Red Bull “let the drivers race”, or do they?
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Jul 2011   |  8:39 am GMT  |  388 comments

After last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz articulated his philosophy of why his drivers would be allowed to race each other right to the end and the team would not intervene, “Let the two drivers race and what will be will be,” he said. “If Alonso wins we will have been unlucky. I predict a Hollywood ending. Worst case scenario we don’t become champion? We’ll do it next year.

“But our philosophy stays the same because this is sport and it must remain sport. We don’t manipulate things like Ferrari do.”

He got his Hollywood ending when Vettel went on to claim the title at the final round. Mateschitz wanted to see his drivers race and his attitude looked like a very noble, Corinthian spirit.

Those words look pretty hollow today, however after Red Bull instructed Mark Webber to “maintain the gap” behind his team mate Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps of yesterday’s British Grand Prix.

Webber had ignored instructions from his own engineer Ciaran Pilbeam and was shaping up for a move, but heeded the instructions after team boss Christian Horner intervened.

Afterwards he made his feelings clear in the press conference, where he said he was “not alright about it” as he felt that he should be entitled to fight for an extra place. As he pointed out, if anything had happened to the leader Fernando Alonso, he would have been fighting for the win.

Team orders are now legal in F1, so there is no official sanction here, but the team face serious accusations of hypocrisy while Mateschitz’s credo seems to have been ignored.

One one level it’s not a big deal; it was only for three points. But on another level it’s huge because Red Bull has given up the moral high ground and worse, has shown that its values were fine when Vettel was the one being given a chance, but that it doesn’t apply the other way around.

Was three points worth sacrificing all of that for?

With Vettel so far ahead in the points and unlikely to be caught this season, fans would argue that there was no need for Red Bull to intervene. Team boss Christian Horner said that they had done so because they feared the drivers might take each other off.

“I’m surprised at what he (Webber) did, so it’s something he and I will talk about in private,” Horner said.
“At the end of the day, the team is the biggest thing. No individual is bigger than the team. I can understand Mark’s frustration in that, but had it been the other way round, it would have been exactly the same.

“From a team point of view, there was a big haul of points on the table and it made absolutely no sense to risk seeing both cars in the fence and coming back on a tow truck.”

This rather underestimates Vettel’s intelligence. He might not have wanted to finish behind Webber for the first time this season, but the big picture is that he would still be leading his team mate and closest challenger in the championship by 201 points to 127 as opposed to 204 points to 124 we have today.

He’d hardly be likely to block or collide with Webber simply to alter those numbers. Vettel is a champion, he proved that last year and he’s proved it time and again this year with his increasingly mature and impressive performances. And he is more than capable of thinking like a champion.

He should be allowed to race, because the downside of acting as Red Bull have done here is that they diminish his achievement by making it look manipulated and have needlessly undermined a set of values that they worked hard and took huge risks last season to establish.

The irony of this is that both Horner and Webber had confirmed over the course of the weekend that they were going to renew their contract for 2012, despite the team receiving overtures from some of the most successful drivers on the grid. This is unlikely to derail that, but it has raised all sorts of questions.

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Nearly 400 comments have been made on this topic, but with the new revelation that Webber will be racing for RBR again in 2012,it is almost dejavu all over again as it was at the end of 2010 when RBR revealed Webber will race on in 2011.

This begs the question if the whole “drama” between Vettel vs Webber vs RBR is staged for PR purposes ? Surely if Webber was that bitter and disgruntled, he would either retire or move on to some other team. Surely if RBR didn’t like insubordinate employees, they could replace Webber with someone just as talented and less prone to washing dirty linen in public.

But they go on year after year like 2 individuals in a bad marriage.I cannot help but think this is yet another PR ploy by RBR. Webber is replaceable,in a great car he can be very fast, but he has never displayed the ability to punch above the weight of his car. If i were RBR, i would take a long hard look at a recovering Kubica or a rejuvenated Jaime Alguersuari or even Buemi who could all compliment Vettel. And then there is Sutil if he is replaced by Hulkenberg, so why Mark ?


Again, as always in F1, everything is not always as it seems and a little bit complicated.

I believe the relationship between Webber and RBR is mutually beneficial to both parties and that is why they both chose to remain with each other, despite the perceived bad publicity.

For Red Bull, Webber brings not only experience and a mature approach to car development and race setups, he strengthens their relationship with their Renault engines – his manager being one Flavio Briatore, ex-team principal of Renault, and still influential behind the scenes despite his ‘ban’ for race-fixing. It should be noted that Webber was on the verge of signing for Renault for 2005, but opted not to because of Alonso and (against Briatore’s advice) signed for his ill-fated stint at Williams.

For Webber, it is always a tough call for a race driver to walk away from the best car in the field, however dire the political circumstances may be within RBR. I would sense that he would rather retire than to jump into a lesser car.

However, with rumblings that Briatore may have visited Ferrari to entertain the idea of Webber suiting up in the scarlet red jumpsuit in the future, this would suggest that RBR hasn’t contrived to manufacture this ‘drama’, despite the old adage that ‘any news is better than no news’.

