebastian’s, it was Christian Horner’s for not moving the guy who cannot win the championship out of the way of the guy who can. That’s the bottom line. Teamwork wins championships, and there was a deficiency of teamwork at the Red Bull garage. Ross Brawn kept Rosberg behind Hamilton because Rosberg isn’t a winner and Hamilton is. Mr. Horner should learn from his elders in this case. Luckily for him and for the possibilities of a fourth world championship, Sebastian Vettel did what was necessary.

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73 Comments on “F1 Report: Smells Like Team Spirit...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    I always thought Rubens always looked like a slightly younger Dominique Pinon on the podium.

    But yeah, I don’t have any particular sympathy for Webber. Why in the hell would he have been happy with an orders victory?

  • avatar
    comrade slow

    Finally, after reading a dozen “Seb the Villain” articles, someone sees the more realist side of this situation. Seb clearly isn’t the type to be less hungry after three championships. He’s becoming more like a Schumacher or Lance Armstrong… “I’m the fastest, I will win at all cost and the team is here to help make that happen”. The team have to accept this and cater to it, otherwise off he will go. So, for Webber, you need to accept it and do your best. If you want to be in F1 and get the best possible results for yourself, you’re in the best position right now. Seb will have to live with himself knowing his talent is the only reason he can be the d*&k with an innocent and playful demeanor. Now that he has had a taste of the dark side of the force, I’m very curious to see what happens next.

    … and it makes for phenomenal racing drama on and off the track. Well done, mate.

  • avatar
    Sammy B

    I have no problems with Vettel passing Webber if this was in fact a “have at it boys” type of scenario. The racer doesn’t settle for second. I get that. What I do have a problem with (if this is in fact that case…I’m assuming it is, but I don’t know), is if Webber followed the team’s instructions to dial down the mapping and conserve the engine. If Vettel decides to let Webber turn things down and then on his own decides “F that!” and goes full rich on the attack, that seems a bit sneaky. Not really a fair fight. Fully agree Vettel is more talented and likely would have passed Webber anyway, but to take advantage of that just bothers me. Almost like when a football player fakes an injury late in the game to get his team a quasi time-out. Play it properly and let the talent win.

    • 0 avatar
      Advance_92

      And this is why Vettel is the villian. Sucker punching an opponent is never going to gain you respect no matter how great a fighter you are.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I agree with your first point. However, I don’t think you have read the article carefully. The team principal was wrong to give that order in the first place. Again, who is Webber to be given those “free” seven points? Vettel is a triple champion and he is fighting for his fourth. Webber is no match for Vettel. It’s just astounding that at this point Vettel is given orders to stay behind Webber. That’s seven points. Championships have been decided by less than that.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        But what is more important for Christian Horner? Vettel’s 4th WDC or Red Bull’s 4th WCC and inner-team harmony?

        Yes, Sebastian is clearly the more talented, but by doing what he did shows disrespect to the team as a whole. Of course he doesn’t want to stay behind Webber, but he should not be expecting 100% commitment from those around them if he can’t show the same to them.

        At this point, if Seb needs any help from Webber at any time going forward, he’s going to have to know that it won’t be there. That could cost him a lot more than 7 points when it will be a lot harder to make them up.

    • 0 avatar
      Patrick Smith

      The problem with this thinking is it attributes racer-think to only one person… Vettel. Webber had the same opportunity to crank up the power too.

      If I was Webber, in the same situation, I would have done that the first time Vettel showed any chance of aggression. Why? Because I’m a racer. And I’m going to beat you. No matter what.

      That’s the kind of mentality F1 should be fostering. Not this pansy-loving flower showering peacefest where a guy who’s NOT driving is calling the shots.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    I understand the sentiment that says “let Webber dial up his mapping and make it a fair fight”, but Webber has had his (countless) chances to out-qualify Vettel every Saturday and consistently fails to do so. As much as it may hurt his ego, he’s not in a position to complain (or ask) for anything. If he decided to quit tomorrow, there are plenty of hot shoes who’d want that seat. Qualify and start better or put on the “Barrichello smile” and play the role of Vettel’s bridesmaid.
    Same thing goes for Rosberg for that matter (and would apply eqully to Vettel if he were the slower of the two).

  • avatar
    Boff

    The team v. individual dynamic is the straw that stirs the F1 drink. As we’ve seen in the past, ordering one driver to cede a position to the other is far more controversial than ordering them to hold station. Horner/Red Bull (like Mercedes) decided to take the path of least resistance and paid the price (unlike Mercedes). Still, it was dirty pool by Seb the “Greek peddler”. If “real racers” are defined as ruthlessly unsporting megalomaniacs, then God rot real racers.

  • avatar
    Syrax

    Wait, Rosberg is only faster than Hamilton because he’s holding back but Vettel was second because he is a better driver and shouldn’t obey?

    Also, Barrichello doesn’t have a daughter.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      Both Rosberg and Vettel, given free rein, had every right to try and pass.

