Webber uses the “R” word, Alonso and Hamilton manage expectations
Webber uses the “R” word, Alonso and Hamilton manage expectations
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 May 2011   |  4:26 pm GMT  |  85 comments

The grey overcast skies and light drizzle in the Istanbul paddock make for a lifeless, gloomy sort of atmosphere. Drivers huddle in their rain jackets, stepping over puddles on their way from garage to motorhome. The latest forecast is for it to improve from Saturday, which is a relief.

Add in the total lack of crowd or any kind of buzz around the event and F1 seems to be in a sterile bubble this weekend, going about its business behind closed doors.

But it still has to put on a show and luckily there is a lot going on in the sport at the moment, much to talk about. And on Sunday the TV cameras will transmit what is likely to be another exciting and unpredictable race to the waiting world in the 170+ countries in which F1 is followed.

There is talk that this might be the last race at this circuit; there is no local interest and voices here have said that there’s no appetite to pay to keep it here. We’ll see. I lost count of how many times I attended the last GP at Magny Cours, before the actual last race. For all its weaknesses in terms of atmosphere and failure to create a motorsport infrastructure here, this is a great race track and the drivers all said that they would really miss it if it fell off the calendar.

Felipe Massa is chief among them; he has won three times here and the little Brazilian has a spring back in his step, being back on favoured ground with some momentum back in his career. He had to fend off questions about a rumoured move to Red Bull, with Nico Rosberg joining Ferrari, but even that didn’t wipe the smile off his face.

Lewis Hamilton played a straight bat, talking down expectations for the weekend, after his momentous win in China three weeks ago. “I don’t have particularly high hopes. We don’t expect much here,” he said, disingenuously, before adding that he only won in China because he outdrove Vettel and McLaren outfoxed Red Bull on strategy.

Fernando Alonso was also not promising miracles from the updated Ferrari package, which features new front and rear wings. The team’s weak start to the season has been caused by correlation problems in the wind tunnel after it was scaled up from 50% to 60% models. Alonso said that he believes that the team has got to the bottom of it and has done some excellent work in the last three weeks. But he doesn’t expect the new parts to project him into a battle with the Red Bulls just yet.

“It’s a couple of tenths, not a revolution,” he said. “We won’t change the car completely in one race. I expect a slow reaction, step by step. But we are losing points and we need a reaction as soon as possible.”

I asked him specifically about his starts, which have been bad this year. Looking at the start analysis of positions at the end of sector 1 on the opening laps, he has lost seven places in three races, while Massa has gained five. He said that it was a combination of factors, some clutch control problems and mistakes on his part and acknowledged that these things needed working on. It’s been hard enough for Alonso with the car he has, but the poor starts compound the problem. *

Meanwhile Mark Webber has gone and used the “R” word, which is always a genie out of a bottle with the media.

There were some quotes from him before the weekend about his options for next season and the first thing he said when he sat down today was that he wouldn’t decide on next year until August. That invited the media to ask him lots of questions about next year and he said that there are three options,
“Either I stay here, or I stop, or I go somewhere else… which is unlikely, ” he added.

Last season his contract renewal with Red Bull was famously announced during the kiss-and-make-up moment after he and Vettel collided here. There’s no chance of a repeat this year, as Webber has made it clear that he wants to consider offers from outside and “keep things open” as he puts it.

The key question as far as him moving on is concerned is whether other teams feel he has “peaked” as a driver, does he still have capacity for fresh exploits, they will ask themselves. It’s been a long career, mostly flatlining with the odd blip at Jaguar and Williams, until exploding into life at Red Bull in the last two years.

As he showed again in China, he’s still a formidable racer and he’s always been good at judging the grip level just right in qualifying. But is there such a thing as a move away from Red Bull for the man who turns 35 this summer?

Once the “R” word – Retirement – starts getting used, it follows a driver round like a wasp, constantly reappearing until finally it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. Rosberg’s management maintains a market for his services, making him always look in demand. By “keeping things open” Webber is doing the same.

Webber’s show in China made many teams rethink their strategies for using the Pirelli tyres in qualifying with an eye on the race. One senior engineer told me that all the fast teams are thinking about doing Q3 on hard tyres, so sacrificing grid position in order to have extra new sets of tyres for the race and also getting the hard tyre out of the way first.