With Webber committed to RBR for 2012, I would expect Red Bull’s next prodigy, Ricciardo, would be a more suitable replacement for Webber after completing his (full) understudy year in HRT or Torro Rosso in 2012.


If I was Webber, and I got those “team orders” on the radio, I’d have told them to pound sand!.. I hope Mark gets a new ride next year. I have zero respect for the Red Bull team at this point.


“its values were fine when Vettel was the one being given a chance, but that it doesn’t apply the other way around.”



It is obvious that Red Bull are hypocrits or Christian Horner has no confidence in his ‘white haired little boy’ keeping his cool under pressure. One can only remeber the last time Mark put pressure on him and what Lewis did to him not so long ago. One has to protect someone like that.


After 360 comments, perhaps this one won’t ever be, or perhaps it’s already been said, but I don’t understand while the issue of drivers taking each other out is dealt with on track and not via contracts. Penalties, fines, pay for repairs. Who knows? But let drivers (of any team) race, and if they stuff up, the penalty should be off track and behaviour changing.


Too much grey area and too much money and vested interest involved to deal with it that simply. The last thing you want is drivers contesting disputes through contractual litigation I suppose.


I understand your comment; but the last thing I want is drivers being told not to race. But this is F1, and nothing in F1 is simple, is it!?


It is unbelievable to me that Red Bull did not let their drivers race. It would have been the only option consistent with the Corporate Image. Instead the company basks in the reflection of the limp response we saw at Silverstone.

Did the decision come from Mr. Mateschitz? If not he should be right ticked off as it undermines his personal credibility.

I am glad Weber took a largely non-compliant stance. You can tell that having to betray his racers instincts has diminished Felipe Massa as a racer – possibly as a man also in his own eyes. To diminish risk they simply need to build clauses into driver’s contracts: If you ever take your team mate off there will be Hell to pay. Pick the number or zeros you feel appropriate…


Ive always held Horner in high regards, up until now, this last week or so,if you read between the lines of what Horner has said, He does not hold Webber in such high regard as he does Vettel, by his statement that said basically a team with Vettel and Hamilton in together wouldnt work, because of the calibre of both drivers, so in my eyes, he is saying Webber is not as good a driver as Vettel and Hamilton, but if the bad luck that has dogged Webber wasnt there, and the strategy was correct, we would see different results, methinks, I feel Mark doesnt get as much support in the team, as Seb does, and I think sunday helped me reinforce this view, Horners explanation had holes in it, and by the look on his face, he didnt seem to believe in what he was saying either…Team bosses always seem to say they have a duty to the team, the sponsors and the fans, if that is so, then they should let their drivers race to the finish, team orders in my eyes, is a form of cheating, as it cheats the fans, and brings the sport into disrepute, yes they got the most points they could expect for the team, but Webber is left with a sour taste in his mouth, where as he could have been on a high for Germany, Seb cant feel comfortable knowing he got second, through default either…. F1 and team orders will never change, its gone on since basically the birth of the sport, and nothing can be done to stop it, even banning team orders, the teams find a way to exercise them, so the sport will always be dogged by these discussions…….


Do RBR favour Seb – of course they do and they’ve never tried to deny that. On *numerous* occasions Christian Horner has said *on public record* that they will be building the team around Seb. Do a Google search for “We are building the team around Sebastian” and see for yourself.


Have to be honest as an Aussi I’m a Webber fan

However a few points need to be made clear

1. Webber started on pole and had every opportunity to win

2. Would Red Bull have called off Vettle if he was chasing Webber in the final stages, don’t think so

3. I think Horner was more fearful of Vettle causing a crash rather than Webber as Vettle is pigheaded about giving webber anything (and rightfully so)

4. Did anyone notice how Vettle struggled to get past Hamilton, which is my basic view of Vettle a sensational clear air driver but certainly not a racer like Hamilton or Alonso.

I hope these midseason rule changes (as unjust as they are) pull Vettle back a little into the feild and he has to race with other top drivers and not just time trial a race. I think then you will see the crash kid re-emerge


Im a Webber fan but it’s his own fault that he put himself in that situation. How many more times does he need to put Vettel away? Another great pole lap and another poor race from Mark. He should have been ahead of Vettel and then this wouldn’t have been an issue.

I would have loved to see them fight it out but Mark can have no complaints here. He didn’t do his job on Sunday and win the race. I think it’s more proof that Mark is not up to it this season. Shame really.

I think he needs to move teams to be honest.


and yeah, “at the end of the day” it may be the team for Christian Horner, but he can’t speak for anyone but himself.


Whether Red Bull are biased towards Vettel or not isn’t the issue as far as I’m concerned. The issue is that they don’t trust the two drivers not to crash into each other. That’s not very supportive considering they are two of the top drivers in the world and neither of them has a bad record for collisions.


Cant wait to read Marks next book once he retires


It’s all swing and round-abouts.

