So is Vettel the favoured son at Red Bull?
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So is Vettel the favoured son at Red Bull?
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 May 2010   |  8:47 pm GMT  |  436 comments

Last year after the race at the Nurburgring, I went into the Red Bull motorhome to congratulate Mark Webber on his first Formula 1 victory.

There was no sign of Webber, but team principal Christian Horner and Dr Helmut Marko were deep in conversation next to the bar. Both looked pretty serious. Webber had won the race while Vettel had finished second, largely due to being rather tentative in qualifying, where he ended up fourth. I watched him very closely that weekend and spoke to him several times and I felt that he was really feeling the pressure of a home Grand Prix where you are expected to win.

Mark Webber’s partner Ann Neal came out of the drivers’ area and walked across the room. One of the team said something like, “Isn’t it fantastic, Mark’s win?” To which she replied rather tartly, “I’m glad someone around here is pleased.” And indeed it did seem more like a wake than a celebration.

Things have moved on and in Monaco two weeks ago the team were certainly celebrating.

Vettel and Marko. A powerful axis at Red Bull

But Red Bull has invested a great deal of money in its driver development programme and Sebastian Vettel is what they have to show for it. There are others coming through, like Daniel Ricciardo, but for the moment, Vettel is justifying the spend. Dr Marko is in charge of it and he reports directly to the Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. From close observation of the team and its workings, Horner is constantly having to justify decisions and plans to Marko.

Vettel came out on top in the inter team battle last season and looked like he was on target to do the same this year, but then things changed. Webber was furious with himself after losing the lead to Vettel at the start in Malaysia and he has had a long talk with himself and come out fighting.

Webber’s performances in Spain and Monaco were as good as anything any driver in today’s field could produce and he didn’t give Vettel a chance in either race.

The team satisfied themselves and Vettel that the reason for Vettel’s relative lack of pace (and we are talking about fractions of a second here) was some damage to his chassis, so he was given a new one for Turkey.

The team tries to be fair in the way it treats both drivers. They both had new parts fitted to the cars on Saturday, Vettel’s arriving before Webber’s but nevertheless the cars were the same during qualifying.

But there was a suspicion tonight that in the laps leading up to their collision on lap 40, Vettel may have been given more favourable conditions than Webber and may have had more engine revs at his disposal. And it may have been because he was under threat from Hamilton.

“In the situation Sebastian was in, he had no other choice than to act the way he did, ” said Marko on “We informed Mark about the situation and it is for the driver to decide. The fact is that if Sebastian hadn’t passed he would have been overtaken by Hamilton. Unfortunately, Mark was not told about the situation accurately by his race engineer.”

Analysis of the race history shows that for the seven laps leading up to the incident, Hamilton was a constant 1.2 seconds behind Vettel.

Christian Horner has been under pressure today and it took him a while to get his line together. Initially he chose to apportion blame on both drivers, but after team meetings his stance seemed to shift towards blaming Webber. He confirmed that Vettel did have more revs available at the time – and that he was happier on the hard tyres – and that was because Webber had used more fuel in the early stages of the race than Vettel, who was able to save some in Hamilton’s slipstream. Vettel had one kilogramme more fuel.

So around lap 38 Vettel was allowed to be on a more potent fuel mix than Webber. Managing the fuel load to the end is one of the disciplines of F1 in 2010 and it seems that teams have been cutting it finer and finer so as not to carry any extra weight.

Today the lap times were fast as the track had rubbered in a lot since practice so the cars were using more fuel than predicted. At various stages everyone had to take care.

Vettel used the moment when he had more revs than his team mate to attack. Is it fair? Should Webber have been allowed more revs to resist, should Red Bull have told them to hold station with only 18 laps to go and a 1-2 in sight? But would that have given Hamilton a golden chance to pass Vettel?

These are the things which will be discussed internally in the coming days. Clearly they need some kind of agreement as to how they will manage engine and fuel use as it contributed to a calamity today. There will also be a new rule established in case of one team mate making a pass on another, to allow each other more room. With that extra room Vettel would have passed Webber today.

Was it because the team favoured Vettel? Did they have a finger on the scales? The only way to know is to look at Red Bull’s fuel data and see where they both were on fuel at the time. To insiders this will be obvious, to outsiders it will be hard to discover.

Vettel is entitled to feel frustrated by his season so far, he should be ahead in the championship but for reliability problems in Bahrain and Australia and also in Spain. It was his car again which proved fragile this weekend when a broken roll bar linkage caused him to lose his shot at pole position. That tipped the balance in Webber’s favour 4-3 in qualifying this year. Today Vettel was recovering from that.

