Malaysia GP 2013 The Verdict: A tale of 2 team mates

Well, well, well. The prospect of the race in Sepang was truly mouth watering. Usually the threat of rain adds for most fans the prospect of extra excitement and seeing the best driver’s in the world challenged by a slippery surface demonstrates another dimension of their skills.

Yet the current situation with the top teams being either quick over one lap or quick at race pace offered enough intrigue and many possibilities without the need for rain. Okay there was a Red Bull on pole, but analysts within the team were predicting 4 stops would be necessary were the circuit dry from the start to the very end.

And so to the drama. How was this allowed to happen? What on earth was the team thinking? Why did we have a driver apparently not communicate with the pit wall?

FORMULA 1 - Malaysian GPIt was inevitable eventually. Fernando has been so consistent and played the percentages brilliantly, but today there was driver error from the Spaniard and a collision with the rear of Vettel’s car. Yet why on earth did he not receive the call to come in and change the wing when it was clear on the TV world feed that the wing was at a terminal angle. Other teams could see the big risk as Jenson was told to give Alonso a wide berth on the radio.

Alonso said after the race, “Today, unfortunately, we were very unlucky. After making a good start, I touched with Vettel at the second corner: it was a surprise to find him there, almost stopped and I don’t know what speed he was doing. Despite the fact the car was damaged, it didn’t seem to be too bad and, together with the team, we decided to keep going, because if we’d stopped immediately and then again on lap 3 or 4 to fit dry tyres, we would have dropped too far back and definitely lost the chance to finish up the front. It’s easy to criticise this decision, but at the time it seemed like the right one”.

It may be that Fernando is covering for his team but this was never his call to make. The driver would have no idea the exact extent of the damage and the team were then responsible for a reprehensible decision which created probably the most fearful of dangerous situations a driver can face. Failing to call Alonso in both put him in a great deal of danger and proved to be a delusional assessment of the risk to the points scoring opportunity for the day.

Further, if this is the case then it makes the comments over driver safety from Ferrari in the wake of Grosjean’s ‘reckless’ behaviour in Spa appear to be ‘weasel words’. Stefano has been handed a massive get out of jail free card with the media over this due to other matters developing later in the race.

untitledWe then had the entertaining sight of Lewis rocking up for a tyre change at the McLaren pit. Amusing but in fact this was a really big mistake and one which certainly cost Hamilton the opportunity of exiting either in the lead or right behind the leader. McLaren’s twitter account the @thefifthdriver tweeted, “feel free to pop in and say ‘hi’ anytime @lewishamilton”.

The huge surprise is how quickly McLaren appear to be rectifying their problematic car. On the hard tyre the 2 fastest laps of the race were from Sergio Perez 1:39:199 and Jenson Button with a 1:40:556 but once again McLaren shoot themselves in the foot with a calamitous pit stop. There are those back at the MTC who were calculating Jenson had a real chance of beating the Mercedes and getting a podium and fifth place would have been more than achievable. Points thrown away again by McLaren appear this time to have benefited Lewis Hamilton, ironically because he is not driving for them.

Bob builder of fast cars ought to pay attention to building nuts that facilitate a fast pit stop too. Apparently whilst the Silverstone team have a technology sharing arrangement with McLaren they did not run their new McLaren style wheel nut design by the techies at the MTC and this looks a very costly mistake.

untitledPaul Di Resta was most chipper in the media pen, probably because the calamitous pit stops meant he didn’t lose further ground after a tricky weekend to his team mate.

Once again Jules Bianchi is stealing the rookie limelight and he is now 17th in the WDC ahead of Ricciardo and Maldonado. A strong thirteenth place finish may be tough for Caterham to beat in 2013 and thus secure the team the tenth position and the cash from Bernie.

Marrusia say they are expecting to score points this year and were most secretive about their front wing when the SKY camera tried to take a look at it. For Caterham it was another tale of woe and maybe we will see Heikki back in the green goddess and sooner than we think.

Toro Rosso were fined 10,000 euro’s for an unsafe release and Ricciardo’s retirement was as in Australia due to an exhaust issue.

Maldonado lost KERS so he retired the car and Bottas was close to his first point in F1 finishing 11th and is just ahead of Bianchi in the drivers’ standings.