At the end of the day, Christian Horner has a job to perform and get his team to another WCC. So his decision is completely understandable.

But… The rivalry between Mark and Seb is dynamite to watch and I’m sure that it would have been a thrilling conclusion to the British GP. And if they came together (again) then so be it… that’s hard and honest motor racing, thats why we watch and thats what we love about it.

Lets hope Mark can get up on Sebastian in the next round!


Bravo, great article James and I couldn’t agree more. It’s ironic that the team that tried to demonize Ferrari last year has been caught doing the same although they did this last year ad well.


I’ve worked up a new logo for RBR…


How about a name change to the possibly safer and gentler “Red Cow” (would need to add udders to the logo). Or perhaps inaugurate a corporate makeover to push the new replacement “Yellow Chicken” product?

The penny just dropped. Of course; Red Steer because a steer has no… I get it!


Not going to buy a Red Bull drink or product here, ever.

I think Dietrich has a lot to thank Christian Horner for making the RB brand a mess.


You’ve summed it up perfectly, James. Nothing to do add here.


I feel for Webber.

He has been struggling all year with understanding the tyres and DRS issues. All talk so far this year is how Vettel has dominated both the field and Webber. Hear was Webbers chance to redeem some pride and confidence by finishing a race higher than Vettel. Could you imagine having Webber’s year of fustration, then losing the start, then a poor pit stop dropping you from 2nd to 4th, only then to be told to hold the gap?

I am sure that this will fire Webber up for the next race. I look forward to seeing him take victory and then over the radio “Is this a big enough gap?”


I think what F1 and the “Teams” need to remember/think of is that these days the newer fans are less “die hard” team fans, and more interested in the actual drivers

Example: I wasn’t supporting HRT on the weekend because they are a great team, but because Ricciardo was in the car

James you make a good point about the instruction underestimating Sebs intelligence, i guess it speaks a lot for his Ego and the massaging it requires?


In these days of gambling is the F1 management not in breach of laws that prohibit the manupulation of results that can affect the outcome. If I was gambling on the result of the Silverstone GP and took a trifect for alonso/weber/vbettel at great odds (I would be a genius to do so) then I would be robbed by CH decision to manipulate the placings. Why arent the police investigating such actions. I could also be spot betting on who came 2nd or 3rd. What is the difference with a “noball on the 2nd ball of the 3rd over” as per pakistan.


My thoughts exactly! Try doing what they did in any other sport and it will be called match fixing!

Horse racing and cricket are very good examples where it has happened in the past and look at the effect they had!


Little known is the fact that Vettel himself initiated the saga by asking the team to hold webber some 5 laps from the end. Horners integrity is once again in question here and Redbull should consider carefully the wisdom of allowing him to continually garner bad press for the team decisions he makes. Rumour has it that even his own team don’t believe a word he says any more, such are the schemes behind closed doors. Nice Aston Martin and private plane he flaunts at work though! Cost saving in F1…. Not! Martin Whitmarsh…. straight and always consistently honest on TV. Proof you can buy Class Horner.


“Little known is the fact that Vettel himself initiated the saga by asking the team to hold webber some 5 laps from the end”

Your proof of this ?


And the source for your “little known fact” is what?


Red Bull are so far ahead in the championship it was hardly a huge risk was it? Furthermore I guess that Red Bull are in motorsport to publicise their drinks product. If that is the case surely their exposure would be so much more positive if they did crash whilst trying to race to the line rather than what we have now.

Can you imagine the headlines we would have seen today had the two drivers been trying in to race in the last corner like Hamilton and Massa. They would have been hailed as sporting legends.


For a company that puts a huge effort into it’s brand image, it amazes me how hopeless they have been with it’s a PR in Formula 1. The way they handled the aftermath of the Turkish GP and British GP qualifying last year was an absolute shambles, and it seems they have learnt nothing after this latest episode. If any other team had instructed it’s drivers to hold position in the closing laps, it wouldn’t have been too bad in my opinion, but for Red Bull to do this after that noble statement in Abu Dhabi last year about never using team orders, makes the team look pretty stupid, and makes it clear once and for all it’s Vettel’s team. I think they need to some serious help with their PR, because it’s a team with an ever declining reputation.


The Red Bull team has forgotten that it is supposed to be a marketing exercise and not a racing team. The truth is out, Horner is revealed as a hypocrite. All the “Let them fight” goodwill gone in one simple comment broadcast to the entire F1 audience. I’ve been on the fence up to now on where Red Bull sit in my F1 affections. Now I’m off the fence, make mine a Monster and vodka.

Seán Craddock

U say “Was three points worth sacrificing all of that for?” But the whole point of this is that it wasn’t 3 points for Red Bull? It was 33!!!


Thanks, James for highlighting this.

The decision itself is not the most important point here. The hypocrisy is. It’s a shame Horner wasn’t pushed on this particular aspect in the (excellent) post race coverage.

As an aside, I agree with you and believe the decision was wrong and it’s negative impact on the racing aside he has given the team an almighty headache on the man-management side.

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