By lap 40 he had got himself in a position to challenge and he went for it. But Webber didn’t make it easy for him, leaving his car well to the left and forcing Vettel to come down the narrow strip of tarmac on the inside, the “dirty side” as Horner described it. He described the lack of room left as the “large mistake” and said that the team wanted to win the race, implying that Vettel offered their best chance of doing that, at that stage. But he also admitted that Vettel came across too early to seal the deal. Vettel was too eager to finish the move before he’d done all the work and they touched.

In Webber’s mind at that moment would have been the start at Sepang, where he let Vettel through too easily. In a tight psychological battle between team mates, he would not want that to happen twice. He would also have been aware that as he was in fuel save mode, Vettel had suddenly started gaining on him at three tenths of a second per lap.

But there is more to it than that; it doesn’t explain why Vettel’s car move to the right. Vettel says he “lost the car” and it does seem that perhaps the car got light over a bump. In the normal run of things it would not have been a problem, but because they were so close, that was enough to take him into the side of Webber’s car.

So where do they got from here? Well, although he says it will be sorted out by Montreal, it will certainly be tough for Horner to paper over the cracks and manage the expectations of his drivers, as it was at McLaren with Hamilton and Alonso in 2007.

Webber is a gnarly old pro and is doing his talking on the track, not making it easy for his young team mate, while Vettel will know deep down that he has to make up for this incident in Turkey as quickly as possible.

The next major crunch will come at Silverstone where the Red Bull should be untouchable on the many high speed corners. Last year Vettel dominated Webber. He will feel intense pressure to do the same.

For what it’s worth, in a JA on F1 reader’s poll, with a sample of 2,000 as of 9pm this evening, 80% of fans say that the accident was Vettel’s fault.

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Hmmm… I think Webber was hung out to dry on this one. As much as I like Vettel he should have put up his hand and taken the blame – and the Team should have backed Mark as this would have been the right thing to do. Anytime a driver turns into another driver it is his fault. In this instance Mark clearly gave him space to pass and Seb did a right turn straight in to him. This could not have been more obvious and it is embarassing for Red Bull, and especially Marko, to not call it as it was. Vettel’s driver error – case closed.

**Flying to Montreal tomorrow for the Grand Prix this weekend. Really looking forward to it as this will be my first “Home” Grand Prix.

Keep up the excellent work James — my wife Jayne and I really miss your telecasts with Martin Brundle (who we love). Great chemistry & mutual respect between you two – it does not seem to be the same now with Martin’s new colleague.


Tim Stanfield

Kelowna, BC, Canada


Thanks. We are planning on visiting Kelowna in the summer. I hear it’s beautiful by the Lake.


Good analysis James.

Seb Vettel already used all of his gentlemanly credit from the fair Mark Webber, when he passed him in the first corner a few races back, Vettel’s only victory of this season!

It seems very strange ,indeed, of all the inexplicable support of Vettlel, coming from the Red Bull execs, Horner, and Marko, mainly, and the implicit suggestion by both, that Webber was ‘out of line’.

This event is going from what could have been smoothed over as a ‘race incident’ then remediated behind the scenes, to a potential ‘team orders’ scandal.

Horner is failing, more than anybody else! And Marko ought to just shut up! They’ve turned this into a potential disaster.

Vettel, right from the crash was setting this up to be more than it should be, with the crazy gestures, as he walked away from the crash. Then the cuddling on th pitwall made my stomach turn; it is clear to most people here that Vettel cost the team 28 points!

They have the car (Newey), and they have the hottest driver at this very moment (Webber), but they do not have the management.

In Canada, we have a popular singer, who goes by K-Os, who sings, “…if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it…” Their driver is DEFINITELY not broken. So let’s say there WASa plan to promote the young blockhead, because it’s an Austrian team, etc., etc.; thought I think it unlikely, when the other guy steps up and becomes red hot, they are trying to fix it, and it is not broken.

Don’t ‘fix it’ Red Bull, and you’ll have yourself a championship; you are doomed to fail if you start ‘fixing’ things.

Red Bull, even if they halted development of the car, might be able to win both the drivers and constructors title, but they are currently, at this moment, blowing it!

What is more, after the start pass of Vettel on Webber, and then the two ‘as dominating as the has ever been in Formula One’, victories by Webber, surrendering the lead in the manner that would have been necessary to prevent an accident in Turkey, would have been ending one’s world championship competition, nothing less!

