Le Grand Retour
Paul Ricard 2018
French Grand Prix
Drivers talk of risk on a rainy day in Montreal
Drivers talk of risk on a rainy day in Montreal
Posted By: James Allen  |  10 Jun 2010   |  9:08 pm GMT  |  103 comments

Today was cold and wet in Montreal, creating a subdued atmosphere after all the feverish excitement of the last Grand Prix in Istanbul.

The drivers did their press briefings early to accommodate European press deadlines and predictably much of the talk was about the right and wrong ways of racing a team mate and about the risks of driving close to the walls here in Montreal.

The body language of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber was interesting. Webber went first, sheltered under an awning with rain bouncing off the umbrellas and onto the media. When the subject of Turkey came up, he folded his arms, a traditional defensive gesture. He is obviously still uncomfortable with this situation even though he said, “I’m cool. I’m totally over it.”

He had nothing to hide, after all he’s come out of this episode the best, with the Red Bull management going through several phases of blame-laying, finally arriving at Christian Horner’s interview with BBC yesterday in which he said that the team had been wrong to blame Webber after the race. Horner repeated that this afternoon with us in the paddock.

On top of that Webber has landed a new deal with the team for 2011, so it’s been a positive outcome from a difficult situation. But he doesn’t look very triumphant, or even particularly pleased. The episode still rankles, I reckon.

Clearly there have been some hard words behind closed doors.

As for Vettel, he handled himself very well in a difficult situation. He had some of the English tabloid journos trying to goad him, asking if he felt he had anything to apologise for and whether indeed he was even capable of saying sorry.

He covered it well, saying, “I did what I did, if I had my time again I wouldn’t do anything different.”

At one point he started to get a bit shirty, saying that he would like to move on and talk about the future, but he got hold of himself quickly and carried on his laconic, half-smiley delivery and going over what happened when he turned into Webber. It was as if he suddenly realised that all these hacks surrounding him was a compliment to him and he rose above it. It was impressive maturity for a 22 year old.

It’s hard not to like Vettel. He has a calm, easy way about him and impressive intelligence. I asked him whether he regretted that the episode had blown open the debate about him being the favoured son at Red Bull, due to their massive investment in the young driver programme. F1 fans don’t like driver with a sense of entitlement -just ask Lewis Hamilton. He has suffered from that since McLaren nurtured him into F1. It won’t be until the end of his career, probably, that he is able to shake that off.

Vettel said that he doesn’t regret it, because he accepts that at the top of this business the media will take a view and you have to accept it and focus on the racing. He has sustained some collateral damage over this, mostly because of the reaction of Helmut Marko immediately after the incident and it’s just something he has to deal with.

The other drivers were talking today about this Montreal track and the thrill of racing close to the walls, knowing how finely to judge it. The two outstanding Montreal exponents, Hamilton and Robert Kubica had a lot to say on the subject.

As I posted in the last LG Tech Report, one of the great skills of an F1 driver is judging risk. They work their way up to the limit and every corner is about a micro-decision on how far to push their luck. In Istanbul if they make a mistake they go for a jaunt across acres of asphalt run off. Here in Montreal they hit a wall and it brings out a safety car.

It’s not often that you get the modern drivers to talk about existential subjects like risk taking. They conversation tends to be either factual or opinion. It is especially fitting that we should be discussing risk at a track named after Gilles Villeneuve, F1’s ultimate risk-taker.

Drivers take calculated gambles at every corner, based on the consequences. On a track like Montreal the consequences can be severe, as they were for Alonso in Monaco for example, and it is about closing the gap between what is comfortable and what is fast, finding the limit.

” I like when the walls are close and there is a very small margin for a mistake,” said Kubica. “It’s always more challenging and it gives you more fun to drive. I am a big fan of street circuits, but I’m also a big fan of safety because I have been through a big crash, here in Canada. Thanks to a big effort of the FIA and the teams it becomes much safer and I am still here. Otherwise if would crash here ten years ago with such a big impact as I had, most probably I wouldn’t be here.”

“A lot of us like the street circuits where there is less room for error,” said Hamilton. “Here you can be really close to the walls and there is a real danger factor. The tyres grain here too and if you go off line it’s easy to crash.”

And this brings the whole discussion full circle really, because assessing risks is also a crucial factor when racing against another car, especially if it is your team mate. When you race another car the consequences of a mistake are far less severe than if you collide with your team mate. Both Webber and Vettel failed to assess those risks properly in Istanbul and that is because they were motivated by a desire to get the upper hand over each other at a vital point in the season.

