Should Horner just chuck the race in China?

Red Bull Racing have a massive problem on their hands. Those who thought the whole Sepang thing would result in another uneasy truce between the team’s drivers could not have been further from the truth.

Sebastian Vettel faced a fiery media today and to be fair gave as good as he got. However, Vettel’s confused responses are likely to cause mayhem in the team.

On the one hand Vettel says, “I apologised to the team because the last thing I want as a team member is to disobey a team order. My intention as a racing driver was to win the race and I don’t apologise for winning the race.”

He then quickly admits he is as likely to do it again should it mean passing his team mate and winning a race.

Following the Sepang race TJ13 article, “Civil war or just a load of old bull?” looked at various scenario’s which could ensue when the team reconvened in China. I suggested, “there are times in life when an event occurs and there is a general sense that things will never be the same again”.

Further I believed it was likely that “The most significant issue Red Bull may need to grasp is that it appears that Vettel’s action on track and initial re-actions after the event suggest that he believes the team were wrong in their decision. Yes, he may have apologised but if that is to placate only – rather than a true state of mind – and if he is indeed unrepentant – what else will Vettel question when instructed by the team?

Well ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – roll up – roll up. This weekend only  – you could see the greatest farce ever in the history of team sport….

I have to say I’m stunned at what I’ve heard today – genuinely shocked and amazed. Martin Brundle has written that ‘Red Bull has a major problem’. I think from Martin – that is a major understatement. Sebastian Vettel has basically said today that he will do as he pleases whenever he pleases and should he be given instructions again by the team with which he disagrees, he will do as he sees fit.

Meanwhile Mark is listening and watching on. He had a distant and disconnected look in his eye throughout the drivers’ press conference and was stilted and short in his answers to the questions.

What must be in his mind? For sure he did not return thinking there would be a new dawn in improved Webber/Vettel relations and most likely he has decided he will race Vettel hard at every given opportunity.

If we rewind to Sepang, what actually happened was that the team and the 30 or so analysts working behind the scenes, plotted a way for the cars to maximise their race time and therefore give them the best chance of success.  It was believed prior to the race that success was probably a podium and fourth or fifth.

So the cars were underfueled to suit the pace the analysts had scheduled for each stage of the race. Due to Mercedes woeful judgement, the podium and minor placing became a Red Bull 1-2. This was nothing to do with either driver particularly, Pedro de la Rosa and a host of other drivers could have driven to the pace that Red Bull asked Vettel and Webber to deliver. It was a team victory and red faces for Mercedes.

Now Red Bull have no/reduced team orders announced by Marko and 2 drivers who will have little or no regard to the instructions and advice they will be given by the team. Hence possession will be 9/10ths of the law starting with qualifying.

It is not difficult to see Vettel and Webber burning out sets of tyres in Q3 to gain an advantage from the other in terms of grid position. this will prejudice their stint one in the race – but who cares… does not win.

Stint one in the race will be paramount too because the driver leading will get first choice of tyre changes and therefore control the undercut. Unlike in Malaysia where the optimum pace can be called by the analysts, will we see Webber and Vettel drive the wheels of the car to gain the advantage?

Webber made it clear today at the press conference that in Malaysia the reason Vettel made up 4.5s in one lap was because Mark’s tyres were gone. It should have therefore been Webber’s prerogative to get the first change of rubber but because Vettel was under pressure from Hamilton – the team decided Vettel would be given priority over Webber and Webber complied.

Were that to happen this weekend, would Mark just ignore the switch in strategy – pretend he didn’t hear and come in for tyres anyway? The team would have to service his car and Vettel would suffer either a wait behind his team mate or an extra lap on fast fading rubber.

These kind of chaotic possibilities are not endless but many. If the team were to stay completely hands off and allow the drivers to call their own stops they would clearly without information not make the correct timing calls to change the rubber. Watching a McLaren sail by may be medicine indeed.

So we could be watching a hell for leather race between Vettel and Webber to continually be the one with track position which with the 2013 Pirelli’s will surely not be the optimum way for them to tackle the race.

It is clear the team has utterly lost control of both drivers who will be out to prove they are faster than they’re team mate. This scenario is a complete disaster but there appears nothing Horner et al can do. If Vettel is refusing to take instruction from the team how can they expect Webber to do so.

Maybe the best solution for Horner and Newey is to just let it all happen for one race to prove the point. What will be will be. For sure it will not result in the best possible result for either driver or the team, yet maybe by taking their hands completely off the reins and allowing the drivers to do what they want to may mean that chaos does ensue.

Yet Vettel will get the message that this is not how he won 3 world titles and unless he is part of the team decisions he is weakened and open to attack from the team’s opponents. Then seeing Vettel’s submission to the team may possibly mean Webber will once again play ball to some degree.

On the off chance that driving the hell out of the cars and the rubber from the tyres prove to be a winning strategy – then the F1 fans would be delirious with joy and teams would stop being so conservative in their approach to each race.

And if this were not successful – a point would have been made to our immortal triple world invincibleness – that on his own he would win jack s^&t.



22 responses to “Should Horner just chuck the race in China?

  1. Absolutely spot on analysis.
    Someone should sit the two drivers down and explain basic game theory to them. (Probably after they’ve cocked up their race.)
    Sometimes team orders are the only way out of a prisoners’ dilemma.