Let’s put this into the best perspective possible, what would have happened had the shoes been on the other respective feet; can anyone who has seen even half of the last 20 races believe that Sebastian Vettel would have ceded the lead to Mark Webber had their positions and circumstances been reversed? If one thinks Vettel would have given up his lead under those circumstances, one would be a combination of ignorant and dim.

Vettel would NEVER give up position like that!

Webber already let one go; at the time, I cringed to see it. But, I like Webber, tend to give the benefit of the doubt. But there is no doubt about Vettel; he has played out his driving morals between last seasons antics, and this event; he seems to expect privilage, assume right. Whenever we see people assuming right, like this, in Formula One, that always means a crash.

If Webber does not win this year’s championship, I don’t expect that Red Bull will win either championship, and that is a shame; as mentioned before, they have the car and the driver, they should win.


I haven’t read all 421 comments, so if I’m repeating someone else’s view, my apologies.

Consider this: not Vettel, but Alonso or Hamilton was in the exact same position and made the same mistake of turning in early… would we blame Webber for maintaining his racing line?

Webber has every right to hold his racing line; Vettel took the risk and paid the price running on the dirty line; no guts, no glory..but don’t blame your decision on your team mate not giving room.

Would Montoya, in Webber’s position, give room to Ralf ??

As a fan, this is EXACTLY the duel between Senna & Prost, and I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!!

To JA, pls pls pls tell the racing world that, if teams force their drivers to ‘give room’, then we are no better than the times when Rubens moved over for Schumi,

Robert Powers

The onus is on RBR to prove they can be a championship winner.Whenever they can achieve that lofty goal,I will then accept them as a true top team.MAYBE Red Bull can get one some day.Then we can say they have arrived.

You could see this one coming since Webbull got on form,and it didn’t take long,just a couple races-and a vastly impatient move at that,looked desparate even.Vebbull showing faults and it isn’t even summer yet.

We almost saw a Grand Prix with the two dominating teams removing themselves from competition.That would have been a true “turn up for the books”!Because I doubt it has ever happened-I could not believe my eyes.Jenson and Lewis did a good job,if a bit ill-advised.


James, great column.

I had begun to worry that with the number of columns and growth of he website that you ran the risk of diluting the high quality of your writing, but this entry put that fear to rest. You’ve been doing a great job of bringing the views from within the paddock out into the public sphere, and have done so with an admirably diplomatic, but honest tone. I salute your attempts to remain impartial when commenting on our very pointed questions, while still giving illuminating answers.

Please don’t stop; and don’t change your approach, as it sets a very high journalistic standard rarely seen in contemporary media.


Have a look at the video, it clearly shows that Vettel has his steering slightly towards the right before the collision suggesting that he was already moving his car to the right in anticipation that Webber would do the same given the next corner was a left hander which was by the way a bit far!

However, very immature and naive on Vettel’s part to think that anyone would give space so easily!


100% Vettel at fault, the video and photographic evidence shows Webber never moved off his line, and Vettel squeezed back right far too early and caused the collision. The facebook page on the incident is rampantly building too. Mark had class


I think this incident and its aftermath is a blessing in disguise for Webber. It showed a few things to the world. From Marko and Horner initial comments, it was obvious that RB immediately put the blame on Webber, as if he was supposed to move over for Vettel as a matter of fact. It actually reads on Horner’s lips as he wtches it unfolding: “Common! Move!” Now that the team’s hierarchy allegedly has been exposed, RB certainly are going to go out of their way to show or prove the contrary, all to Webber’s benefit. It will be fascinating to observe how this newfound equality between drivers and this “forced” re-thinking of the team’s driver management plays out during the rest of the season.

I just have one question: did Vettel’s lap times suddenly improve two laps before the incident? It certainly looks like it as a small gap between Vettel’s and Hamilton’s cars opened up during these few laps before the “@&# disaster”. It suggests that Vettel was informed by team radio that Webber had been given the order to switch to a fuel conservation mode. If it is the case, this would be further proof that Vettel was being favored since this info essentially meant: “Webber is slow. Go for it!”


I thought this year F1 was going to be boring !!!!

The fight between Webber and Vettel reminds me of the Senna-Prost era and I don’t know if Christian Horner is better equipped than Ron Dennis.

Vettel is the prodige of the F1 driver program at Red Bull, young, likeable, a dream of the PR machine.