We are told that they have learned from the experience, but what that really means is that they have had their risk assessment retuned by the team. The competitive tension is undoubtedly still there.

Featured News
Editor's Picks
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

That last paragraph is a perfect “in a nutshell” encapsulation of the Webber/Vettel situation. They are racers and will never be “ok” with what happened, but it made them re-assess priorities a bit. Nicely done.


Just hoping for a better pace from Alonso and Felipe this weekend.


totally off topic comment. I think you should go for the job of bbc f1 commentator. the current guy aint got a clue. you did a fastastic job on itv and id much rather have you on the television than what’s his name?..



I’m going for JB to get his third win this weekend!

Good to see another race coming up, I’m sick to the teeth of the Redbull saga now. Lets see some racing again 🙂

Renault have really upped their game again this year. Great to see them back on their game. Kubica is very impressive this term also.


JB or Lewis this weekend for the win? I even fancy Robert Kubica to do well.


James Allen true F 1 fans love Lewis Hamilton. I’m not talking about those who support drivers along racial lines, or nationalities. I have been following Lewis career since Karting, and I don’t quite understand the sense of entitlement you are referring to. Lionel Messi was nurtured by Barcelona since the age of 12 look at him today. Even the vettel you seem to adore didn’t come from now where, as a matter of fact if were to argue who’s current crop of drivers really project a sense of entitlement I will suggest it is Vettel. That silly move on Webber in Turkey says it all


For another perspective on risk, I would urge any UK motorsport fans to tune in to ITV4 at 9pm tonight for the Isle Of Man TT coverage.

MotoGP star Jorge Lorenzo was there doing a parade lap today. I think many would say the MotoGP racers are taking big risks compared to F1 drivers, so it will be interesting to hear what Lorenzo has to say about the risks being taken by the TT racers. Risks which have been amply demonstrated today sadly.


James, on a different note (this may not be the thread for this, but it’s related nevertheless).

The voice on the McLaren radio that that replies Lewis’s question – “If i back off, is Jenson gonna pass me or not” is actually Martin Whitmarsh! He is heard saying ” No, Lewis,No”. In subsequent interviews, Martins says it is Phil Prew speaking. This is clearly a lie.

The voice before saying – “Lewis, we need you to save fuel, both cars are the same” clearly belongs to somebody else’s than the voice afterwards. A simple voice analysis – if the FIA choose to do it would confirm this.

Why is no one picking up on this, and why are the media choosing to ignore this glaring inconsistency?


There was a lot of comment on that voice being Martin’s on F1Fanatic. If it is, then Whitmarsh is exactly who i think he is – [Mod} who will always looks for somebody innocent to blame.


Interesting comments again from the gang, and very much like Vettel & Webber, each will take their opinion of whose to blame to their graves. Let’s move on is it? It’s been two weeks and thankfully in a few hours we’ll have something new to talk about.

On the Gilles front, I can’t comment as it was before my time, but I have my favourites and in my opinion it’s impossible to compare drivers across generations – the sport, cars, safety have all moved on. I just think KR was a legend to enter a snow-mobile (not sure of the spelling of that) race under the name James Hunt as Ferrari had forbidden him to race prior to the season opener due to his insurance policy – brilliant.

Going back one step it’s good to have another GP to look forward to, I must say that after the first race I was contemplating having to find another sport to follow but thankfully (as Wales didn’t manage to qualify for the World Cup!) my worries were short lived as the season since Bahrain has been brillaint. i think the refuelling ban has added something, I can’t remember the last time 4 cars followed each other so closely as turkey for a race distance without making any mistakes – excpet the obviously catastrophic one at the end – but hopefully you know what I mean.

let’s go Montreal….

I’d rather not have rain or safety cars – but seeing as they’re likely I’ll be putting a few quid on Alonso this weekend (odds permitting of course)!


Hi James,

Thanks for the fantastic blog, you cover a huge gap for all f1 fans these days. And thanks for the guys who comment, impressive level!.

Sorry for deviating from the topic, but I would like to ask you a big favour.

Which are your prefered books regarding F1 history?. Specially regarding 70’s as early 80’s as I have vivid memories as from late 80’s onwards.