      Both Webber and Lewis were on fuel and tire saving strategies, and both pit garages wanted their drivers to save the cars for the next race. This is important in a series where changing an engine or gearbox early can cost you a dozen places on the starting grid.

      F1 is a team sport, and while team orders are ugly, they work to ensure that in the long term, the team will win. Vettel basically risked it all by defying team orders and doing something that might have cost the team all forty three points they collected last weekend.

      I admire the racing spirit behind that. I don’t admire the lack of sportsmanship.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        niky….

        Here is Vettel’s elaborate apology:

        “I messed up today. I would love to come up with a nice excuse as to why I did it, but I can’t. I can understand Mark’s frustration and the team not being happy with what I did today; I owe an explanation to him and the whole team. I will try to explain to them later. We talk about this situation happening many times and what we will do if and when it happens and normally it doesn’t, but today it did and I should have translated the call into action. I got the call and I ignored it. Mark and I are used to fighting each other when we’re close, but with the tyres how they are now, and not knowing how long they will last, it was an extremely big risk to ignore the call to stay second. We could have ended up finishing eighth or ninth after destroying the tyres in those two laps; I put myself above a team decision, which was wrong. I didn’t mean to and I apologise. I’m not happy I’ve won, I made a mistake and if I could undo it I would. It’s not easy right now and I owe apologies to Mark and the team.”

        http://www.formula1.com/news/headlines/2013/3/14409.html

        I think he knows he made a mistake in obedience, and ‘fessed up. But in the heat of battle, when emotions and adrenaline are running high, and your whole “programming” is to drive like hell and win at all cost, it’s sometimes hard to back off, considering the “psychological momentum” involved. Frankly, my respect of Vettel has gone up and not down as a result of all this.

        From a sensible season-long strategy point-of-view, if his team manger (Chris Horner) wanted to preserve cars, engines, and tires, he should have ordered Webber, who has ZERO realistic chance at being the 2013 Champion, to let Vettel pass. That way Red Bull would have the best opportunity to acquire BOTH the Drivers and Constructor’s awards, and keep peace in the family. It seems that the Mercedes Team manager (Ross Brawn) understood that concept much better this time.

        ————–

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    What do you have against Hamilton?

  • avatar
    vaujot

    I guess I sort of called what Jack’s analysis would be.
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/if-you-waste-your-time-watching-just-one-video-today-let-it-be-this-one/#comment-2024825
    I think you are a little hard on Rosberg, though. He outpointed Schumi in all three seasons they were teammates. But I haven’t followed Formula 1 much in those seasons so I can’t comment on how much Rosberg yielded to Hamilton in whatever fashion.

  • avatar
    James2

    Alonso should have known better. His car just couldn’t turn anymore. What’s Italian for ‘stupid’?

    • 0 avatar
      gussie_fink-nottle

      His car was turning well enough for him to cede position then repass a perfectly healthy Red Bull car driven by Webber. It wasnt completely implausible for him to believe he could put in another lap to assess a switch to dry tires.

  • avatar
    dougjp

    Webber just missed in qualifying but was stronger than Vettel throughout the race, until the team “cancelled the racing”. So when not applying pre-determined biases, Webber should have won.

    Based on the argument put forward, the management should all resign as they are irrelevant. Instead, a history book of past driver accomplishments should be used to pre-determine the finishing order and nobody is allowed to have an especially good day or be recognized for having made improvements.

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Butterfly

      I agree. An underdog deserves his chance, especially since its only 2nd race of the season. Mark should have won as he deserved to.

      For a long time F1 has been quite a cesspool of dirty behind-the-scenes politics and backstabbing moves. To me it is the honest drivers like Webber, who manage to maintain at least some appeal towards this twisted sport.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    I’m surprised Alonso didn’t take everyone behind him out as well. There had to be carbon fiber bits all over. Would love to see the NASCAR boys try to duct tape that back on!
    Great to see exciting racing return to F-1 again!

  • avatar
    AFX

    I just want to comment on Leo Parente since he was mentioned in the article. First time I saw him on YouTube during one of those Drive shows I was thinking to myself “Who the crap is this annoying guy ?!”. Leo’s got a high pitched voice and rapid paced delivery style that is akin to fingernails on a chalkboard. If Mel Brooks had a lovechild with an auctioneer that’d be Leo.

  • avatar
    beefmalone

    ” Ross Brawn kept Rosberg behind Hamilton because Rosberg isn’t a winner and Hamilton is.”

    If this were true then he wouldn’t need team orders to keep from getting passed.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Jack, What is so bad about Hamilton?

  • avatar
    SeanC

    People have naturally been referring to Turkey 2010 when talking about this, when the Red Bulls crashed fighting for the lead. Another interesting incident happened during that race AFTER Vettel crashed out.

    The McLarens took the lead and were told to turn down their engines and take the 1-2. Button in 2nd ignored this and overtook Hamilton. Did anybody talk about that afterwards? It certainly didn’t get as much media attention as this. Why? Because he didn’t go on to win? (Hamilton then turned his engine up and retook the lead) Or was it because the cars were already running #1 and #2 in that order.