Webber is the old fighter, being in F1 for years, always fighting at the back of the grid and now, after hhis personal accident last year, able to fight for the Driver Championship Title.

If Christian Horner will be able to cope with the pressure of the media, the main sponsor interest, the two camps inside the garage and most of all, the entourages of both drivers, only history will tell us.

But if Horner has a little bit about himself, he will make sure that both drivers will have same treatment and all the fans will be able to see which driver will be able to shine and win.

McLaren will be delighted to see this infight, I think, as previously posted in this blog, they will be able to close the gap fastest than anybody else on the grid and this situation will favour both Lewis and Jenson.

At this stage only RBR will be able to loose the championship, the car is absolutely 2/3 tenth of a second faster than anybody else on the track in dry condition.

I hope Christian Horner will think twice to ruin a brand like Red Bull just because he will not able to cope with this situation.


I think Vettel has a bit of growing up to do. It was clearly his fault. Mark Webber has been outstanding for Red Bull and I think the way that he has been treated by his own team since it happened has been appalling. Vettel has been spitting out the dummy for the past few races now. Just when things were getting great for the team as well. Vettel should apologise to MW and the whole RBR team for his unexplainable actions.


James, apart from this particular issue, where do you think Red Bull really stand on “team orders”, underneath their public pronouncements?

I’ve always thought there’s a long continuum, with Ferrari and one end and Williams at the other, and McLaren saying they’re at the Williams end, but really being nearer to Ferrari. Where do you think Red Bull fits in?


This Marko individual seems to be a very one eyed chap,”no”.Personally I think Webber should give this wee whipper snapper Seb a jolly good down under style tune up for endangering everyone eh,they were miles from the turn.

Nikolai Currell

Helmut needs to justify the funds that are provided to him for the young driver programme hence his backing of Vettel. Vettel appears a bit like Massa, very good with an open track from pole position but a little less so when starting from the pack.


I am a little surprised the way Horner defers to Marko, but that is the way things are set up at Red Bull. There is little doubt Marko is totally biased towards Vettel, only natural given the conditions. I am not so sure Horner totally believes the Marko line, otherwise he would not have been asking the BBC team their opinion.


Have the stewards had something to say about this? Vettel has already been warned for turning right towards Hamilton this season. Seems to me the stewards will be all over the trivial matters but completely ignore ‘racing incidents’.


It certainly looked very similar to the Vettel-Hamilton incident, doesn’t it? Vettel pushed Hamilton right… in the pit lane that time !


The biggest winner out of this is our Bernie ! 😉


James, is there a way to get the post-race car weights, and deduce to what extent they (webber, Hamilton, Button) were short on fuel?


Not this year


Teams seem to think that only young guns are worth the support.

Mark’s performances and reflection/regrouping capabilities makes me remember of Nigel Mansell, who was 39 when he won his championship. The way he handles media and puts his team in first shows how that true gentlemanship and awsome driving skills can carry side by side.

Vettel should begin to learn before wanting to lead. If he is humble enough to do it he will not need any back-office manoeuvres to open space.

By the way: did you notice that Vettel, when steering into Webber, they haven’t even got to the 100m sign? F1 cars don’t need so much space to brake, do they?


By the time I have arrived to the article there are already 342 comments. James as you said in the past you need “a bigger boat” already to cope with this. I could not get through until this morning.

Very well written article, I do appreciate when you share the “insight” of the circus.

The most revealing bit has to be Ann Neal reply’s. That issue along speaks volumes about the team, the rest is just PR.

In my mind there is a BEFORE and an AFTER, the management is guilty here, not SV. He should be told off straight away, end of history!

Monaco 2007 comes to my mind, LH should had a repriment from the Management to use all his engine revs against team instructions to fight against Alonso. Management was the culprit not LH. He made such a fuss that Alonso’s family felt no longer welcome in McLaren. We had been told that from day on they started watching the GPs at Renault.


Well this race, beyond anything I’ve seen over the last few years (spygate, liegate, crashgate, etc) has depressed me and made me question why I bother watching F1.

I’m not naive enough to believe that team orders don’t exist, but if team mates are not allowed to fairly defend their position, or properly race against each other (and remember, at least 2 teams demonstrated this over the Turkey weekend) then whats the point? If drivers are supposed to just pull over and let someone past without even attempting to make it difficult for them, then where exactly is the racing? The sport?