A great book about racing, the period and a [sadly brief] f1 driver, is “The Unfair Advantage” by Mark Donohue. A great driver who was dominant in the US and raced very briefly in F1 before being killed at the Austrian GP in ’74 or ’75. Fantastic book as it discussed how they built and developed cars in the period, took risks and raced F1 drivers coming to the States.


Grand Prix Greats by Roebuck is good on that period. To be honest I’ve not read many from that period. I read all the 1950s one for some reason and may of the 1960s and 1990s. Let me know what you find.

Scrutineer's Cousin

Being an aussie who has lived in Europe for the past 6 years, I was actually quite intrigued by the comments on the previous post on Webber’s accent and how he adapts and drops the colloquial aussie when he speaks to the non-aussie contingents. It’s actually fairly common because the aussie drawl relies a lot on tone of voice, and ‘calling a spade a spade’ and therefore lacks nuances – especially when it is quoted.

But I really think that this Turkey episode really plays into the hand of Webber. Firstly, he’s extended the gap between him and his main rival. Secondly, Aussies love being the underdog (think Steve Bradbury and not our cricket or swimming) and even though he is leading the WC, how the Red Bull mgmt fell over with their comments in Turkey gives Webber the underdog status within the Red Bull team. He also proved to Vettel that he’s no pushover and the spotlight will now be focused on the team to prove to the world that they really are impartial between the drivers.

All bodes well for our boy Webber. C’mon son!


Button lied about not having a target lap time straight after the Turkey race. Something didn’t add up because Tim Goss, McLaren’s chief engineer, said categorically that both drivers were given target lap times, and Button said he wasn’t. Now in Canada, Button has said he was given a target lap time. What a sneaky liar. If this was Lewis Hamilton doing this, lying to cover his back to his own teammate and team, it would be front page news.


Ah, the old risk-to-reward ratio. I like to think about it in the following way: if each driver has a specific ‘risk-taking score’, eg. Hamilton, Kubica -high; Rosberg, Trulli -low (personal opinion!) then all the drivers ‘scores’ might be normally distributed. What I have found fascinating this season is relating this hypothetical ‘score’ to the drivers standings, my early conclusion is that base on this point system it rewards both ends of the spectrum, in other words, the change in the points system is working – from the rabbit and hare perspective anyway.

Also I wonder if it can be argued that consistent and successful risk taking (on-track) can be viewed as driver talent.


“Also I wonder if it can be argued that consistent and successful risk taking (on-track) can be viewed as driver talent.”

No shi*, sherlock.


*Sigh* Thanks for that thoughtful comment, I think it really added to the debate.

I actually think its a tricky question to answer as it depends on one’s definition of risk and driver talent. For example, looking at the McLaren drivers this season, it can be argued that Button has taken more risks with strategy calls that were successful, like the tyre choice in Australia. Hamilton has taken more risks by pretty much overtaking most drivers at some point, usually in a successful manner. So which one is a more talented driver? Can of worms anyone?

“Also I wonder if it can be argued that consistent and successful risk taking (on-track) can be viewed as driver talent.”

No shi*, sherlock.

Actually, my initial question is a paradox because ‘consistent’ and ‘successful’ means that it is not a ‘risk’.

Not so elementary, dear Watson.


SUCCESSFUL risk taking can be considered talent. I think paraphrasing Senna, you have to know which risks to take. If a drivers risks tend to be ‘successful’, then he is taking the right risks.

I can’t help but think that (based on what James said above) Villeneuve thrived on ANY risk, it was the rush of roulette wheel that made the sport worthwhile for him.

I think that in past generations, the drivers approach to risk was shaped by how much he was prepared to chance his own injury or death. Now, it much more about not costing the team constructors points or a good finish in front of the sponsors.


A very interesting suggestion. There is no doubt that playing the percentage game can be very effective.


But I wonder why the colision has not been investigated? After all Webber was the victim.


Re James’s last sentence—- In my opinion the only one of the two RB drivers to “learn” anything must be Finger Boy, he must learn that Weber is not one to be syched out by anyone, and he is certainly not going to make it easy for anybody to overtake, especially Vetti!



From Mark’s Interview yesterday :

Q. Will you give more room in the future if he attacks?

Mark : Or vice versa.

Bring it on !!


I remember Mansell storming around Monaco, always a couple of inches (5cm) away from the barriers, lap after lap, after lap. Very consistent.

That kind of precision required incredible focus and many would agree incredible bravery.

