Victims of Circumstance: Sepang 2013

Victims of Circumstance is brought to you by TJ13 Courtroom Reporter & Crime Analyst: Adam Macdonald

Sublime to the ridiculous

After bemoaning a fairly low key debut for the page, I am left with the mammoth task of clearing up the mess from the swamp in Malaysia.  The 2 teams who gave out orders ended with 4 different feelings and 0 content drivers.

The Mercedes story is simple.  Both drivers played ball and left the team with a good result to go to China with.  Questions will linger over whether Hamilton has a no.1 clause in his contract but at the end of the day, all parties involved can (at least pretend) to be happy in front of the media.

The Red Bull story is a touchy subject with almost all corners of the media jumping on the ‘I’ve lost respect’ for Sebastian bandwagon.  Granted, nobody can argue that the overtaking move by Sebastian down the pit straight was in any way sensible or justified.  However, it is what was said over team radio throughout the race which I find more interesting.

On lap 8, Webber was the only runner in the top 10 to be have opted for the hard (and slower) tyre, showing he didn’t expect to be able to make them last as long.  Naturally, Vettel now on the faster tyre, along with Hamilton and Rosberg were catching Webber, so it was no surprise to hear Vettel, on lap 28/29, over the team radio saying, “Mark is too slow, get him out of the way.”  At this point, Vettel and Hamilton were within DRS range.

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A Rocky Road to recovery

It was interesting to hear Vettel’s race engineer, Guillaume ‘Rocky’ Rocquelin saying “Sebastian be patient, you’re only at half race yet.”  Rocky hinting at the fact he may be able to pass him later in the race, but hold position for the moment.  Already the first signs at not wanting to play the team game.

Vettel was then jumped by Hamilton when he emerged from his pit stop on lap 33.  I imagine a few choice German words were said under that helmet leading to the rush of blood to the head later.  6 laps later, Vettel was able to overtake Hamilton and made up the 2.8 seconds to Webber up to the next pit stop phase.

This left the duo fighting it out from lap 44 onwards, whilst it was a similar story for the Mercedes with Rosberg overtaking Hamilton in the first DRS zone, and Hamilton then returning the favour on the pit straight.

Lap 46 saw an unnecessarily risky overtaking move.  It was silly and showed the immaturity that Vettel still possesses.  Webber was sensible enough to not fight for too long and let his team mate past soon after, when he realised the futility of fighting someone on quicker tyres.

When Vettel had subsequently won, Rocky came over the team radio to say, “Good Job Sebastian, looked like you wanted it bad enough.  Still, there will be some explaining to do.”  It could be argued that Rocky knew what Sebastian was going to do and agreed with it.  Furthermore, he knew Sebastian would have to issue an apology but it was a price worth paying.

Although there is no stated No.1 status at Red Bull, it would seem based on the evidence of Silverstone 2010 and today that there is.  Ciaron Pilbeam leaving could have added fuel to the fire without saying anything, but by his actions.  Why else would you leave the team who are triple world champions, with probably the best technical director and all the resources needed to succeed?
Potential answer:  He didn’t want to be race engineer to the No.2 driver – without the backing to go for the WDC in 2013.

Do Team Orders really have a place in F1?

And so we are back to the highly polemic issue of whether team orders really work and can function in F1?  If Mark loses, or if Sebastian wins the WDC by 7 or less points then this race will resurface.  Much the same as if Fernando hadn’t blown a 15 point lead in Abu Dhabi to claim the 2010 WDC, after passing Felipe Massa controversially at Hockenheim earlier in the season.

Fernando in this case was interviewed by the BBC, before the Abu Dhabi qualifying and said he would be happy to win the WDC in this manner.  It was a complete reversal from the interview below, which is post Hockenheim where there is no admission of guilt.  Is it really fair to win in this way?

Furthermore, is it not intelligent manipulation by Fernando to surround himself with people that make sure he is the no.1 in the team and give him the best possible chance of winning?  At least the Red Bull ranks can be honest about the fact they were trying to keep the race positions fixed.