Why should Mark have to move off his line to let Vettel past? Why should the championship leader have to give up his spot for an impetuous upstart who can’t even make an overtaking move stick? Frankly if Webber HAD moved over, then team orders would have blatantly been in play, and there would have been calls for an investigation!

As for McLaren, whilst it looked great on the track, the Button move against Hamilton was down to “miscommunication”? So that means Button wasn’t meant to (try to) overtake and went against “team orders” and was then reigned back in by the team??

I’d also ask exactly what remote mechanical changes a team can make to slow a car down? Can they turn the revs down or change the fuel mix remotely and therefore affect the performance of one car in comparison to another? Or do the drivers have to make these changes (as advised by the team, who may have their own agenda)?

AND! (yes, I’m on a rant, sorry!) effectively 2 front running teams have openly admitted to having team orders during a race! So are they banned or not?!



Nothing wrong with Mclaren telling Button and Hamilton to stay where they were with only 15 laps to go, particularly after seeing what had happened to RBR.

JB and LH have gone toe to toe this year and will continue to do so until only one can win the title.


James, Horner & Marko keep pushing that Vettel, by slipstreaming, had saved a “kilogram” of fuel and as such did not need to go into fuel saving mode. Since a kilogram of fuel aprrox 1.4 litres, my queston is how far that would take Vettal’s car? Certainly not one lap by my calulation, more likely less than half a lap. Then why weren’t both drivers told to turn down their engines on the same lap?

I think we all know why!


I have seen Vettel threaten a swerve on several occasions now. Previously it has worked well, but on this occasion he showed his inexperience by attempting the same threat whilst the cars were too close. He gave Webber no chance to react and in effect caused an avoidable accident. If he had done this against anyone else other than his team mate he would have a ten slot grid penalty for the next race.


I am with the 85% who think seb stuffed up, but we are all getting a little carried away with the conspiricy theories.
1 – A straight forward explaination for the qualifiing swap COULD be realated to Sebs crew looking for a problem after his first q3 lap. Red Bull would’ve looked stupid if they held Mark on the principle of their running order and then not had track position or time to finish start the lap!
2 – I think generally RedBull would prefer that Seb won but as others have pointed out there isn’t much they can do if Mark keeps getting better results. Webber’s crew would not buy into undermining Mark’s efforts.
It is a shame that Redbull appear to be happy blame Mark for this. If the car positions were reversed, Red bull would be absolutely furious with the guy on the inside! I can imagine Dr Marko blaming Webber no matter which car he was driving. Having said that, I think he thinks Vettel was about to get past and drive off into the distance. Thankfully his beliefs are not important.


Why is it such a shock to everyone that Vettel is RBR’s favourite son?

Since he won in Monza (Torro Rosso) he has been portrayed as the next F1 champ in waiting; Red Bull are eager to make him champion within their team (to make good on their investment) and if they can, then keep hold of him. He is their future and will be around for several years to come. Sorry to say, but Webber won’t be – not because of his ability, but due to his age (and I’m not being age-ist! I’m older than most of ’em).

I’m sure at Lotus, for example, they see Trulli as a good tester of cars, with lots of experience to help them develop the car over the next 2 to 3 seasons… but they see Kovi as the man to stay with them beyond that time period – Kovi will grow with the team and I see Vettel in the same light at RBR.

Other teams favour drivers, regardless of what actually comes out of the mouths of the team bosses et al – Renault are favouring Kubica! And in their position I’d do the same.

Some don’t at all.

Some are prepared to wait ’til later in the season (when the positions in the drivers championship are more set) to make a decision over who leads etc. Ferrari spring to mind (only in recent seasons), although behind closed doors they may have different ideas on this 😉

Re: RBR – I have noticed that Vettel (pretty much) always pits first during the races – he who pits first this season has an adavantage[although some keen stats-person is now going to come back with the exact figures to show me I’m wrong on that statement ;-)]. Wasn’t Webber’s race in Aus totally compromised by pitting after Vettel?

As for the RB’s coming together in Turkey… Webber was not in the wrong; Vettel tried to regain as much of the true racing line as possible, way too early.

I’m not sure what Vettel’s “pointing at his head and waggling his finger about” gesture meant, but if someone did that to me… I’d take it as if they were insinuating that I was mad\insane.

Some tough team-talks in the RB camp this week, me thinks! 🙂



I believe that he is the favoured son and it is something that you have alluded to before when the contracts were renewed.

I suppose that they have invested money via the young driver programme and also Webber is older and not as blonde!

I love F1!!!

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