    Why didn’t Button win though, because Hamilton didn’t give up like Webber, because he’s a RACER!

    Did Button apologise?
    No.
    Did Hamilton expect an apology?
    No.

    Webber seems to expect more than an apology.

    Similar situation, different outcome. But the fact of the matter is Button went against the team. OK team orders weren’t supposed to be done back then, but that’s not to say teams didn’t have a strategy pre-race for this eventually.

  • avatar
    TomHend

    Sorry forgot to tack on another take, but I am with you Jack:

    http://joesaward.wordpress.com/

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Would Rick Hendrick order Jimmy Johnson not to pass Jeff Gordon? Only in some bizzaro-world alternative universe. Stuff like this only makes F-1 slightly less intriguing/exciting than greyhound racing.

  • avatar

    Jack,
    You are starting to remind me of Frank Deford. Thanks for that!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    If Vettel’s so great and not just yet another Newey passenger, why did the pedophiles at RedBull keep Webber when they could have had Hamilton? They want someone Vettel can beat, and they’ll give Webber the brown bottle treatment with sabotaged launch control because Vettel can’t even be counted on to do that consistently. Hamilton and Alonso rate each other as the biggest talents they face. They also both know what it means to have a car penned by Newey.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Wow.. admit it man. You’re full of it. I can’t believe that people still honestly think that Webber is even in the same league with Vettel. If Webber is so great, why didn’t he win the 2010 championship? Instead he got stuck behind Alonso in Abu Dhabi, who was stuck behind a Russian pay driver who was behind the wheel of a Renault with a “Lada” sticker. And then came the 2011 and 2012. No comparison. Instead of challenging Vettel and virtually blackmailing the team (“I will ignore the order and maybe crash into him”), Webber should really be putting a Barrichello smile for having the chance to drive the faster car on the race track.

      As for not hiring Hamilton, I don’t see why RBR should have hired him. RBR already got its golden kid, he is called Vettel. They don’t want to end in the ugly mess amid a vicious rivalry like McLaren had in 1989 or 2007. By now, it’s clear to anyone IMO, that the best way for a team to have a shot at world driver’s championship is to have the whole team, including “the other driver” working towards this goal. Vettel vs Hamilton in the same car could have been a disaster in either of the past three years, and maybe a boon for Alonso.

      • 0 avatar
        Syrax

        You know you just said that Alonso isn’t that great, right? Why didn’t he win the 2010 championship if he is so great?

        • 0 avatar
          Jacob

          Don’t put the words into my mouth. All I said in my post that in 2010 Abu Dhabi, Alonso was Stuck behind Petrov, and Webber was stuck behind Alonso, for most of race. You may know that before this final race, the ranking by points was Webber (1), Alonso (2), Vettel (3). Vettel won the race and won the championship. Alonso is still a great driver though. But yes… I must say, the fact that he was stuck behind Petrov for so long proves he is not _that_ great, or perhaps Petrov (in his rookie year) was much better than we give him credit for.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    It’s not just about the apology or the agreement, though it is about that.

    It’s about the sinking feeling knowing that Seb intentionally ignored the team agreement, knowing full well that he would have the psychological advantage over Webber here after. Doesn’t matter if they agree to gift Webber the 7 points later in the season… the fact that the opportunity may never come again is in itself psychologically damaging.

    Therein lies the sinking feeling. It’s one thing to know that your teammate is faster than you. It’s another to know that he’s faster than you and also intentionally knifed you in the back.

    Jack, you got it wrong, if Lewis and Nico were both being controlled, that’s the assumption that you would have with the Redbull drivers as well… but if the guy in front is conserving till the end of the race, he’s at the mercy at the guy behind… by the time that you’ve processed that he’s no longer playing on the same side, he will have been in the “out-to-win” mentality for longer than you have.

    Also, the way team orders are put out is backwards. As far as I can remember, until they intentionally started driving into one another, Prost and Senna only ever agreed not to fightfor first corner, it was racing after that (or until fuel became an issue, back when there was a refueling ban).

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m so confused. Why would a manager order a racer NOT to win? Points are points.

    • 0 avatar
      panzerfaust

      They were conserving the tyres, which tend to degrade (in performance) rather quickly. For all intents and purposes Red Bull had maximum points in the bag, there was no need to push and risk anything, especially an incident with team mates racing one another. Also the less wear and tear on the cars the better given the engines have to last four races and the transmissions eight and there are penalties for changing them early.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        All fair enough, but couldn’t they have ordered Webber to take 2nd? Why did Webber have to win?

        • 0 avatar
          panzerfaust

          Sure they could have, but that would have been seen as being unfair to Webber. And so the order was to hold position.

        • 0 avatar
          mannygg

          You mean order the driver in the lead, the one who was currently winning to concede to the driver coming second? That is ridiculous.

