Mark Webber took the first win of his long career today in commanding style, surviving a drive through penalty for ramming Rubens Barrichello at the start to take the chequered flag and give Red Bull its third win of the season. Webber’s Red Bull team mate Sebastian Vettel was second and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa third.
We thought that Silverstone may have been a turning point of the season, with the almost brand new Red Bull car which dominated the weekend. Today we got confirmation that it was – and it is not just because of the high speed corners that the car was quick there. They are now the fastest car out there on any kind of circuit and as Ross Brawn and his team huddle in their debrief tonight they have a lot to chew over. Rubens Barrichello’s outburst on the BBC is the talk of the paddock tonight and Brawn looked furious when I saw him after he learned about it. This is the second time that Barrichello has come out with some strong words against his own team, the other occasion being Barcelona.
I can understand him being unhappy that the team switched the order of the final pit stops, giving Jenson the chance to pass him, but Jenson was faster at that stage of the race. Nevertheless it again gives a clear signal that the team wants Jenson to fight for the title and the extra point he gained here may be vital at the end of the season, given how quickly his lead is being eroded by Vettel and Webber.
But what cost Rubens a shot at victory and certainly a podium was the refuelling issue at the second stop. The first rig did not work so they had to go for a second one. Rubens thought he was fuelled to the finish but wasn’t. I can’t see Ross forgiving him for the way he spoke about the team and about Ross. He’s been on the wrong end of things in the past at Ferrari and this is uncomfortable territory for both men.
It’s always a bad sign when a team starts arguing with itself in defeat and they have to rally from this low point.
Here the Brawns were beaten on pace and they were also put into a corner on race tactics, as they were obliged to run a three stop strategy because they could not get the hard tyre to work and yet they could only run short stints on the soft because of the severe graining problems they encountered.
Red Bull had no such problems and were able to stick the hard tyres on Webber’s car at the first stop and watch as he pulled out fantastic lap times to stay in touch with Barrichello, despite having lost 15 seconds due to the drive through penalty.
Barrichello ran the early part of his second stint behind Massa’s Ferrari and lost time, while Webber was able to reel him in.
The wider problem for Brawn is that Red Bull sensed back in March that they could win this championship and have thrown their not insignificant resources at developing this car. You never know when you are going to get another chance to win a workd championship so you have to maximise your opportunities.
They have very impressive production facilities now and can turn new pieces around very quickly. The design for the Silverstone update only left Adrian Newey’s desk to go into production around the time of the Monaco GP weekend, so they turned a huge update around very quickly.
Brawn has gone from 700 people to 450 this year, where Red Bull has gone the opposite way, although with budget cuts imminent for F1 the new people are all on contract, not staff and many of them came from Brawn.
Red Bull can see that Brawn has to have one eye on saving some money for next year and they sense a weakness. The rest of the season RBR will develop relentlessly to keep locking out these 1-2 finishes and try to take both championships. Certainly the lads on the shop floor at Red Bull think they will do it.
Of course at some point they will have to decide which of their drivers is going for the championship. At the moment with Webber and Vettel on winning form and a gal between them of only 15 points that is a decision they cannot make. Webber reminds them that Vettel has crashed three times this year and could do so again, but Vettel has until this weekend, been the faster driver. It’s a wonderful battle and it has brought this world championship to life