Vettel said that he won’t be doing that, “I still think that starting from pole position is where you want to be. Mark had a good race, but there’s a lot of risk involved. Now people are panicking a bit and saying they have to save tyres, but if your target is to win, you would start from the front.”

Sporting a new short hair cut, he again seemed slightly edgy. He was also asked what was his memory of last year’s race.

“A blank” he said, with that sardonic smile on his lips.

* For my full Strategy Briefing, analysing all the considerations the teams will make about the best way to do qualifying and the race, race start analysis and much more – with input from F1 team engineers – go to Strategy Briefing and click on the Istanbul Track in the graphic

Strategy Insights
Strategy Briefings
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!

Was watching live streaming for Practice 2 which didn’t have any commentary, just the howling of V8s.

Wow, what a crash from Vettel.



This is a great article about how RedBull are still using an illegal front wing this season. If you recall, front-flap adjuster have been eliminated from the regulations this year. But after SV’s crash this morning, you can clearly see cables hanging from the front wing. So his crash was a big, big mistake and they better explain or hide these wings quickly. I hope the FIA and teams demand a full inspection of this front wing. It’s obviously not camera wires…the camera’s are located at the tip of the nose, not down by the lower front wings.


Nice idea. Most likely to be for front tyre temperature sensors in the front wing endplates, I’m told by engineers here in Istanbul


Nice bit of writing.


Has Vettel had his hair cut because he lost a race? Or to put it another way, was the reason for his previously shaggy mop that he feared cutting it would do a Delilah on his winning run?


Apparently when he waved that Finger it got caught in his hair in China, resulting in a loss in China.

That or its due to be hot in europe during the summer. 🙂


Great to see Massa upbeat again. He has a real chance of beating Alonso this year. My choice of driver change would be Massa to Red Bull and Webber to Ferrari.

I think Massa could do a job at Red Bull.


Me too. I’d really like to see that. I still think Felipe has plenty to give in F1!

And I’d love to see mark go to Ferrari, but I thought before Robert would go to Ferrari and Mark would go to Renault (ahem Lotus). At the moment I’ll just be delighted to see Robert back in F1 and recovered.


“the little Brazilian has a spring back in his step”

……better than having a spring in the head.


Oh dear! – very good!!


I will be really sad to see Turkey off the calendar. Yes they haven’t managed to build atmosphere and loyal fans (yet), but surely that will only come with time?

The city itself is beautiful and always exciting to visit, and the track is simply awesome. It’s the only track that Tilke got right.

That Turn 8 has really grown on me. The rest of the track also has a lot of character. It will be a shame to see it go.


Any prospect of Webber to Ferrari?


Renualt anyone?



Do you see Mark going to Ferrari as their car has always had a small cockpit and a guy the size of Mark, or even Kubica, will have problems fitting in?

Maybe that problem has been solved, but worth raising with the Ferrari guys


Massa will not go to Red Bull. Why would you force Mark out for Massa, that makes no sense and spits in the face of the Red Bull scheme. If Mark doesn’t stay, my bet would be on Riccardo unless the Torro Rosso guys pick up their game.

If Marks skills are on the wane, then so surely are Massa’s, even more so would be my view.


The only person that really knows what Webber will do, is Webber.

To me I think you need to look at what the team are thinking. Honer and Webber flying home together after China, could they already be in negotiating.

Webber has been a very good boy lately, s–tty reliability and still playing the team man.

If Webber was to go anywhere or retire he would be letting it rip as he did at Williams in his last year.

Why would they replace him with Massa?


Mark Webber driving for another team would be bad news for Red Bull Racing, both on and off the race track.


And they (Red Bull) know it.


So does Mark.

Andrew Woodruff

Hi James

I must take issue with your paraphrasing of Lewis Hamilton – “before adding that he only won in China because he outdrove Vettel and McLaren outfoxed Red Bull on strategy”. From another source, I understand what he actually said was “we won [in China] because we generally outdrove them with strategy”.