          Red Bull team points are TEAM points. It doesn’t matter for the constructors championship who the faster driver is, just that the 43 points are held and the drivers don’t don’t destroy their cars or their chance at points battling each other.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Well, because the teams _other_ driver was already in the first position, and he is proven maniac. He would not cede the position to the other driver even with team order. That’s why the team gave order to Vettel to hold his second place, which was stupid. Vettel has proven many times that he is faster than Webber and Vettel is the team’s best hope to win the driver championship this year. If Webber had been RBR’s “number 1″ driver, RBR would have had 0 driver champion titles by now (instead of three).

      • 0 avatar
        mannygg

        Of course he wouldn’t want to cede the position. If vettel wanted the no1 podium, than he could have put himself in 1st place after the last pit stop.

        At this stage in the season the championship is anybodies. There was no-one in front of the Red Bulls and no one seriously challenging. Therefore, there is no justification for forcing a driver to give up their position! A hold position order is completely different.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve65

        He’s proved many times that he’s better in a car with a blown diffuser. That’s not quite the same thing. Did you notice how uncompetitive Vettel was last year, until the aerodynamicists managed to find a way around the ban?

  • avatar
    dialing_wand

    The post that made me stop reading TTAC. So much anger.

    And I loved the story about the Ferrari/STD/adventure.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    Seb should have hopped out of the car and said…. “In the past Mark has ignored team orders in order to try and take victories, I share his desire to win, and I went for it.” Because that is pretty much the truth of the matter. Both want to win, both will happily screw each other over to win (see Silverstone 2011 for Webbers attempt and ignoring of team orders, where he gave the very opposite of Vettel’s half-hearted apology; Mark clearly wasn’t contrite at all, and would’ve ignored the order again given the opportunity.)
    What I can’t understand though, is why the press (and fans ) deem it ok for Webber to ignore team orders, because he’s the ‘underdog’ yet when Vettel succumbs to a bit of the red mist he’s the big bad guy. There has been a claim that Webber didn’t expect the overtake yet he had two full laps of Vettel making aggressive moves behind him. It would take a rather dim mind to be taken by surprise after that. As soon as Vettel made his move, Webber tried to block him, which means that they were racing.
    The problem with RBR right now is that Christian Horner does not understand that behavior that is rewarded/ignored gets repeated. The situation at Mercedes is an excellent contrast, because I don’t think Rosberg or Hamilton would dare cross Ross Braun and defy his orders however arbitrary they may be.
    Red Bull’s message to Vettel was a cryptic: “Multi 21.” Vettel ignored the command and used his DRS to pass his team mate. Christian Horner immediately had to go into crisis management mode.
    Mercedes’ team order was clear: “Negative. Stay where you are. Open the gap. We are in control.” Nico would not dare defy his boss.
    Result: we have mess at RBR and harmony at Mercedes. Either Red Bull needs to do away with team orders entirely — a move I’d applaud, even if it loses them the championship — or it needs to find the appropriate whip and/or carrot to have both of its drivers respect orders when given.
    It appears that currently, neither driver gives a hoot in hell what the team thinks, and yet the team is still half-heartedly trying to tell them what to do. That situation is healthy for no one except the F1 journos who get to fill column-inches describing the fallout and huffing and puffing about Seb’s lack of sportsmanship or some other bloody rot.
    I doubt Horner has the ‘attachments’ to discipline Vettel in any meaningful way. So long as Vettel gets to keep the points and the trophy whatever Horner, Helmut Marko or Red Bull Corporate says is irrelevant. What are the odds that this might just happen again if the opportunity arises? Pretty good I’d wager, given that at this juncture Sebastian Vettel is the team Principal by default.

    PS: “Few people have been paid as much to accomplish as little as Mr. Rosberg has in Formula One.” Nico is no where near the league of Herr Ralph Schumacher!

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      “” Seb should have hopped out of the car and said…. “In the past Mark has ignored team orders in order to try and take victories, I share his desire to win, and I went for it.” “”

      I disagree. Seb could have said this. Instead, Seb shed a few crocodile tears by publicly admitting that he did wrong. This was a nice diplomatic move. He collected his points, then took the blame (as if he will be punished.) Who knows for how long he still needs to work together with Webber in one team. He probably didn’t want to make this partnership more adversarial than it already is.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      I pretty much agree with Panzer. Except I think SV should have just said something like “I’m not giving away 7 points to anyone, least of all to my slower teammate, as I am here to win my fourth WC.”

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Tom – – –

    I can’t know Jack’s mind here, but I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that Hamilton left his former team, McLaren, under rather ugly circumstances, after that team nurtured him as a child prodigy since age 13; and then he whines and complains that everything that goes wrong is somebody else’s fault. Kind of spoiled brat behavior. Examples:
    http://jalopnik.com/the-haters-guide-to-2008-formula-one-champion-lewis-ha-458368227

    ———–

  • avatar
    TW4

    “The failing wasn’t Sebastian’s, it was Christian Horner’s for not moving the guy who cannot win the championship out of the way of the guy who can. That’s the bottom line.”

    Horner can do basic math. He didn’t order Webber to pull over b/c F1 almost certainly levees fines for ‘unsportsmanlike conduct’ or some such infraction for arranging the podium by using team orders to orchestrate fake overtaking. Ferrari are notorious for degrading the competition with their moronic political dramas. When the FIA legalized team orders again, they weren’t going to allow a repeat of Austria 2002 or anything similar.