Although as shown by Ferrari in Austria, 2002, this honesty is not something people like and the FIA are no exceptions.  After letting Schumacher win the race, Barrichello took the top step of the podium.  Ferrari, Schumacher and Barrichello were subsequently fined $1,000,000 for not fulfilling podium duties.  It was after this event that the rules against team orders were declared.

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In Conclusion

Is it really better to have a team that agrees to let one member beat the other?  Also, should a driver be protected in they are using their tyres quicker but are ahead (Webber)?  Or if they have gambled with their strategy and under fuelled (Hamilton)?

Both very difficult questions to answer.  However, what we saw on Sunday was one fairly boring procession to the line by the Mercedes team and one great scrap out on track between the Red Bulls. Formula One is after all a spectator sport.

Vettel is awarded the win for being less harsh on his tyres and Nico is awarded the 3rd position because of his better strategy. I.e.  He had enough petrol to push at the end.

The Victims

Adrian Sutil:
Further to the slow stop on lap 7 there was another slow stop on lap 23.  This eventually led to his retiring from the race.  9th before his first stop ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, he is awarded the position.

Paul Di Resta:
similar to Sutil, the pit stops cost him.  After emerging finally, his car had over heated and it was not worth continuing whilst a lap down on the rest of the field.  With a much poorer qualifying position he is awarded 12th in front of Jean-Eric Vergne.

Fernando Alonso:
Due to his own stupidity and not pitting for a new front wing he was forced to end the race in the gravel at turn 1, on lap 2. Not like Fernando to do this.  He remains a non-finisher.

Pastor Maldonado:
With his petrodollars looking less likely to be paying for his seat next year, it’s surprising that Pastor keeps making life hard for himself going rallying through gravel.  He remains a non-finisher.  Maybe Pastor should consult Kimi before going rallying again.

Daniel Ricciardo:
Another unfortunate week for the Aussie who through no fault of his own was forced to retire.  Running in 13th at the time he is awarded 15th ahead of Esteban Gutierrez.

Jenson Button:
They may have the world record of 2.31 seconds for a pit stop, but another error costs a McLaren team member points.  Something I’m sure Sam Michael will make sure is fixed.  In a net 5th position before this, he is awarded this for the race.

This leaves the revised results table looking like this:

Revised Race Position Driver Result comparison Points Points Difference Grid Position
Start RevisedPosition
1 Sebastian Vettel = 25 = 1 1
2 Mark Webber = 18 = 5 2
3 Nico Rosberg +1 15 +3 6 3
4 Lewis Hamilton -1 12 -3 4 4
5 Jenson Button RETIRED 10 +10 7 5
6 Felipe Massa -1 8 -2 2 6
7 Romain Grosjean -1 6 -2 11 7
8 Kimi Raikkonen -1 4 -2 10 8
9 Adrian Sutil RETIRED 2 +2 8 9
10 Nico Hulkenberg -2 1 -3 12 10
11 Sergio Perez -2 0 -2 9 11
12 Paul Di Resta RETIRED 0 = 15 12
13 Jean-Eric Vergne -3 0 -1 17 13
14 Valtteri Bottas -3 0 = 18 14
15 Daniel Ricciardo RETIRED 0 = 13 15
16 Esteban Gutierrez -4 0 = 14 16
17 Jules Bianchi -4 0 = 19 17
18 Charles Pic -4 0 = 20 18
19 Giedo van der Garde -4 0 = 22 19
20 Max Chilton -4 0 = 21 20
21 Pastor Maldonado = 0 = 16 X
22 Fernando Alonso = 0 = 3 X

It could be argued that Mark had turned his engine down and they both should have realised the situation.  Ultimately, if this was any other driver they would have fought with Mark until the bitter end.  Why should the racing be stopped just because they are in the same team?  Are they not both sportsmen, defining themselves by their aggression, competitive streak and results?