Whilst F1 safety has thankfully moved on today’s drivers still face similar challenges. And it’s not just about repeating the same line every lap. Conditions change throughout the race and the drivers need to adapt, testing the limit of grip.

Vettel’s quail lap in Australia was a good example of driving on the limit, and then a little more. If, as one driver suggested last week, the difference between leaving a safe gap and kissing the wall on exit is around 0.2 seconds, drivers will at some time during the race have to up the pace and hope lady luck is on their side.

Will be interesting to see the onboard shots on Saturday + Sunday.


Hello James,

Would it be possible for fans to meet you and the drivers in the paddocks in Canada? Montreal here we come! 😀


Actually, I find it hard to like Vettel. And for all your put downs of Lewis Hamilton, he is still one of the most popular drivers today because he is a nice, decent guy, and the best driver on the grid.


Hear hear.


Although the issue probably still rumbles inside of him, I think Webber will put his head down and make the most of his opportunities this year! He will be doing his best to show that Vettel isn’t the best driver in the RBR Team. AussieGrit!

Krzys Wolyniec

I have to say, James, I like your work, but your attempts to be political and not alienate anybody get tiresome at times. Webber and Vettel not judging risk properly? How do you judge the risk of somebody turning into you? You cannot straddle fence here and talk about the likable Vettel, when the guys has clearly not taken responsibility for an accident he clearly caused. I used to like Vettel, but not anymore. The petulant sense of entitlement and a distressing lack of self-awareness he developed this season (he behaved much better when he crashed into Kubica) is a real turnoff. As is your inability to call a spade a spade. Take example of Martin Brudnle on this one.


I’ve always supported Webber, I started supporting Red Bull when they joined the F1 circus and I’ve always kind of tolerated Vettel. Didn’t like all the fuss about him when I could only see a fast driver who’d managed nothing more than a couple of decent drives from the front row of the grid. Sure, he had to qualify well to get there, but qualifying doesn’t involve dicing with other drivers and that’s where I feel Vettel has a weakness.

So, after RightTurnGate or TurkeyGate or whatever it is I now support Webber more than ever, the team has gone way down in my estimation and I see Vettel as an Annointed Champion who still can’t overtake properly. The whole situation where Vettel was gifted a lap on full power to overtake the guy who led the race from the start smacks of favouritism no matter how the team explains it. (And days afterwards the team was still saying Webber had asked Vettel to turn his engine down, which is yet another bunch of crap designed to make it all Look Like Webber’s Fault.)

I’m fervently hoping Webber mops the floor with him and takes out the WDC, or at the very least tops Vettel’s points tally.

On the plus side, having four quick drivers in the top four cars, all of them playing Dick Dastardly tricks on each other, is going to give us a season to savour for years to come.


James – damned if you do, damned if you don’t…

That’s the lot of a journo I guess!


It still rankles all right. Webber’s faith in the team was rocked. And he was a believer- just check out his comments before the Turkish GP re ‘everyone moving in the same direction’ etc. I reckon that the TGP will either mark the end of his competitiveness for the season or, hopefully, the beginning of a period of utter ruthlessness. Mark is going to need to use all his guts and wit if he’s going to succeed this year.


Here’s hoping the latter!


It’s so true about the proximity of the walls creating excitement – not only for the drivers but for the fans, too. It’s become harder to really appreciate the skill of a driver when watching the TV – but places like Montreal allow you to see that skill to the full.

Istanbul is a wonderful ribbon of tarmac, totally ruined by the barriers simply being too far away from the track.


Just imagine turn 8 with no runoff, deadly!


Rain will be tricky, when it did in 2000 i seem to remember some drivers getting very cautious, staying off the kerbs etc, could prove to be a big challenge


The BBC forecasts no rain. Let’s hope they’re wrong (again).


It is clear. webber feels uneasy abaut the hole affair. He knows he is nº2 no matter what they say to the media. Vettel feels more at home, because he knows he is nº1. I hope webber doesn’t get affected by the situation, and matches vettel’s speed. Even though i think hamilton will be world champ this year.


I think had RB not signed him he would spill the beans on all of the BS going on inside the team. As for the other driver he would have been coached on how to handle this press conference. I think if it rains then it could just come back to Redbull this weekend, if they can stay out of trouble.


“The episode still rankles, I reckon.” I think you’re right. And being forced on the defensive when your team-mate has driven into you is surely only half of it. I wonder if RB haven’t signed Mark up again so quickly, the better to control him. Time will tell.