Hulkenberg was indeed quick early in the race and then after dicing with Kimi managed to eventually stumble into his first points.

Romain Grosjean was the highest placed of the 3 stoppers and the car’s easiness on the tyres was evident with Kimi Raikkonen running the longest stint on the hard tyres managing 22 laps.

untitledMercedes clearly underestimated their fuel consumption as Lewis commented that they were on ‘a knife edge’ from very early in the race. This led to the team ordering Rosberg to hold station over the final 12-13 laps of the race, something he questioned several times yet he complied and duly allowed Lewis to take a podium third.

Hamilton was impressive in his podium humility and for giving his team mate the recognition he deserved. “I have to say big congratulations to Nico. He drove a smarter and more controlled race than me this afternoon and deserved to finish where I did”.

Rosberg was asked whether he felt the team owe him and without edge and smiling he replied, “Owe me one? No, I wouldn’t say that because I understand I drive for Mercedes, for all the guys at home who put their lives into building this car over the winter and doing such a fantastic job. So I’m pleased to get a great result for the team.

But of course there is a small side of me who wants to go flat out all the way to the end and be up on the podium myself. But the time will come for that”.

untitledThis appears to be one of the best relationships amongst F1 team mates – maybe ever – even Ross Brawn commented on that Lewis and Nico relate to each other more naturally than did Schumacher and Rosberg.

So that’s one team and its team mates but we we have another to discuss – Red Bull. In a way the race had fizzled out so the fuse that Sebastian Vettel chose to light gave us something to talk about instead of a final 15 laps procession. Ignoring team orders he attacked his team mate, giving us a thrilling 1 lap battle before squeezing between Webber and the pit wall using DRS on the pit straight.

Following the cars being shut down in parc ferme, Webber was first to the weigh in but didn’t appear in the drivers’ ready room behind the podium for quite a while. Vettel was in there with a stern faced Newey making small talk about the tyre performance in the early part of the race.

Mark Webber arrived with just around 1 minute to spare before the presentation ceremony began. Stern faced and ignoring Vettel he grabbed a towel and a drink and sat down. He then gave Vettel a withering stare and said “Multi 21 Seb…. Multi 21”. Vettel says nothing and Adrian Newey doesn’t interfere.

Apparently Red Bull sent two of their PR people to meet the driver’s before the podium ceremony, but the FIA doorman refused them entry.

On the podium Vettel claimed that it had been a good battle and his 27th F1 win – matching the record of Jackie Stewart – was because he had more in hand than Webber and indeed it was he who managed go gain the ‘upper hand’. Webber claimed he had been told twice to turn down his engine and that the team wanted to protect the 1-2.
FORMULA 1 - Malaysian GP“I won a race as well… but in the end Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection as usual and that’s the way it goes. I was disappointed with the outcome and I did my best”.

Helmut Marko was asked in the pit lane for his views on matters and was pretty forthright saying, “We told the drivers to stay in their positions because we were worried about the tyre wear but at this stage it got out of control I have to say“.

He was then asked was Vettel’s decision to ignore team orders acceptable and responded, “No,  the team will have to have a word because we have to control the drivers. Its not like it is at Mercedes where there is a clear number one and number 2, we basically treat the drivers the same”. Good one Helmut, deflect the attention and stir some grief for Niki and co.

Christian Horner, never one to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when 10,000 words can be used was asked directly whether Sebastian Vettell had disobeyed team orders had this to say (eventually). “After the final round of pit stops we gave instructions to both cars. Of course Mark’s going to be aggrieved by it but the instructions were clear, they were clear for all to hear”.

This was evident to the world as Horner told Vettel on the radio that he was being ‘silly’ and Rocky commentd following the chequered flag, “you clearly wanted that badly, but you’ll now have to give some explanations”.

untitledThe team photograph with the trophies was cancelled. During the FIA drivers’ press conference for the written media, it was reported that Sebastian apoligised to Mark Webber, however the Aussie was in no mood to hear it.

Here’s what the drivers said during the post podium media interviews in the ‘pen’, firstly from Webber.