    Horner probably couldn’t order Webber to pull over, and he couldn’t allow the possibility of Turkey 2010. He order Vettel to hold position, at which point all hell broke loose.

    • 0 avatar
      niky

      A driver moving over for his teammate has never resulted in a penalty, even when “team orders” were prohibited.

      • 0 avatar
        TW4

        If I had a nickel for every naive person on this planet, I’d make the Sultan of Brunei look like a peasant.

        Do you really think the FIA are going re-legalized team orders and allow Austria 2002 to happen again? They almost certainly have fines in place to stop teams from ruining the authenticity of the contest. They’d be foolish not to.

        These types of fines are common place in sport. NASCAR uses them constantly, and the drivers and teams complain about them constantly. MLB contemplated using fines to punish teams for pitchers who waste time and batters who wander around outside of the box. The NHL mulled fines (perhaps implemented fines) to stop teams from using the neutral zone trap, which some people consider to be an integral part of the ‘dead puck’ era.

        We just saw one of the most savvy team bosses in F1 refuse to extend the championship lead of his star driver. Horner is not stupid. An outside force, unseen by the common punter and denied by the incurious Bambi-eyed herd creatures, put Christian Horner in a Catch-22. Vettel’s indifference to the complexity of Horner’s management responsibilities, sent Horner into a rage, though Vettel’s victory was an absolutely better outcome for the team.

        That makes a lot more sense than to imagine that Christian Horner has forgotten how to manage a team.

        • 0 avatar
          niky

          Errh. Team orders ARE legal in Formula One. They’ve been effectively legal since 2010, when Felipe got the call “Fernando is faster than you.”

          Ferrari was dragged to court for that incident, and got slapped with a fine but lost no points. After the hubbub from that incident died down, the FIA finally admitted that there was no way they could prevent team orders. Other teams, like McLaren and Red Bull used coded messages, which could not be construed as direct orders. Thus they lifted the ban for 2011.

          Even WHEN team orders were illegal, drivers changed positions, anyway. Even after the ban in 2002, Ferrari drivers regularly swapped positions in races depending on who was in a better position to win the championship. Massa did it for Raikkonen in 2007. Raikkonen did it for Massa in 2008. This makes Massa’s tantrum over the incident in 2010 seem all the more ridiculous, since he’d done this before without complaint.

          Over the past three years, teammates have been merrily swapping position without much scandal and “holding” position with even less. If Horner had told Webber to let Vettel through, it would have hardly raised an eyebrow in the paddock, as everyone knows the Red Bull team favor Vettel over Webber. And no fine or reprimand would have been given. The only monetary penalty Horner would have been avoiding by issuing the hold position order was whatever they have to pay Mark every time Sebastian pees in his coffee.

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            niky…

            I fully agree with your comment. In the movie “Grand Prix” (1966), the team manager (Jeff Jordan) screamed that a slower team driver (Pete Aron) HAS to let the faster one (Scott Stoddard) drive on through.

            And a blue-flag was waved and pointed at Pete Arron to demand that he let Stoddard get by. So, wasn’t that a form of team communication? No, it wasn’t radio, but its intent was the same, and prompted just the opposite of what happened at Malaysia.

            Considering that Webber had already ignored team orders in 2011 at Silverstone and that Webber tried to “wall” Vettel in this race, Vettel had a very understandable instinct to race to the end.

            The real test of this situation won’t come from us commenters: it will come from Red Bull or Bernie Ecclestone, if any issue is made out of this at all, and that seems unlikely at this point.

            ———-

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Wow, Jack. We couldn’t have said this better. Who is Webber to be given seven free points? This was an order to Vettel, three time world champion who is gunning for forth? Seriously? I really like Vettel/Webber duo, part of the reason because Webber doesn’t give a quarter for Vettel and races him hard when he can. But Horner was certainly to blame here IMO too.

    • 0 avatar
      dude500

      If Webber knew the race was on to the end, then more likely than not Webber would have won. He was faster than Vettel until the team orders came. Even after he was passed, Mark still adhered to orders to conserve the car. The problem here is that Mark adhered to an agreement, while Seb did not. Either there shouldn’t be team orders, or both drivers have to adhere to it.

      • 0 avatar
        Jacob

        I more sensible rule is that the drivers should adhere to orders that make sense. Giving an order to let Webber collect extra 7 points didn’t many any sense. Championships had been won by 1 point, and down the road this year, almost certainly it will be Vettel fighting for the title against Alonso or someone else, but not Webber. From team tactics perspective, Vettel should be allowed to collect any points he can get. Considering that Webber probably wouldn’t have accepted a team order either, the most sensible action would have been to issue no orders, and if the cars crashed simply fire Webber. Webber just doesn’t get it that the entire team works to make Vettel win WDC. Ferrari would have dispatched an “unfaithful” 2nd driver a long time ago.

