The gavel wielding one and myself often find ourselves in disagreement over the team that has won the last four world championships. In his view they are the devil incarnate with the only goal of wrecking the career of his bromantic love interest from down under. As a result news about them authored by the wig-wearing one often requires a pinch of salt to be palatable, as do mine on the same topic.
I’m not exactly unbiased in that regard either. I think the men in blue, purple, violet or whatever they choose to paint their cars like this year, are a cool bunch, who have achieved – in just 8 years – what big manufacturers like BMW and Toyota tried to achieve in vain – they creamed the lot something fierce. And, having seen him climb the ladder through the junior formulae, I think that Sebastian Vettel is every bit as good as Schumacher was in his prime. If reactions all over the interwebs are any indication, that opinion makes me, Idi Amin.
One of the perks of being a regular contributor is knowing in advance what will come out soon and some hours after this article goes live the gavel wielding one will declare that Red Bull’s ‘win at all costs’ attitude is a thing of the past and all other teams are now meeting regularly in a field of daffodils, singing Kumbaya, drawing up plans on how to make peace in the middle east and work for the good of the sport. Excuse me for a moment to return to the pond and laugh my fat backside off.
He demands Red Bull to adhere to a standard that no other team meets. The very same attitude exists in each and every team. Ferrari tested their F1 engine in a LaFerrari testbed to circumvent the testing ban, when Mercedes had their little illegal three day tutoring lesson with Pirelli last year they ran Hamilton and Rosberg with neutral gear and fake helmets to save them from being found out. How does that exactly fit into the judge’s new and shiny communist hippy equal-opportunity brigade that has allegedly taken over from the cut-throat warriors of yesteryear?
Force India was the last team to veto the tyre change in 2013 because it gave them an advantage, only when Fernando Alonso was nearly killed by debris only missing his head narrowly at 300 kph did they see no chance to uphold their obstruction. Kumbaya, Fellas!
We’ve been told, ad nauseam, how Mercedes took the plunge and turned down their engine, claiming to have lost half a second per lap. So effin’ what? They still won by 30 seconds with Nico Rosberg spending half the race with his finger up his nose. I doubt Red Bull would have had much of a problem turning down Seb and Mark’s cars late last season as they slapped the opposition into the middle of next week anyway. It’s a token gesture. They would not have done so if the competition had been even remotely close.
How much did different teams have to turn down their engines to make the fuel-flow-Münchhausens read something that pleased the powers that be? Was it the same for everyone? Did some have to turn down more than others? Could some even turn the wick up, because the sensor read too low values? We were not given any numbers. Could the appeal force these numbers in the open? Is that perhaps what Red Bull is intending with the appeal? We will see.
While I concur with many that RB chose a rather rash method to go up against the authorities, I have some sympathy for them and that is not necessarily rooted in my non-standard stance towards them. It’s rooted in my personal history. I was one of the nutters, who protested against the East German Government in 1989 and we didn’t play nice, refusing to bend over the nearest piece of furniture because the authorities said so. We asked for a reason, they didn’t have any and even though they had the AK-47s and we had none – they lost.
Race control tried to hand down an arbitrary disadvantage with no chance for the team to make sure that others were disadvantaged to the same degree. The organizers basically were unable to govern their own rule. Mercedes happily complied with the arbitrary decision, safe in the knowledge that they would win even with a hand tied behind their backs. RB didn’t enjoy that luxury, so they went for broke. They had the choice to lose the podium because of a lobotomized engine or to a disqualification. They chose the risky approach. Is that really damaging to the sport?
If they are wrong and the FIA proves they indeed were above the 100kg/h limit, they deserve to go down in flames. If they prove they were within the limits, it’ll be the FIA, who has damaged the sport, because they handed out arbitrary performance penalties because they were unable to govern their own rules and only one team stood up to it. In that case, even if Red Bull looses the appeal, the FIA will be the real losers.
One thing that never really rang true for me is the level of vitriol directed at the Austro-English team that bought the remnants of the pathologically mediocre Jaguar team and turned it into a winning combination. That included rejuvenating Adrian Newey’s muse, who seemed to have dumped him for someone younger and/or richer. The former March, Williams and McLaren designer had been beaten by the likes of Rory Byrne, Mike Gascoyne and others for 10 years on the trot until he went on to design the last four winning cars.
But Red Bull have committed a most heinous crime apparently – winning too much. It makes for an eye-opening experience to go on an internet site and read the 2008 and 2009 archives at autosport.com or f1rejects.com. The same people that were gushing over a certain Sebastian Vettel or Red Bull taking the fight to a seemingly unbeatable Brawn GP car, are the same that now fill the cheap seats and declare with disgust that Mr. Vettel eats little children for breakfast and that Christian Horner has a habit of kicking puppies.
The level of misinformation surrounding Red Bull Racing simply boggles the mind. Confront anyone about the stark difference of their opinion – then and now – and you’ll get lousy odds at the betting booth for one of these three answers being given, usually all three:
Who could forget an obviously angry Mark Webber slamming his glass of water on the table during the post-qualifying press conference at the 2010 British GP. What had happened? Red Bull had brought 2 new front-wings. Vettel had wrecked his by throwing his car at the landscape and the nefarious ne’er do goods gave Webbo’s new shiny wing to Vettel, while poor slighted Mark had the old one nailed back to his car. It was so bad compared to the new one, Mark accidentally won the race with it.
What any non German speaker didn’t know was – they’d been played, expertly. I watched the post-qualy presser with the Hippo-rendition of WTF painted firmly on my big-mouthed face. Just minutes before Mark had dictated into the microphones of German broadcaster RTL that the decision was made because while he didn’t feel much difference between the two wing variants, Vettel found the new one better. If anything, he said, it induced a slight understeer he didn’t like. Yet scant minutes later he performed a ridiculous theater as if the boys had been intimate with his missus.