Below, the revised World Drivers’ Championship:

Driver Revised WDC WDC Points Difference
Position Points
Sebastian Vettel 1 40 =
Kimi Raikkonen 2 29 -2
Mark Webber 3 24 -2
Nico Rosberg 4 23 +11
Lewis Hamilton 5 22 -3
Felipe Massa 6 20 -2
Fernando Alonso 7 18 =
Jenson Button 8 11 +9
Romain Grosjean 9 6 -3
Adrian Sutil 10 6 =
Paul Di Resta 11 2 -2
Nico Hulkenberg 12 1 -3
Sergio Perez 13 0 -2
Jean-Eric Vergne 14 0 -1
Daniel Ricciardo 15 0 =
Pastor Maldonado 16 0 =
Valtteri Bottas 17 0 =
Esteban Gutierrez 18 0 =
Jules Bianchi 19 0 =
Max Chilton 20 0 =
Charles Pic =21 0 =
Giedo Van Der Garde =21 0 =

*Those with 0 points will not be ordered

What they would have said

Mark would have bemoaned the tyres and shrugged his shoulders.  The asphalt surface at Malaysia would have been blamed for the graining that Mark was suffering, but the truth of the matter is that the Red Bull is very quick, and doesn’t chew up the tyres in the warm.

Lewis would have groaned about the strategy but realised that it was still better than being in a McLaren.  They gambled on there being a safety car or rain and there wasn’t (Interesting to note, Sebastian too was wearing his blue – rain-design – helmet).

Quote of the Day

The American author Hilary Hinton ‘Zig’ Ziglar famously said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”  Sebastian Vettel is in the process of getting a 4th world title; and as he showed on Sunday, he doesn’t care what he becomes in due

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29 responses to “Victims of Circumstance: Sepang 2013

    • Also, How come DiResta obeying team orders and staying behind Sutil at Melbourne got left like that on your Melbourne article, yet you moved Rosberg above Lewis here? Surely if thats the protocol, then Paul needs bumping up at Melbourne?

      • I don’t think I necessarily agree with reverting team orders in this segment. Because the team orders are always going to be there, there is no chance to that in my eyes.

        Mechanical failures, and racing incidents that take drivers out are primarily what I believe this segment should be attempting to sort out.

        • I think thats what I’d do too personally, but Adam and he judge guys are doing this for us, and its their game, the only thing is, i think team orders can be harder to detect, diresta and sutil was nowhere near as hi profile as this weekends two incidents, hence the banging on about this, yet all we got was praise for sutil last w/end.

          • They care enough to bang on about how good a drive it was, I don’t expect much from the media, or the people reading it… sol its a good job you robin hood style crime fighters are here to right the wrongs then eh!

      • This was something I realised when writing the report this week. I’ll get it changed when my WordPress account goes live

  1. “Fernando Alonso:
    Due to his own stupidity and not pitting for a new front wing he was forced to end the race in the gravel.”.. Not like Fernando to do this

    Alonso was kept out by the team who intended to change the wing at the first tyre change. As Alonso couldn’t see the condition of the wing he was relying on those who could, Stella probably. Ferrari said it was their mistake not Alonso’s, in not bringing him in.

      • Presumably it was not a joint decision to run into Vettel’s rear end, a clear rookie mistake that would have had Alonso fuming about kids and rookies who should not be allowed on the same track as him, had one of the rear grid hopefuls run into him.

  2. I love this feature. So if we were to do this retrospectively, who would have won last year? Vettel as he did, Alonso, Kimi, Lewis?

  3. Adam, great piece but want to amend one thing.
    Barrichello didn’t take the top step of the podium, he went to stand on the runner up position, but Schumacher pushed him up to the top.
    In the press conference after, Schumacher again took the runner up position and made RB sit in the middle.
    This was all due to the booing from the crowd, after all on his slow down lap, Schumacher had waved to the crowd celebrating victory. It was only out of the car that he sensed the reaction from the public.