  2. I think it is so easy… how to make Seb aware of who is in charge? Possibility nr.1 his pitstops start to take 5 seconds instead of 2,05. Possibility nr.2 his front wing is adjusted in the opposite direction on each pitstop. Yes, a few points would not be scored. Low price for a well learnt lesson.

    All in all, it is quite understandable that a young fast driver who has won the last three WDC in a row loses perspective. I suppose one has to be very mature to cope with so much success at such an early age.

  3. Why waste valuable constructor points on making a point, they should stand him down for a race and tell him if he does it again, he’ll be stood down again. Buemi could come in for a race and deputise, Vettel would have to then toe the line. As it is, a free for all would be a disaster if it ended in carnage. Webber is a reasonable guy, and Vettel has just took advantage of him. I hope we see Webber putting some manners on Vettel this weekend and for Red Bull to ignore it and tell him ‘that is what you asked for’.

    • I’m also thinking a Red Bull team with Raikonnen and Vettel next year would be hilarious as to the amount of control over their drivers they would have!

    • Agreed. He should have been made to learn 500 people support his efforts – but the team didn’t do this so let them race – make their own strategy calls – work out what other teams and drivers are doing… and see what happens.

      RB scored an unbelievable 43 points which was unexpected in Sepang – so losing a few points this weekend to sort out their problems could be worth 5 races of civil war

      • Buemi is not there this weekend. Felix Da Costa is the reserve driver……What a debut that would be!

        Although maybe it has to an extent tied RBs hands?

        • I wonder what would happen if Felix da Costa beat Webber (as highly unlikely as that is to happen)!

  4. I can’t wait for the Alonso mind games to really ramp up. I’m certain that Marko and Vettel have been sucked in psychologically to Alonso’s game.
    Everyone called Ferrari and Alonso poor sports for questioning the yellow flag infringement in Brazil last year, but seeing as it came about a few days after the race, it wasn’t serious.
    But did you notice how Marko retaliated immediately and then Vettel added to the party line of underhand tactics.

    Pretty much like DM saying in 2010 that RBR would not run team orders even if they lost the championships, unlike Ferrari, forgetting Turkey that year, the front wing issue in Silverstone etc.

    DM is a highly intelligent man, he hasn’t simply lucked into his fortune, much like Luciano Benetton some years back.
    These guys know, that this advertising is breath-taking value. How much would it have cost an agency to get into all the media these last 3 weeks?

  5. According to underlying pace, Vettel was .1 quicker on softs than Webber on hards. If Webber had turned up his engine in Sepang and properly raced Vettel, either we would have had a repeat of Turkey, or watched both the Mercs sail by the shredded tire duo with 5 or 6 laps to go. Kinda sorry it didn’t happen, but the possibility for China is something I’m quite looking forward to. Of course, this will wreak utter havoc with my predictions, so clearly there is a downside too.

  6. Thank you very much for an amazing article. I am amazed by the mismanagement of the whole situation by Red Bull. I have actually hoped that the end of the media drama was when the team has written an official statement that Seb has apologised and the issue has been resolved internally. Apparently it’s not the case, for they let Seb have his press conference and they let his say what he said.

    The whole thing looks extremely unprofessional to me: Vettel behaves like a five year old child who has stolen cookies and is supposed to be punished by his mommy loves him too much to do so. The team had to have a clear PR strategy how to handle the situation, they had two weeks to asses the options and choose the optimal one. So far it looks like a complete chaos to me.

    After the Malaysian race I have written that I didn’t blame Seb for overtaking, but I did blame him for the apologies, because he simply chickened out of being held accountable for his decision. Now the whole thing looks even more ridiculous. It might sound a bit rude, but it helps to make a point. It seemed at the beginning that Vettel has grown some balls in the part two weeks: he admitted he was racing, he admitted he only cared for the win – sounds a bit strange after two weeks, but okay. What is his apology, which he still keeps repeating like a parrot, worth if he would do the same thing again? Vettel seems completely lost to me: he doesn’t know what to do and what to say, and the team seems to have given him no guidance how to handle it. I personally find his behaviour disgusting and the more he talks the more disgusting it gets.

  7. The most interesting part of this interview is this: [Vettel] shrugged off suggestions that he should have received a formal punishment from Red Bull. “Maybe it is a little bit of a dreamland that you all live in, but what do you expect to happen?” said Vettel. “Make a suggestion!”

    He embarasses the team again by saying this and essentially he is saying that he feels he can do as he pleases because there is nothing the team can do about it. This is the reason why it was absolutely necessary to punish him. If I were his boss I would not take kindly to this sort of a lack of respect and teach him that there are a great many thing I could do about it. He thinks he is bigger than the team and that is a mindstate that will ultimately ruin what they build up over the last couple of years.

  8. I abosolutly, think this is without a shadow a doubt the best f1 site around, when I get in from work, iPad on, strait to your site, excellent and think you’re coverage of the webber/vettel thingy is great. Personally I’d love to see Weber stick it to him, but unless his KERS and launch systems suddenly become as reliable as vettels, it’s just not gonna happen. And vettel is damn quick which doesn’t help. But he does make mistakes under pressure. Buttons done him twice in races because of this.

    • Agree, excellent site. Link from comment in James Allen site got me here. Love the quality and lack of pretension that seems to affect some other sites.

  9. Fantastic article. Your analysis is a million times more astute than the inane banter we usually have to put up with on Sky and BBC etc…

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