Shanghai Surprise: What will we see from the ‘Battling Bulls’?
It just won’t go away
It’s the story that just won’t go away and according to the Sun newspaper Vettel has been urged to apologise to F1 for his behaviour in Sepang. I’m not quite sure how he is supposed to do this – throw a huge party for everyone and take the stage to give an emotional and contrite confession of his transgression?
Marko has done his best to distract our attention – make the events on track in Malaysia fade into the background. Firstly he kicked off defending his team’s use of team orders to favour Webber and suggested that Red Bull were letting their drivers race properly unlike Mercedes who have a clear No. 1 and No.2 driver status.
This distracted some of the more naive members of the media – like SKY – who sat down Brawn and questioned him over whether there was favouritism in the team towards Lewis. Ross in his laconic manner easily persuaded us all that this was Marko’s mischief making and that Lewis and they were all righteous and true to the values of F1 racing. Distraction removed and we were again staring down the Vettel/Webber debate.
Marko’s attempted distraction
Marko then signed a woman driver to Red Bull and gets our attention for 24 hours but once again the vision of Webber and Vettel on the same piece of asphalt in China began to loom large in our minds and some girl racer – 4 series below F1 failed to hold our attention any longer.
Vettel and Webber are back in the frame again, though now we have arrived upon the day when they will meet for the first time since the fateful day in Sepang the question now has shifted from what should have been to what will be? What will happen in Shanghai and after and the myriad of possibilities is indeed intriguing.
Burning in my minds eye is the last time I saw Webber. He was highly emotional and struggling to control himself. He blurted out he had been thinking ‘many thoughts’ during the last 10 laps of the race and hoped that 3 weeks on his board in Aus would prove to be medicine that would sooth these troubled ideas in his head.
Did the ‘medicine’ work?
So has it? What will Webber be like when we first hear and see from him today/tomorrow? Sure, he’ll be controlled and speaking about the ideals of working for the ‘team’. Yet will this be lip service? Will we see an undercurrent of more than the usual Webber controlled aggression?
Mark does speak his mind more than most F1 drivers, but he is a far more shrewd operator than many people give him credit for. I guess we’ll get some Webber-esque hint of honesty over the fact that the team and Seb let him down, then in @AussieGrit style he’ll declare the past is done and its time to race…. Hard!
What I’d love to here is some shrewd media hack ask Webber this question. “Has your time away meant you have now forgiven Sebastian for what he did to you in Malaysia?” This is a clever tool – a loaded question – used by investigative journalists used to provoke a guaranteed reaction. I’m not sure there’s anyone of such guile asking the questions in F1 who will be capable of conjuring up this kind of line.
Vettel should apologise to F1?
And what about Vettel? John Watson is clear on how he see’s it. “It is a great shame what Sebastian did in Sepang. The way he acted was dishonest. He should apologise to the fans of F1 and to the sport.
He has not yet explained why he did not obey the team, apart from making some mealy-mouthed excuse at the time. Sebastian had come across as a well-adjusted young man who was also a three time World Champion, but we have had a glimpse of what he is truly capable of and a lot of people will not like the 2013 version.
He needs to be grilled in China as to why he did what he did to Mark and the team. If you agree to a plan that after the last pit-stops then the drivers should hold station, then you should stick to that. He gave his word and then did what he wanted which is very poor really.
And what he did beforehand when he just told the team to tell Mark to get out of the way because he was slower was even worse”.
Watson adds, “The atmosphere in the garage in China will be crap! Red Bull have used more bandages than the National Health Service trying to limit the damage. But if you create the monster then lose control of him, you are going to pay the price.
What happened in Malaysia showed that Helmut Marko and Vettel wield the power in the team. Christian Horner has done a good job as Team Principal but at the end of the day he could not control his driver.
He [Vettel] should really have paid a penalty for what he did, but there was a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening.”
Anticipation is high
John’s wishful thinking of what should have been is simply that. His assertion that the atmosphere in the garage will be toxic – whilst not obviously so – is clearly the case. If you’ve ever worked in an F1 garage at the weekend of a race you’ll know how the smallest of troubles between team members can manifest itself in disaster. Let’s not forget the pit stop personnel are the same individuals for both drivers.
I can’t remember ever having the hightened level of anticipation I feel tonight about next encountering Sebastian Vettel. Usually I can take or leave the generally ‘mild mannered’ young German’s analysis of where the team and the car are at prior to the weekend and I then dread the impending but inevitable 1 finger salute.
Yet why are we still thinking and discussing the Red Bull drivers and not primarily anticipating the weekend’s racing? Webber hit the nail on the head when he noted it was three weeks from Sepang to the next race weekend. This has done Red Bull no favours as the matter has been protracted and prolonged way over and above what would have happened had there since been another weekend of F1 ‘on track’ drama to consider.
So I am indeed fascinated to hear from young Mr. Vettel ASAP. Bring him on. Do the FIA and FOM have the balls to insist he appear at the drivers press conference? As yet, the details of who the participants for this event will be has not been revealed.
Vettel and ‘The Force’
Regardless, when he appears before us – what will we see from the former Jedi protoge Anakin? Will he already be turning to the black Helmet with the darkened visor and matching black overalls? Has he already begun speaking with a slight rasping sound in his throat? Or will he still be in denial as to his ultimate fate within ‘the Force’?
One thing we can be certain of is that John Watson will not be seeing what he hopes for. There will be no Vettel apology to the fans, not even to Mark. Vettel has no choice really other than to shrug it off and say he has spoken with his team and the matter is now history. If he tries to explain anything he will open up the can of worms once again.
Set aside his Sebastian’s duplicitous behaviour toward his team mate and rank insubordination to his employer, it is his assertion that he failed to ‘understood’ the instructions he had been given that is the circle he cannot square; therefore any attempt to address the issue is for Vettel a lose-lose scenario.
RB team orders now cancelled
Bilde are reporting today that Marko is now saying that the Red Bull team will no longer issue team orders. It is not clear whether this is a slap on the wrist for Vettel who has clearly benefited from this in the past or whether it is again an attempt by Marko to move the attention away from the feuding drivers. If it is the latter it is a poor effort as the media will simply be asking them what they think about team orders being cancelled from now on – thus opening the debate again.
For us who report on F1, China presents it’s own special challenges in that the ‘non mainstream accredited’ flow of information from the teams to the ‘outside’ is restricted. This could be a blessing for Red Bull but let’s hope the team have managed to rustle up enough spares from the factory to ensure there are 2 items of each bit of kit required to put both cars out for the race in their ‘A Spec’ status.
Even if the team fails to deliver this, here’s a reminder of what happened last time there was a ‘B’ spec Red Bull car dabate.