Webber should have steered right when he saw his teammate was passed, that is what the team feels too. Webber even told the team to slow Vettel down, he DEMANDED team orders.

It is very strange to see that almost exclusively English speaking fans defend Webber for him thinking about himself more than thinking about the team.


Carl why the hell should ANY racer just back off and give their position away????? Webber gave ample room, squeezed him to make him work for the position, but he never barged him off track like a one mr alonso did to lewis Hamilton at la source.

I like many others believe you to be deluded


What!! This is F1 mate, Webber had the line and was 100% right to keep it if he hadn’t it’d be Coulthard all over again and look what happened to him.


End of debate Carl. If he needed Webber to move over, the Wunderkid simply wasn’t good enough.


Carl, I guess it’s like Mark says – he and Junior will never agree, and neither will you and I. If you define “passed” as being alongside, there’s a problem for a start. Junior uses these little jerking moves to get people out of the way, but here he did it too suddenly and above all too early. He caught Mark by surprise, as he has said.

As for the rest, the nationality card is generally trotted out by those who’ve lost the argument.


Carl, Webber held his position as he is entitled to do. Vettel swerved to his right and hit Webber. In any language the reality of what happened is the same. Vettel was 100% at fault. Any objective fan of F1 would draw the same conclusion.


Carl – although Webber intially moved left on Seb (a bit) a long way before the incident it is as Beendun says – get over it – Seb will have to – and learn to do it right next time


You mean he should have spread wide for his teammate? Not a chance. Vettel depended only on himself to make it to the corner and finish the move. He messed up.


Vettel crashed into Webber. End of. Watch the footage if you need proof. If he wanted to overtake, if he felt he was in the faster car – fine. But you’ve got to make a clean pass. Vettel did not. How can the responsibility be placed upon the car ahead? If you want to get past, make a move and make it stick. Vettel didn’t. He messed it up. This isn’t about blue flags, this is passing for position.


I remember Alex Wurz, you know the German guy, saying in very strong terms right after the race that it was totally Vettel’s fault and how dare Vettel expect Webber to disappear just because he wanted to steer to the right. So less of the nationality talk – it has nothing to do with nationality, just common sense and what is right and wrong.


well said pitter, as has been said before he wasnt yet passed webber, so why should he make it easy carl


You are right, it has nothing to do with nationality …

Alex Wurz is Austrian and not German!


Carl, you appear to be as rabid as those you complain about.

It has come out from the radio transmissions that Webber did not tell “team to slow Vettel down”, but had in fact asked his engineer what engine setting Vettel was on. This somehow been twisted into Webber telling the “team to slow Vettel down”.

Not to say that Webber was not thinking about himself over the team or not, but do you really believe that Vettel was thinking more about the team than himself when he tried to pass Webber?


Carl, you’ve accused Webber of demanding team orders when he did not. Pointing that out has nothing to do with laying blame over the incident or whether or not people commenting are native English speakers.


Yah right, Its easy to be a team player when you know that if he moves over, you will take the lead in the Championship. If you want a team player then you should just have a constructors chamionship team, not a driver championship. Both are going for glory, it what happened after the race that has everyone upset.


See example of all English speaking fans responding to my post to prove my point, cheers.

Never they question Webber not leaving space to avoid a collision and that way thinking of himself only. Vettel passed him, he should back off instead of risking 2 cars going off by squeezing out the teammate.

If the roles were reversed these same people would still have picked Webber’s side again….(Vettel should have left space and steered right to avoid a collison, Webber passed him…)………..but the other guy is a German so never gonna happen.

Go to non-English speaking forums, not English or German, (if you know more languages), vast majority say Webber was selfish and should have backed off after being passed by Vettel and think about the team.


Webber did not demand team orders. All Webber did was ask if Vettel was on the same engine settings as him. He did not ask the team to slow Vettel down. Clearly mud sticks though which is why Red Bull never should’ve made their original claim that Webber asked for Vettel to be slowed down.


Also, Vettel attempted a risky pass he hadn’t made stick. There was no way he could brake on the dirty side of the track and hope to hold the pass, so he basically expected Webber to move over as a sign of courtesy. If teammates are expected to move over anytime this happens, all they have to do is make a dangerous move on the inside and gain a position.


It was later clarified that all Webber had done was ask the team if Vettel was on the same engine settings as him, not that he demanded Vettel to slow down.

Top Tags