My take on this is that what he actually said makes him sound far less of an egotistical plonker than your paraphrase! Given that he doesn’t need much help sounding like a self righteous “plonker” most of the time, it seems unfair to misquote him in such a way.

Cheers again for the great blog, and looking forward to the Senna movie release.


His exact quote was “In the last race we didn’t win because we had the fastest car. We won because we generally out-drove and out-did them with strategy”

Andrew Woodruff

So that is two of my trusted sources that have put a slight spin on the words that actually came out of his mouth!

It’s a difficult one to interpret – quite a delicately balanced statement from the cocky Brit. Pit straight weaver (above) says that the JA interpretation of what he meant is nothing more than mind games, implying that Hamilton has a right to tell the world (and more importantly his compitition) if he thinks he is the best driver on the grid. While you can’t argue with Hamilton’s right to say anything, you can say that “bigging himself up” in such a way lacks a lot of class. The tone of the psychological war games (if that is what this is) of Senna, Prost, Schumacher, Villeneuve etc, while sometimes personal, never sunk to the depths of a spoilt, favoured child like Hamilton so often seems to.

I actually doubt he really meant to say that he out drove Vettel. I may well be wrong, but I just find it so hard to believe that anyone, no matter how spoilt and favoured, could be so crass.

Pit straight weaver

If it is a case of mind games, you’re proving he’s already successfully drawn in one ‘victim’ hasn’t he? Bet his fingers are crossed that Seb and Fernando are as sensitive about analysing the nuances of what he says as you are (I doubt it, but if he keeps chipping away it might go to their heads too…)


It’s good that Massa’s body language seems to be improving around the paddock, I hope that he can on the podium this weekend and keep building some momentum.

People talk about Massa being a ‘confidence’ driver, but I think of him more as a ‘momentum’ driver. If you look through his career, he worked hard and improved every year, driving better and better, up until his crash. I think that the crash stopped his career momentum, and that was the worst part of it for him probably.


“Lewis Hamilton played a straight bat, talking down expectations for the weekend, after his momentous win in China three weeks ago. “We don’t expect much here,” he said, disingenuously, before adding that he only won in China because he outdrove Vettel and McLaren outfoxed Red Bull on strategy.”

You must be English James. C’mon now – Hamilton is the worst for trying to play head games! How many times *this year* has he said before practice “Red Bull are so far ahead of us” when in reality they aren’t. He’s actually getting a bit predictable really.

h, and he didn’t “out drive” Vettel, and you should have called him on that. The only statement in your quote is that “McLaren outfoxed Red Bull on strategy” which is true. On the same tyres, Vettel would have bothered defending. (Just like all those other British journalists hailing Jenson’s pass on Nico. Um.. he was light on Petrol and couldn’t keep fighting… c’mon, at least listen to the team radio! Not suggesting this was you, but it’s far too common amongst the british commentary set).



In qualifying trim Red Bull have been very far ahead. He has always said Mclaren are closer on race pace.

I’d rather see them say something worthwhile than give a PR speech or saying something completely different depending on what language they’re talking at the time.


That’s why I wrote “disengenuously”..


I was really sure the ‘R’ word was going to be ‘revenge’, after Vettel crashed him out last year. Ah well, no such fireworks this season I suppose.

I think it would probably be better for Webber to retire from Red Bull rather than flounder a bit in lower teams like Damon Hill or Jacques Villeneuve, I think it takes the shine off a career slightly.


Nice one, revenge is more like it!


If Webber does move on to a different team, it will not be a lowly ranked one.

I would be surprised if he did not already have something lined up for next year if Red Bull continue to sabotage him.


Webber will not retire, he’s still in form and everyone in f1 knows it!

It will be a sad day when he does! I for one will miss his honesty and straight talk in the paddock!


I suspect webber has fallen out of love with F1.


I don’t think so. But he’s part of something which is moving on, with all the key people now tied in for three years and he isn’t.


Time for Mark to move on to a team that will embrace his ability, not hobble it.

Pit straight weaver

Personally, I’d love to see Webber (and Schuey and Rubens) switch to sportscars or series like DTM while they still have a few good drives left in them. Would make for a better connection across the broad church of motorsport. I don’t see why they cling on to F1 like it’s the be-all-end-all (except for the money). Both Webber and Schumacher have driven at Le Mans before, and I reckon a Le Mans victory or a DTM title would look better on the mentelpiece than another ‘6th place in F1’ medal or whatever it is they get…


Vettel’s memory of last years’ Turkish GP is a blank!