        • 0 avatar
          Steve65

          How many points will Vettel and Red Bull lose if his motor blows or his transmission needs to be swapped 2 races from now, as a result of being unnecessarily overstressed from this one? You cite the points difference, but pretend (or perhaps are in denial about) the long-term strategic reasons “hold position” orders are issued after the final round of pit stops.

  • avatar
    dude500

    I’m surprised by the commentary that paints Webber as a terrible driver. Let’s not forget that he’s the 4th best driver on the grid, the only ones better being Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton. Mark has every right to fight for a world championship.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      Webber was beaten in 2010-2012 fair and square. Despite that, fans would like to continue seeing the “underdog” being given a chance. Certainly, I would have liked to see that too. This is why I didn’t like Horner’s order to hold positions at the end of race. Besides, it’s just insulting to Vettel, who is a three time WDC by now. It would have been absurd to hear the Ferrari team order Schumacher to hold the position and let Barrichello win the race, specially at the beginning of championship.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Dude500, I think you forgot Kimi?! In my estimation, Webber is at best tied for 6th with Rosberg, Button, Grosjean, and Massa, but behind Hulkenberg. And don’t forget the next generation: rookies Bottas and especially Bianchi look very promising…
      And if Kubica comes back, MW is at best tied for 7th….

  • avatar
    vaujot

    Jack, your analysis suggests that you have a relatively clear ranking of who are the top drivers in F1 and who is not. Would you mind sharing this ranking?

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I think from the article, Jack ranked Webber below Vettel. It’s hard to argue with that. Also, Jack clearly thinks that Rosberg is overrated. That’s all he said. This does not contradict what many F1 fans think. It’s not a hard decision to rank Webber or Rosberg below the top dogs.

      Personally though, I still would like to see Rosberg being given a fair shot to fighting Hamilton. Webber was beaten fair and square many times. It’s really silly for the team to expect for Vettel to give away to him any extra points as Webber will not be a championship contender any more. As for Rosberg, I personally think he is a little _underrared_ but certainly overpaid. I think he can still give Hamilton a run for his money this year. It will be interesting to watch this intra-team batter.

      • 0 avatar
        niky

        If I were to rank the drivers on the grid right now, I’d be hard pressed to choose between Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton at the top. In Hamilton’s rookie year, he nearly ran Alonso ragged, and Alonso is a very good driver. Good enough to have won two WDCs and to have contested many more. Vettel shows the same sort of raw qualifying pace over Webber that Alonso and Hamilton do over their teammates, but unless you have these guys in the same car, you really can’t tell.

        Alonso and Hamilton are the types of drivers who can easily adapt to the quirks of their cars, which gives them the extra edge over guys like Jenson Button or Nico Rosberg, who need the cars dialed in just-so in order to drive them well. Alonso’s adaptability shines through when he drives unusual cars, like the championship-winning Renault that required the “aggressive turn-in” or the dog of a car Ferrari started their 2012 campaign with. It was only when the car became easier to drive that Massa started to catch up to him and even out-do him. Simply because Alonso had already adapted his style to the “worse” Ferrari where Massa hadn’t.

        Kimi Raikkonen is an odd duck. He’s perhaps one of the greatest ever in F1 in terms of raw pace, but he also needs everything to his liking to get good speed out of his car.

        Vettel… haven’t seen him in enough inferior machinery. He was certainly very good in Scuderia Toro Rosso… and he’s had some good races where he was at a disadvantage. I recall one race where he had a broken exhaust. The lack of power made him slower everywhere, and in danger of losing position to Nico Rosberg. He reached deep and pulled out fastest sector times consistently on the slower parts of the track (fastest of the race, again… with a broken exhaust) just to keep the quicker Mercedes behind him.

        Perez looked promising, but so far, he’s not quite got the handle of the McLaren yet. Maldonado, on his day, has a good turn of speed, but he’s inconsistent. Grosjean, too.

        I think Rosberg is a fine driver, but probably lacking that tiny little something that makes a champion. Whether it be raw ambition (I think Jack’s partly right there… if Nico really wanted it, he’d have gone for it), the ability to adapt to changing conditions or a strange-handling car or perhaps even raw speed (that Schumacher was able to match or outqualify him on certain tracks says… something), something is missing.

  • avatar
    BeyondBelief

    I don’t understand all the bagging on Webber that is happening. From the viewpoint of the motorsports fan, it’s fun to be able to glibly state “racers will be racers” and promote Vettel as some kind of uber-competitor who should be admired for his uncontainable spirit. But that is simply lazy thinking. F1 is a business MUCH more than it is a sport. There, I’ve said it. And I’m not saying that this is good, because it’s not.

    Vettel is an employee. A large part of his job is not fucking up the equipment. More than any other aspect of his brain fart is that he demonstrated he might not be blessed with the amount of self-control his job demands. This is the troubling part for a team boss I imagine.

    Webber has demonstrated he can beat Vettel and the rest of the field straight-up and had many times over the last few years even when being admittedly handed inferior equipment as compared to his teammate. Alonso and Button would have stroked out if this had happened to them.