He was asked whether he accepted Vettel’s apology. “I respect Sebastian, but it is still very raw at the moment because we have a plan before the race how things will be given this scenario”.

The reporter then suggested there was no point to an agreement if both parties don’t adhere to it  and Webber replied, “I was completely reassured twice that we were not going to abuse the cars on each other because it was very easy for us to not get any points. It’s very hard for everybody to understand the whole scenario there’s a lot of people who think they know the whole situation but unfortunately it’s not possible for them to understand everything”.

The next question Webber fielded was regarding team morale going forward and he was coded in his reply. “It puts a lot of heat on certain people for sure – inevitably it does. Unfortunately there is no rewind button now so the scenario is now a bit more challenging for certain people.

FORMULA 1 - Malaysian GPIts 3 weeks to the next race, so we are fortunate we have 3 weeks. I will catch some waves in Australia on my board so this will be good medicine for me. But there were a lot of things in my mind during the last 15 laps of the grand prix to be honest but whether the medicine is enough – we’ll see”.

Sebastian was asked how he intended to build bridges with his team mate. “We respect each other so in that regard there is nothing that has to be fixed. We don’t hate each other so there is nothing to worry about for going into the next couple of races. I messed up today and I want to apologise for that but right now I want to tell the truth – I wasn’t aware of it otherwise I wouldn’t take that much risk to pass someone I wasn’t supposed to pass at that moment.

But just before we got out on the podium, I had a very quick word and yeah it was quite a shock and not easy for me to admit but that’s the truth so I want to stick to the truth”.

Sebastian was asked if the victory was a sour one and he responded, “I don’t care about the criticism, I owe an explanation to mark and the team – everyone is entitled to their opinions – but for sure this is not a victory I’m very proud of because it should have been Mark’s”.

Vettel is clearly maintaining he didn’t know he was being told to hold station, despite both Horner and Marko’s crystal clear assertions. In a later interview sebastian appears to modify his position.

“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”.

The problem for Red Bull is that since team orders have been allowed they claim that the drivers receive equal treatment and it is the interests of the team that come first and the driver is an employee of the team. Well the genie is out of the bottle, and should Vettel find himself in a situation where the WDC is tight and 3 incremental points make all the difference; and should he need those points to be delivered with the co-operation of his team mate – What will Webber do?

untitledI have heard today that there are a number within the team believe that Sebastian today went too far. Ruthless in pursuit of winning is fine, but in taking an unfair advantage of his team mate who had out manouvred him all race, Vettel’s actions are tantamount to cheating.

Webber had turned down the engine as instructed when he was mugged by a dangerous move adjacent to the concrete pit wall. Further, David Coultard commented live at the time of the Vettel ‘pass’ that it Mark could easily have run him wide and defended the  position coming out of turn 4. This analysis was borne out by SKY presenter and racer Anthony Davidson.

Mark Webber is the oldest driver in F1 at present, he has a contract to the end of the year, who knows what he will decide to do when presented with wheel to wheel racing with his team mate.

Vettel was heckled on the podium in Australia and he should be careful because it does matter what people other than Mark and the team think. Today there there are those in the media who shape the news and what F1 fans read that are asking “is Vettel in fact Schumacher in disguise?”

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27 responses to “Malaysia GP 2013 The Verdict: A tale of 2 team mates

  1. During the Vettel/Webber/RedBull squabbles as far back as 2010 it had seemed to me, “Vettel was Schumacher in disguise”… I am not at all surprised by Vettel’s behaviour and subsequent attitude today…! I am surprised and saddened that it has taken so long for others to fully acknowledge his immature arrogance.

  2. Have to agree with the cheating assessment. Their machinery was not equal, both Webber and the team should be furious with him. Personally, I think the boy needs a time out, sit him down for a race. Funny at this point that it’s Vettel with the controversy and Hamilton looking gracious and mature. Can’t wait for the media to try and massage that narrative.

    • Not sure they will. Lewis came across well and may have inadvertently put Brawn in a predicament. To under fuel the car so badly does not smack of a well managed team.

      • Perfectly managed, perhaps, but given their overall gains in pace this year perhaps Brawn will get away with it. Particularly if Vettel keeps on inadvertently setting fires everywhere for Red Bull to put out.