    Regarding Vettel. I have noticed, that with success, drivers become more arrogant in their belief system.
    Schumacher in Brazil 1992, said after the race how dangerous Senna had been after some robust defensive driving. At the time, it was a breathe of fresh air after the poisonous years of Prost vs Senna.
    Yet Schumacher over the remainder of his career, became more and more a villain of the sport and took driving standards and pushing the limits of acceptability beyond anything seen before.
    Vettel in Japan 2011 swerved across at the start to prevent Button getting past and has become more vocal in his disrespect of both his team and other drivers.
    Korea last year, he was demanding the team do something about over-taking the car in front.

    Mansell is quoted as saying that when he won the WDC in 1992, Senna said, “it’s great feeling isn’t it?” Mansell agreed. “Do you understand why I’m a bastard, I never want to give up that feeling”
    Mansell said it gave him chills.
    You see these guys come in with sunny dispositions, but eventually they all turn into monsters.

      • We said week 1 this would be something of a work in progress – great work so far though Adam.

        You don’t need a WordPress account Adam, our PM can give you a login code as an author and you can post direct to the site an amend your previous posts

        • Yes, it is great, And I do want to clarify all my comments are all in good humour, and appreciative! Its a fun little series, and I look forward to seeing its outcome.

  4. I feel something that a lot of people have missed regarding the Vettel / Webber situation is that Mark followed an agreed plan to preserve car and tyres. He could have gone much faster. At points, Seb was held up behind him but the main point is that throughout the race his pace was controlled, they took it easy with tyres and changed them probably before they actually needed to.

    This wasn’t a race between team-mates as neither of them were running at their potential maximum race pace, other than when Vettel decided he knew better than the team.

    For all we know, Mark could have had plenty of pace in reserve and could have driven away from the field. Of course, conversely Seb could have passed him earlier and done the same, we simply don’t know and as a result it simply wasn’t a fair fight.

    All it tells us is that for a very short period in the race, Seb was able to drive faster. Mark potentially had a good strategy, he seemed able to get good pace on his first set of hard tyres but pitted strangely early, almost certainly simply to protect the tyres. I’m sure he could have extended his stints and could well have finished up with a very fast car in the end if he’d been driving the race as fast as possible.

    Instead, he listened to the engineers on the team, moderated his pace and followed the set plan to make sure he got to the finish. It would only have served Vettel right if the conservatism of the engineers had been right and his car had struggled at the end meaning he dropped down the order…

    • The race was won and lost with Vettel’s misjudgement on when to switch from the intermediates – IMHO – Vettel was then controlled instructed to drive with a 3s gap.

      This was no ‘red mist’ but a plan hatched during lap after lap of trailing his team mate.

      • Could Webber at that point in the race have been trying to push Vettel into the Merc’s behind him?

        If both knew they had to maintain position after the final pit stops then Webber had the smarter race even up to using the slower tyre in the last stint when he didn’t need the faster.

        This teammate order stuff is a disaster for the sport. Instead of Todt getting rid of it the FIA should have got it wrote in everyone’s contract that they would always have equal opportunities with their team mate or they didn’t get a F1 license.

      • Exactly!

        And that is why i can understand Vettels frustration.

        He was the quicker driver all weekend and drove an impressive lap to pole, but after he made the decision to switch to dry tires 1-2 laps too early his race was practically over.
        He was able to close the gap to Mark multiple times and even overtook Lewis, who he had only fallen behind because Mark backed him up in to the Mercedes’s and was given preferential treatment at the 3rd pitstop. But he was never given a fair chance to get the lead back. He was always told to be patient and keep a distance.
        Still he almost managed to leapfrog Mark after his last pitstop due to an incredible out-lap, a mere 3,5 seconds faster than that of lewis 1 lap earlier.

        So in the end, his race was doomed from that first stop onwards, just because he was racing his teammate, when he had more pace and was easier on his tires. Also I think the calls from Rocky were a bit misleading, since they implied he might be given a go later in the race. I’m not saying he did the right thing, but i can easily understand his frustration.

        • ‘He was able to close the gap to Mark multiple times’

          As I pointed out, he was able to close the gap on Mark because Mark was following the advice of the engineers to preserve the tyres. He could have gone faster himself, but was playing the long game and not taking the risks.