    In the event, one driver was following his team’s strategy because he’s smart and knows the value of teamwork, and the other guy was red-misting. I think Vettel is sincere in stating he was wrong and needs to do better.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    I question whether it’s better for Red Bull or F1 in general for Vettel to win yet the WDC again.

    Having 2 world champions on your team would seem to be better to keep folks interested as well as ensure F1s continued popularity. Seeing Vettel qualify 1st then running off into the distance won’t keep me watching. It was like that with Schumacher and Ferrari and pretty boring.

    Of course it could be Senna and Prost trying to take the other out. Not good but the TV viewers enjoyed it.

    Every now a journeyman driver like a Button, Webber or Massa needs to win the WDC.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I don’t think RBR is in position to “dispense” the title to a driver of their choice. Vettel is their golden boy. Vettel is in charge, not Horner. There are plenty of teams with fast cars that would love to have Vettel on board, but RBR wouldn’t be anywhere without Vettel. The last couple of years proved that Webber isn’t championship material. He peaked in 2010 and then was his best chance to win WDC.

      You could say that fast Newey cars have helped Vettel, but he is not done yet and will continue to grow. Personally though, I don’t have issues with Vettel winning his fourth title if the competition is interesting. In my opinion we have the privilege to witness right now the rise of another all time great. The 2011, when Vettel effectively cruised to his second title, was indeed boring, but 2010 and 2012 were outstanding years with extremely close competition all the way to the last race, probably some of the best in the last decade.

  • avatar
    dabradler

    I very much doubt Webber didn’t have a chance to turn his engine back up to race mode before the close fighting happened with Vettel.

    I think it’s more along the lines of Webber feels that if he had been pushing hard the whole time, he could have maintained a gap and held Vettel off. Where Vettel feels that he was going to pass him no matter what because he was on faster tires.

    Webber wanted to cruise to a win and the team got the same amount of points either way. Where as Vettel wants the championship so he is going to fight for whatever points he can get.

    I think the legitimate animosity is people feel if Webber was in Vettels position he wouldn’t have disobeyed the team orders.

    • 0 avatar
      BeyondBelief

      Your last sentence…yes, I think that’s it.

      I’m also wondering if it’s possible that Webber as the one driver on the team who hadn’t completely lost his head saw the limited value in taking the fight to Vettel…an even more pissed-off support crew and diminished life of the equipment. I’m not sure about the inability to carry out a plan with metronomic efficiency that Jack has laid at Webber’s feet. It must be dismaying for the RBR crew to know they can’t really trust Vettel now, who incidentally has not offered one word of explanation other than simpering platitudes of regret.

      But yeah…Webber’s starts are cringe-inducing. I’ll agree to that.

    • 0 avatar
      NMGOM

      dabradler – –

      Webber has no credibility to feel that he got slighted by SV: ignoring “team orders” was something that Webber had already done at Silverstone in 2011.

      Here are some quotes from the innocent, offended Mark Webber:

      ““I’m not fine with it, no,” Webber said after the race, and added that he did not pay attention to the orders.
      “[If] Fernando [Alonso] retires on the last lap, we’re battling for victory.
      “Of course I ignored the team and I was battling to the end. I was trying to do my best with the amount of conversation on the radio.
      “I wasn’t doing much talking back, but I got a lot of messages coming my way, but I was trying to the end.”
      When asked if he felt like a number two driver, Webber replied: “Not really. I just want to race to the end.
      “Four or five laps to go I started to get messages. Of course they want the points, but I also need to try to get some points as well.””

      ref: http://www.bbc.co.uk/spor t/0/formula1/14099315

      Again, from a strategy point of view, SV is a champion and MW is not. It’s all that simple. RBR needs to throw its weight behind SV, and Horner didn’t do that. SV needs those 7 points and MW does not.

      In addition, there is a mistaken understanding about the nature of a race driver and his team. The race driver is NOT an employee of the team in the same sense that a shopkeeper hires a checkout clerk. The driver signs a contract with a team (here, RBR) to provide racing performance for which he gets a stipend. He is far more autonomous than the checkout clerk, and is co-equal with his team. As with all “professionals”, he also has a career that is independent of his team and needs to watch out for himself. If SB felt that it was optimum to pass MW for both his own benefit and even RBR, then so be it. Ultimately, Horner has to respect that, and honor SV’s “smooth-it-over” apology.

      And the fact that neither RBR nor Bernie Ecclestone have even dared mention any punitive action against SV confirms that, while it was marginal behavior, it’s way too early in the season for calling foul. The unfortunate reality is that F1 is Big Business, and it needs to operate to maximize income, which often works against good racing, no doubt frustrating drivers along the way, such as this whole concept of “team orders” to “preserve” a car and actually inhibit the best drivers from rising. Example: Hamilton himself said that Rosberg should have been on the podium…

      ——————–

      • 0 avatar
        ExPatBrit

        “Again, from a strategy point of view, SV is a champion and MW is not. It’s all that simple. RBR needs to throw its weight behind SV, and Horner didn’t do that. SV needs those 7 points and MW does not.”