  3. No matter how much the situation of this race upsets or impresses the fans or media, If SV wins this years drivers title there will not be an asterix next to his name stating “only because he broke team orders”…. The fact that he ignored the orders shows that he is not a “team player” neither where Senna, Piquet or Schumacher, the difference being they never admitted to a result being a misunderstanding or an error…. Considereing Red Bull are masters at marketing and PR they well and truly dropped the ball on this one.

    • Which raises questions about Vettel’s integrity. Better to not lie and then make it even worse as you say admit his team mate should’ve won.

      • I don’t think that there are any questions about his integrity, he has well and truly shown he has none, but as I said the lack of integrity doesn’t go down in the history books.
        I am far from a SV and RB fan, jeez I was a DC and McLaren supporter through and through ( look where that got me)…
        Does anybody think that SV is going to lose sleep tonight over the result? nope didn’t think so….
        We all want to see wheel to wheel racing, the fastest, bravest driver winning but unfortunatley thats not going to happen in modern day F1, to see that stick to karting or Formula Ford…
        Yet, F1 is a like a drug, we visit this site and many others, spend £0000’s travelling the globe, and even make predictions in online games, todays result will be forgotten in 3 weeks once the lights go out, then there will be another “headline” to discuss.. personally I can’t wait……….

          • Today was as far as I understand the first time his personal integrity has been brought to the fore, its usually his teams integrity which is doubted by the public and media.

    • To me it’s not just that he ignored team orders, which, OK that’s on you SV if the car comes apart, but it’s that clearly this was a scenario that was talked through and agreed upon between MW and SV should it happen. SV agreed and then went back on his word, that’s the real issue. If he didn’t want to agree to those conditions, he should’ve said so at the time, then fair enough, race away. Otherwise, no amount of PR could scrub the stink away from this one. I was delighted to hear that the Red Bull PR were denied entry to the driver’s room. I can’t imagine how much money they would have had to give Webber not to make a fuss about this.

  4. What is the point of the agreement if Vettel can’t stick to it? I am sure he has had the benefit in the past of Webber giving way to him. One can see the reason why the agreement is necessary. Just look at the time before when Vettel drove into Webber to try and force his way through. Vettel’s brain seems to go out the window and a red mist descend. Webber is correct though, Vettel won’t be penalised by the team. It is going to make for interesting racing between them in the future. From what Webber said I wonder if he is going to retire at the end of the season (if not before). If so, I dont think he will follow team orders either and Vettel may well rue the day he was so unsporting towards Webber. I hope Vettel gets booed at every opportunity, the last thing the sport needs is another Schumacher style driver.

    • Hi Mike – good to hear from you, been coming here long?

      I suspect Webber may have been thinking more along the lines of a complete and utter ‘no compromise’ approach to racing Vettel this year rather than retiring…That will be a lot of fun.

  5. I’ve been following here since not long after you start it. Always full of useful and interesting information and written in an amusing style.
    Yes, I agree, as I said, I think team orders have gone out the window now, and Vettel will wish he hadn’t been so unsporting.

  6. As far as the media shaping the news goes, the biggest German online news site reported that Red Bull think Vettel was only wrong for apologizing and that all he did was establish his number one position. They also wrote that atmosphere is down the drain at Mercedes and that the relationship between Lewis and Niko is irreparably broken. Go figure…

    • Great to hear from you Pott and we do ‘figure’ a lot here.

      AMuS are questioning Vettel’s win at all cost mentality and the Schumacher comparison is being made.

      • Well, Ralf Bach at Spiegel Online gets his facts completely wrong most of the time. He also seems to have an axe to grind against Hamilton. The Mercedes story he reported is total BS. According to him, Toto Wolff and Ross Brawn conspired and “screwed Rosberg over” in order to keep the diva Hamilton happy, which caused Niki Lauda to confront the two and now relationships inside the team have deteriorated while Vettels action was very helpful for the team because the inofficial hirarchy inside Red Bull is now established officially.

        So i think that the fallout for Vettel in Germany will be limited as most fans are only superficially interested in the sport and have a very limited understanding of F1.