Why am I not surprised? He wasn’t blood well paying attention to any of it!


I seem to remember that a few years ago, Bernie suggested a race in Le Castellet, with only VIP’s attending, mainly for a television audience. Now he has what he wants, and isn’t happy with it. RE Vettel; he would say that, wouldn’t he, considering he only wins when he starts from the pole.


… and the *next juicy rumour:

*me to Ferrari! Yep, and they’ve agreed to build one big enough for a guy 6’4″ and 240 lbs as soon as I lose 10 lbs!

SO I’m off to the gym! I know its around here somewhere…

Watch for my big debut!


Rosberg to Ferrari…

That should be amazing!


I would like to see someone like Di Resta in a red car. He used to beat Lewis and Sebastian when they were racing together.

He has a full season to show what he can do, and he started it with great great results in the Force India.

Wish him all the best!

OT: Looking so much for this race. Last 2,5 weeks have been so boring 😛


That is quite a good call Owen, and I’ve not thought of it before. Everyone talked about Kubica, now Perez. But Rosberg would be a great driver for Ferrari, and they can still keep cuddling Nando.


Nico is a good driver, but he doesn’t strike me as a Ferrari driver.

Just something about him that doesn’t quite fit (in my mind anyway). I’d really like to see felipe continue his upturn in form and push Fernando, and I think he’ll be much more on form this year.

Failing that I’d like to see Ferrari develop their own young world champ (that’s not having a go by the way). Bring in a young driver like one of their young drivers.

Question for all those aficionados. Who was the last driver to join f1 with the red giant and win?


Ferrari develop their own driver. Ferrari for decades were unable to get their act together. Then they took MS and RB and these two made it all happen. They steel a championship from McLaren for Kimi. I don’t think Ferrari will win a another championship for years. Not until they have the perfect combination of single minded driver and technical gurus. They have neither of those at the moment. Alonso is far too precious. To answer your question, I believe Clay Regazzoni in 1970.


“before adding that he only won in China because he outdrove Vettel and McLaren outfoxed Red Bull on strategy.”

Good to see he still posses his trademark conceit and hubris.
Reminds me of the time after Spa 2008 when he claimed, contrary to popular opinion, that Kimi was slower in the wet because he “didn’t have the balls to brake late”. And he added “I know I am great in those conditions”.


Kimi as someone not having a balls…? He should just watch some Kimi moments such as Spa 2002 driving through engine smoke in Eau Rouge..The real reason was that the Ferrari was quite bad in heating-up the tires, he had much less grip. But Raikkonen usually don`t feel the need for looking for excuses.


I have to say that when I read his comment:

‘. . . he only won in China because he outdrove Vettel and McLaren outfoxed Red Bull on strategy.’

I smiled. It is a funny put-down. There is a lot of evidence to support his statement. Good on him. More please. So much better than a whinge.

There are a few drivers out there with bigger egos and less reason for them. He made China for me. Let him crow about it.

I’d hate to see Webber leave the grid. When he on on circuit there is always the chance of something surprising happening. Surprising to him as well in most cases. And he is always worth watching in interview. That said, I’d hate to see him in an also ran.

There are a few drivers mid to late field who would hate to have him behind them on the grid, especially if he has nothing to lose.

Massa has a degree of confidence that we haven’t seen in some time. Are his results due to his improvement or Alonso being off the boil?

I’m expecting great things of this race. It would be a shame if the ciruit was removed from the list but then we are used to the good ones going and the bland replacing them.


That’s what makes him interesting. Ego is a big part of sport.


Errr well he was great in those conditions, as it wasn’t him that ended up in the wall, but gee, don’t let any facts get in the way of a good anti Hamilton rant!


I won’t. It’s a good week anyway to take shots at the bad guys.


I think a lot of (most? all?) drivers think those sorts of things about themselves — it’s more a matter of who’s willing to say it out loud!