          Don’t you think Mark will be a little frustrated as well? He did what the team asked, made sure the car got to the end without taking any more risks than he needed to and his teammate decided he is too big to do what the team ask and takes the risk that the engineers are being conservative?

          If they had been told to race each other and may the best man win then I’d have no complaints about the result. As it stands, it is impossible to say that Mark wouldn’t have won anyway as he wasn’t racing and as a result compromised his ultimate pace.

          • If another driver is able to exploit the tyres better than another and therefore use the softer, faster tyres then they deserve to win the race. nobody can deny Webber feels aggrieved at the way Vettel passed him after being told to hold station…..but Red Bull made a bad team call

          • Do we know Seb was able to exploit the tyres better? I’ve not seen anything other than a little conjecture that Mark was harder on his tyres.

            As I’ve said in several places, we don’t know Mark’s ultimate pace as through most of the race he was driving well within his limits by the request of the team.

            If they’d both been running hard then yes, you could say that Seb deserved it. As it was, Mark had run just fast enough to be safe from the Mercedes and had turned his engine down to cruise to the finish. I don’t suppose he had time to turn the car back up once Seb started attacking him, even if he wanted to disobey the instructions from the team not to fight and risk having an accident.

            It is simply the fact that Vettel took advantage of the team asking Mark to take it easy to pounce that is what makes this so unpalatable.

          • Well he was able to close the gap (ergo go faster) and stop later (longer stints) although he spend quite some time in dirty air.
            He also was able to build a sizeable gap in the end.
            So yes, i think there are quite some indications for him being easier on the tires.

            Finally he took a big gamble in q2 by running only on a used set of tires to have that last fresh set of options ready at the end of the race. He probably felt he deserved some reward for that.

          • It’s easy to close the gap on someone controlling their pace.
            If RB were worried about the tyres they would be stopping both cars well before they got close to being worn out.
            As you pointed out, he saved his best tyres to the end so there really wasn’t much point in Mark even trying to fight back once the place was lost.

            Mark’s race was built on the understanding that the cars would hold station. Any arguments about Seb being faster are purely hypothetical as Mark was driving to a pace well within the car and running a conservative strategy to ensure the car got to the end.

            Don’t get me wrong, I do agree that Seb would probably have won if they’d been allowed to race but this wasn’t a race, it was a mugging of someone who’d made decisions with the team to compromise his ultimate pace on the understanding the same would apply to both cars.

            One thing that was mentioned in commentary that was never really expanded on. All cars seemed to use both dry compounds. As they’d started on inters, surely that wasn’t necessary? Granted there wouldn’t be enough of the softer tyres available to last a race, certainly not for those who had made Q3, but I’m surprised certain drivers didn’t run hards for all their stints, to either allow for excess wear (Webber) or to try and eke out one less top (Button, Perez)

          • Then let’s at least agree that the situation was badly handled by the team. To give Vettel the hope of being able to challenge later and put him on the faster tire for the last stint seems kind of trouble in the (own) making.
            As for your question regarding the compounds:
            Each driver only has 3 sets of each compound for quali and race. Most drivers were on a 4 stop strategy with 4 sets of dry tires.
            So they had no choice than to use both types. As i mentioned, i think Vettel was the only front runner who had saved a new set of hard tires for the last stint, an advantage he surely hoped to make use of.

      • Exactly, a point I made else where and which also applies to Mercedes.

        Mark made the correct call on the tyre stop then followed the advice from the team to preserve the tyres as they were unsure if they would last. He could have gone faster if he wanted but he did as the team asked to give them a good chance of getting the win. In effect, he compromised his race on the understanding that the team had also instructed Vettel to compromise his ultimate pace and not take a risk by fighting him.

        If Seb was really that much faster, why couldn’t he pass him at a pit stop? He decided to wait until Mark had eased off and turned everything down – the classic stabbing someone with the back turned.

        Pretty much the same happened at Mercedes, albeit with the blessing of the team. Hamilton messed up on strategy but Rosberg wasn’t allowed to take advantage of that.

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