        However, if I was Christian Horner, I’d punish Vettel severly, there is no other way to reestablish his authority. Vettel did three things today: He underlined that he will put his interests above those of the team, he showed that he cannot be trusted and he disrespected his superiors in public. None of these things can be tolerated by a team principal or any employer for that matter. It’s like being dared in prison, if you back down, the other party will have lost their respect for you forever. Frank Williams fired at least three big name WDC drivers because his philosophy is that no driver is bigger than the team. Ron Dennis has said similar things.

        Every successful team collapses at some point because of egos and relationships that no longer work. Vettel pushed Red Bull in this direction today and consequences over the course of the season could prove very harmful to both his WDC bid and the teams long term success.

        • Agreed unreservedly – and tomorrow I will post an article on the range of possible outcomes. This was indeed an event of the highest significance and the immediate management of the situation today is merely a holding position which will require further action

          Thank you very much for you insightful contribution.

  7. I can’t believe everyone is making such a big deal about this. Let’s keep things in perspective.

    I actually kind of agree that Seb shouldn’t have apologized. After all, Mark’s comments in 2011 were that he repeatedly ignored team orders and tried to pass Vettel (link below). No apologies.

    http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/93001

    Ironically on f1fanatic (link below), the readers overwhelmingly voted that the team shouldn’t have given the order for Mark not to pass Seb back at that GP. Funny how the opinion changes now because of the anti-Vettel sentiment. It wasn’t a huge deal then, but apparently it is now. Webber went unpunished then (as he has in several other incidents where ignored team orders), and Seb should this time, too.

    http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/2011/07/10/webber-red-bulls-order-pass-vettel/

    I also can’t really believe that Mark still had his engine turned down when he came out of the pits — Seb was right on top of him, and I’m sure his engineer had warned him it would be tight. Besides, Mark had plenty of time after the initial attack to turn the engine back up to defend.

    I appreciate that Mark may have been caught unawares. Boo hoo. These guys have both ignored team orders before (and likely will again) – may the best racer win. As F1 fans, we’re all better for it.

    • I’m in total agreement with you regarding Webber’s engine settings. There’s no way he could have defended like that in drs zone and for a lap and a half with his engine turned down.

      Unless of course Vettel was using the same settings and got through anyway.

      • Hi David – maybe/maybe not, but Horner didn’t say it what Webber had said was untrue re: turning down the engine.

        IMHO it’s still not that relevant – Webber was mugged as he’d been told no racing – he didn’t request no racing – because he’d out raced Vettel all afternoon.

  8. I’m quite saddened by the Vettel and Schumi bashing that is in the media. Seems the philosophy of Racing to Win no longer exists. Poor A.Senna, he must be turning in his grave to see this going on.
    If a car is not strong enough to race to the end perhaps it shouldn’t be on the track? If you forget to put the correct amount of fuel in the car then it should run out? We want to see racing, not a stage production – I can see that anytime and know I’m wanting fiction.

    • Hi Chantelle – great to hear from you.

      And why not let Lewis run out of fuel or Nico past indeed?

      The teams are too conservative – they could try running as fast as possible and see where the tyres get them – then just put some more on and drive hard and fast again.

      Also I agree, I wanted to see Webber and Vettel fight it out – it was the unfair nature of Webber not fighting and getting ‘mugged’ by Vettel that irritates me – he clearly let Vettel through when he could have run him wide – even off the track

  9. Did anyone else pick up when Webber eluded to the fact that Red Bull employed team orders back when they were banned?

    Webber said something along the lines of, “I’ve been on the bad end of team orders even back when it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

    While maybe inconsequential now, I thought it was funny that he mentioned it possibly bringing on more disrepute to the team.

    • Did his comment come as a surprise? They have all been using team orders between 2003 to 2010 when they were re-legalised.
      Germany 2010 was a watershed moment, Ferrari telling Massa that Alonso was quicker than him, was practically what Kovalainen was told 2 years earlier regarding Hamilton.
      I suspect that the British press hasn’t forgiven Ferrari for spy gate and really fanned the flames.
      Maybe the truth is, that it could only be Ferrari that could get enough attention to get the rule changed.

  10. It wasn’t a surprise at all, however it was an admission of guilt of break that rule back then.

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