        This was the second race of 2013, are you saying we should not watch the remaining 17 because it’s all over. If Webber had won this weekend both him and Seb would have been equal in points.

        Frankly this all sounds a wee bit Fanboi-ish, maybe we should only send Seb, Fernando and Lewis out and then read about it on Monday, what a sad pathetic bloody joke that would be.

        Like watching paint dry.

        • 0 avatar
          NMGOM

          ExPatBrit – –

          “This was the second race of 2013, are you saying we should not watch the remaining 17 because it’s all over.”

          ———–
          No, I am not saying that in the least. By all means, watch the remaining 17: I certainly plan to. After all, there are other very good drivers who do have a chance at the Championship, including my favorite, Fernando.
          ———–

          “If Webber had won this weekend both him (sic) and Seb would have been equal in points.”

          ———-
          So? Does that fact negate the history and track record (no pun) that SV is a Champion at the end of seasons and MW is not? Vettel needs the 7 points; Webber does not. If those 7 were awarded to Webber, and Ferrari caught fire, such that Vettel was down 6 at the end, then Horner would be kicking himself for loss of the Driver’s ward and possibly Constructor’s Award, wouldn’t he?
          ———-

          “Frankly this all sounds a wee bit Fanboi-ish..”

          ———-
          Not at all. It is just utterly realistic.
          ———-

          “…maybe we should only send Seb, Fernando and Lewis out and then read about it on Monday, what a sad pathetic bloody joke that would be.”

          ———-
          Then where would the 2nd-string, younger, less experienced, or less competent drivers get their experience? Since F1 is stuck with the is ridiculous “team orders” system, the 2nd string folks just have to get out of the way at the end, IF top tier are driving better, that’s all. (Look at Jeff Jordan’s screaming comment on this topic in the movie, “Grand Prix”.) Here’s why, as I said above:

          ‘From a sensible season-long strategy point-of-view, if SV’s team manger (Chris Horner) wanted to preserve cars, engines, and tires, he should have ordered Webber, who has ZERO realistic chance at being the 2013 Champion, to let Vettel pass. That way Red Bull would have the best opportunity to acquire BOTH the Drivers and Constructor’s awards, and keep peace in the family.’

          Remember: F1 is unfortunately BIG BUSINESS now…..

          ————–

          • 0 avatar
            ExPatBrit

            “Then where would the 2nd-string, younger, less experienced, or less competent drivers get their experience? ”

            They could get a couple of laps later after Seb, Fernando and Lewis have gone home.

            How long have you been watching F1,do you remember when Irvine came close to winning the WDC because Ferrari had to switch allegiances because Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone? An impossible task.

            The best manager wants a chance for both his drivers to win races and the WDC at this point.

            Button like Webber is second string but also is an ex WDC. Kimi is too for different reasons.

            Seb is a faster driver but he also does bone headed things occasionally.

          • 0 avatar
            NMGOM

            ExPatBrit – – –

            Please see my interlinear remarks below: I don’t know how to address your comments otherwise, even though it looks like I am just “parsing” them.

            “They could get a couple of laps later after Seb, Fernando and Lewis have gone home.”
            ——-
            NM: This won’t work, IMO. A team manager evaluates 2nd-string drivers by two primary criteria for each race, summed over the season:
            1) Grid position obtained during the Qualifier;
            2) Position improvement over Grid at the end of the race.
            The former shows car-handling skills; the latter shows combat adeptness in the heat of battle. The latter requires many other cars to see how the driver in question can deal with attempted overtaking of top tier drivers from other teams, or even his own.
            ——–

            “How long have you been watching F1 (?)”
            ——–
            NM: Since 1968. I am 70 years old.
            ——–

            “do you remember when Irvine came close to winning the WDC because Ferrari had to switch allegiances because Schumacher broke his leg at Silverstone?”
            ——–
            NM: I am sorry, but no. My only memory of Eddie Irvine was that he was something of playboy and mediocre driver who capitalized on mistakes of others in the 1999 Aussie GP. Please see link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Irvine
            ——–

            “The best manager wants a chance for both his drivers to win races and the WDC at this point.”
            ——–
            NM: No, the best manager gets his team to win. The 2nd-string driver always has plenty of opportunity anyway as described above. But it’s the top tier driver who must have priority especially during the closing laps of race (otherwise he wouldn’t be “top tier”….). This is not an egalitarian exercise.
            ——–

            “Seb is a faster driver but he also does bone headed things occasionally.”
            ——–
            NM: That’s true. But he’s young yet. Give him a chance, and we may see another Michael Schumacher in the making…
            ——–

            =================

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    Well at least our discussion proves that TTAC should feature more about racing in general including additional F1 coverage. It’s nice that we can have a civilized discussion devoid of politics.

    F1 is politics of a different stripe though.

    It interesting that we agree on Fernando, probably the most complete driver for a long time. Calculating like Prost or Stewart with “larger attachments” as David Hobbs would say. The complete racing driver who can do the PR as well.

    The front page of Sniff Petrol says it all! Thanks for the discussion!

    http://sniffpetrol.com/


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