Pit straight weaver

One man’s conceit and hubris is another’s self-awareness and confidence. And both those statements about Spa 08 look pretty spot on to me.

Does it ever cross the minds of the H-haters that he might just be playing psychological games the way Alonso, Schumacher and many others back to Senna and Prost do/did quite successfully. If we’d had blogging back in the early 90s the infrastructure would’ve melted down.

Can’t people just accept he drove a great race in China (and Spa 08) and Mclaren did outfox RB?


Yes, he used his inherited advantages as well as Vettel did in the opening two races.


James, sorry…a bit off topic. I want to buy a ticket to Hungarian GP for my brother as a gift.Will you be able to suggest a Grandstand with best views for the race?

Thank you.


Alex, check http://f1addicted.com ‘best views’ section = the turn 1 is the only good place.


Thank you very much – then this is where I will get tickets. Sadly, you cannot get a particular place, just a grandstand…


Damien – thanks for suggestions – very helpful. I am purchasing ticket this week…need to figure out how to influence a seat.


Good question. I think the chicane is quite popular, THe main stand on pit straight is standard stuff. It gets very busy and dusty there. There’s a website called Grand Prix advisor, I think that it deals with these kinds of questions.


Thank you, James. I went to the site and in Europe they only have Germany. Maybe some folks from here will answer. It is super important to know where to be. I went to Monza and I was told where to be – it was awesome, but I can’t imagine going blindly.


Hey Alex,

Just wondering: did you buy your ticket(s)? Did our recommendations work for you?

I forgot to add that with DRS this year, the grandstand at the first corner (Gold 4 from memory) might be good for overtaking action, providing the FIA get it right, unlike Turkey.


Hi Alex,

Website updated. Thanks for your interest.

We only got one review for Hungary so far. In short, good atmosphere but terrible transfer to and from the city (train then bus then a long walk). I would recommend not to fly back on the Sunday as it sounds that the organisation at the end of the race in on par to that of Malaysia.

From the people I spoke to who attended Hungary in the past, food is apparently quite expensive at the track, so bring your own picnic food (drinks are affordable).

Recommending a granstand is really a matter of taste and affordability more than anything else.

Looking at the map on http://www.hungaroring.com/ I would say Silver 4 seems to offer the best vantage point, although not a great one. It allows you to view the straight after Turn 11, Turn 12, Turn 14 and the start/finish straight. A seat there should give you the best understanding of the race if you opt not to rent a FanVision unit (portable TVs).

If this is your first race, I would recommend (and so would Johnny Noble and Mark Hughes of Autosport magazine in their book F1 racing for Dummies) to go for the Super Gold grandstand to experience the start of the race. There’s nothing like 24 revving F1 engines for a goose bump fix!

You will also experience the pit action. Considering how many there have been in the last two races, that should be pretty good.

If this is the podium that interest you, Gold 1, 2 or 3 should be for you.

James recommendation, Silver 1 is probably the best spot for those keen photographers as this is the slowest point on the track.

Best value for money – and my preference – would be the Red Bull grandstand in Turn 14 (viewable on http://www.formula1.com/races/in_detail/hungary_859/circuit_diagram.html when you turn grandstand ON). It looks like it has a good view of the last corner and pit entry, a really good place for listening to those blown diffusers when cars go back to the pits at very slow speed. The Renault exhaust notes this year are truly exquisite. Finally, the cars are slow enough in Turn 14 for taking good pictures too.

For the same price, I wouldn’t bother with the Bronze grandtstand (unless you have kids and are on a budget).

Whatever you do, choose a seat as high as possible (except for Silver 4 which is already high) so as to see the cars for longer. There isn’t much to enjoy when too close to the fence.

PS: James, thank you for the recommendation.


Any chance of moving the Turkish Tilke track to Texas?


Nonono! *We don’t want it! No Germans allowed in South Texas! ;P

[ok, for those of you humour-challenged, that is a joke: there are as many ethnic Germans growing wine in south Texas as in all of East Germany back in the day.]


You are already getting a “Tilke drome”, although it looks good so far.


Touche! If not there, how about Myrtle Beach, SC? Hardly any ethnic Germans here and it will provide an alternative to short track oval racing.

Top Tags
SEARCH Strategy