So what is the truth? Had Mark lied to RTL or to the wider public in the press conference? It is hard to decide, but I would venture to say that it lies somewhere in between. If the race performance was any indication, I’d say Mark was quite happy with the old wing. What he really wanted is keeping the new one from Vettel, because the German liked it more as it was more suitable to his driving style. But that’s of course only my opinion. The case is clearly not as black-or-white as is often made out, but it will be thrown in your face if you dare not join the chorus lamenting the nefarious and dastardly methods in the Red Bull camp. They would probably have fared better by, lets say, breaking a seal on some gearbox or something.
We probably discussed that one ad nauseam, yet it is still presented as a reason of proving the team’s nefarious clobbering of poor Mark. That it was just payback for the exact same offense in swapped roles at the 2011 British GP is usually conveniently omitted, even though Webber had openly bragged to the media about it.
Horner looked like a blithering idiot in both cases as he was unable to handle his quarreling drivers, yet you will usually find that argument is used to pile the dirt on Vettel, rather than the team.
3rd: Thou dost win too much
This is my favorite. People claiming that RB damages the sport by doing what they are participating for in the first place – doing the best job. I doubt Williams fans remember 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997 as the years in which F1 came close to dying, nor will the McLaren fans remember the 1998 and 1999 seasons with any sort of horror. Were the Tifosi worried about F1 between 2000 and 2004 – hardly. That’s the short attention span of people these days. Never mind that two of Vettel’s titles went right down to the last race and were won by a single digit number of points. Never mind that 2012 saw more winners in a single season than in the last 30 years. No – Red Bull damages the sport.
Double your standards
The whole problem with this is, that many fans have two standards – one for the team they like, one for those they don’t like. If Dave Ryan orders Lewis Hamilton to lie to the Stewards to gain an undeserved 3rd place, that’s ok. If Red Bull decides that they do not follow Charlie Whitings request to turn down their already hopeless engine to cater for a wonky fuel-flow-meter, that’s arrogant and deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
If Ferrari decides they know better how to measure their barge boards than the FIA does and appeal their disqualification, they’re clever. If Red Bull thinks they have the better means to measure the fuel-flow and appeal their disqualification, they bring the sport into disrepute.
What ever happened to people, who can see F1 for what it is – 10 or more ultra-competitive teams trying to use every loophole there is? Just look at the phallic-noses of the ’14 cars. That’s certainly not what the rule-makers had in mind when they authored the new rules, yet I hear nobody lambasting the teams for building contraptions that shouldn’t be shown before the 9pm watershed and which only just satisfy the technical requirements.
F1 is turning into football on wheels (note to Americans: I’m talking about real football, not hand-egg). You root for your team and everyone else deserves to die. It is acceptable to boo and whistle like someone, who’s been taught all his social skills by a bunch of apes and anybody that is not wearing the correct colors deserves to be insulted. I’m waiting for the first riots. Maybe people will learn when fans of team A have been beaten into a bloody pulp by fans of team B – just because. It already happens verbally in a forum near you.
What goes around, comes around
As a result of such antics we are getting the sort of comments from drivers that will then be lambasted by the peanut gallery in a self-righteous hissy-fit. ‘Balls in pool’ anyone? Mother of God did they have a field day with that.
Everybody who has had the chance to meet Sebastian Vettel will agree with me that in terms of personality, he beats the pants off many of his predecessors. Humble, funny, approachable – those are the words that spring to mind when I remember the two times I’ve been able to talk to him personally. Yet, how come he gets tempted to make such a seemingly arrogant statement?
As always, it is the context that makes the difference. The answer was given after the interviewer had reminded him for the umpteenth time that most people were of the opinion that it wasn’t him that was winning; it was the car. There you have a young man, who worked his way up through junior formulae, gave both Red Bull teams their first wins, won 3 world titles, beating 5(!) former world champions and a team mate in the same car along the way and some hack comes along telling him that he is basically useless if it wasn’t for an über-superior car.
What in the name of all that’s holy is the man supposed to say? Agree with the sentiment? Such a statement is outrageous. How long will a driver take such abuse until he thinks to himself: ‘Well if they all think I’m a pr*ck, I may just as well act like one’.
Vettel has a very specific problem. He has quite a good grasp on the English language, but he tends to translate German phrases literally that subsequently don’t work in English. The ‘balls in pool’ metaphor was a play on the German phrase ‘sich die Eier schaukeln’, (lit: letting your balls swing), which means resting on one’s laurels or not being bothered with something. What he alluded to was the fact that the dominant RB9 was not the result of the tooth fairy having a generous day. It was the hard work of many people and that included him. All other teams had by that time already hoisted the white flag and couldn’t be bothered with their 2013 challengers anymore.
Vettel learned his approach to F1 from Schumacher. Like the other German serial champion he lacks, to a degree, the natural and instinctual talent of a Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton or Ayrton Senna. He is fast, but not necessarily naturally fast. What he lacks in natural speed, he makes up for by hard work. He spends hours in the simulator, something that according to Felipe Massa, Fernando couldn’t quite be bothered with last year. He stays with the mechanics until late in the night in order to be in the loop about everything.
If you then go on for eternity telling him that he gets gifted everything he has achieved, be prepared to get an unfavorable answer after the 10th repetition.
And if you’re a F1 ‘fan’, for whom the whole shebang is utter crap, because it wasn’t your driver, but one of the other 23 that won, then you may be watching the wrong sport. Sometimes a 2nd place is much more exciting than a win, or did you expect Danny boy to even finish after winter testing?