How strategy calls led to Vettel/Webber clash and Mercedes team orders
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Strategy Report
Posted By: James Allen  |  26 Mar 2013   |  5:37 pm GMT  |  373 comments

The Malaysian Grand Prix provided some extraordinary talking points with the dispute between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber the main focus.

Although this was primarily a dispute over trust and team orders, some curious race strategy decisions created the circumstances for the Red Bull drama and the Mercedes team orders, as we shall see.

Pre-race considerations

After the practice sessions the feeling among team strategists was that tyre degradation would be very high, while wear was expected to mean that medium tyres would last 15 laps with the hard lasting 18 laps. But the decisive data would be the degradation (cost in lap time of performance dropping every lap) this would decide how long the stint lengths would be.

Degradation turned out to be very high, as much as 0.4secs per lap for some cars, which is why the stint lengths were so short and there were multiple stops. For some cars, staying out over 10 laps meant losing four seconds. To manage this problem, many teams told their drivers to drive to a prescribed lap time, with the result that some team mates found themselves in artificial situations.


The Vettel vs Webber battle

The controversial battle between Red Bull team mates for the lead in the closing stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix was triggered by earlier strategy decisions. Vettel had driven qualifying with the goal of saving three sets of new hard tyres and two sets of mediums for the race. This is because he expected the Red Bull to be hard on its tyres. He was clearly planning a multi stop race with a fast final stint to keep the Ferraris and Mercedes at bay.

The race turned on a very odd decision: In the early stages of the race, as the track dried out, the team’s decision to pit Vettel early on lap five to change onto the new medium tyres was very much out of character. Red Bull has traditionally been conservative on changeover situations from wet to dry and the way they handled Webber was more typical of their approach. The Australian pitted two laps later than Vettel, with the result that he took over the lead of the race for the second stint.

Webber controlled the race from here. The pair were forced to anticipate their third stops to cover Lewis Hamilton, who was only two seconds behind when he stopped on lap L30. Webber was given priority on Lap 31, with Vettel a lap later.

But having done all of that, at the final stop something very unusual happened; having been given the stop preference throughout the race, coming in a lap earlier than Vettel for the second and third stops, Webber was then disadvantaged at the final stop.

He was brought in a lap later than his team-mate who pitted on Lap 42. Prior to this Webber had enjoyed a 4.2 second lead. However after exiting the pits on new hard tyres on lap 43 he found that Vettel was now 0.5s behind him on the faster new mediums. If Webber had stopped first he would have increased his lead.

So by stopping Vettel first, the team artificially set up the circumstance for what then happened, with Vettel choosing to attack and pass. The money in F1 is all in the constructors’ points, not the drivers’ points, so with 43 points for a 1-2, there was no reason for the team to want any risks to be taken by letting them race; plus racing each other, as they did, damages the tyres.

Despite the fact that the team had every reason to want the drivers to hold station after the final stops – and instructed them to do so – the circumstances led Vettel to see an opportunity, which had been created by this strategic decision. He wanted to redress the earlier strategic mistake, which had cost him the lead at the first stop. The rest is history.


Mercedes: Were they right to keep Hamilton ahead?

Another fascinating team-mate duel appeared to be going on at Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg disputing the final podium position. Here too, things were perhaps not quite what they seemed.

Hamilton had qualified ahead of his team mate and was ahead in each of the stints of the race up to the final pit stop. Both drivers did a short third stint on new medium tyres of just nine laps, Rosberg pitting a lap after Hamilton throughout the race.

Mercedes had concerns about the fuel consumption of both drivers and asked them to save fuel in the second half of the race, Hamliton’s being the more critical. So in the final stint, when Rosberg closed up to Hamilton and asked for permission to pass the situation was again somewhat artificial. There was no reason to let him past as they were not going to catch the Red Bulls and at no stage had Rosberg been ahead of Hamilton.

The positive was that Mercedes were competitive again for the first time since the middle of last year. And they could even say that an opportunity had gone begging as Red Bull was not on top of its game in Malaysia, with lack of pace and poor tyre life. It seemed that on Saturday they perhaps sacrificed some pace for better tyre life.

So there was a chance there for Mercedes to put some pressure on Red Bull and Hamilton was doing just that, but the fuel shortage put paid to their challenge.

It was surprising that they opted to cut it so fine on fuel; the gains from running two or three kilos under-fuelled are around 1/10th of a second per lap, or 5/6 seconds over a race distance. With variable conditions – a wet track at the start and a track that is ramping up in speed, it is difficult to get the fuelling right. But a chance went begging for Mercedes in Malaysia.


Alonso comes away empty handed

One of the more remarkable stories of the race, was the decision by Ferrari to leave Fernando Alonso out on track with a damaged front wing. They did it for strategic reasons, but again it was an uncharacteristically rash decision as the wing failed and Alonso took no points from the weekend. It went against their philosophy of being consistent over a long season.

They were being extremely optimistic that the wing would hold; at 180mph on the pit straight the broken wing was subjected to loads in excess of 500kg.

They left him out because they were trying to delay the pitstop for a couple of laps until the track was ready for slick tyres. This would save them 21 seconds, compared to pitting him for a new nose on lap 1, at which point they would have been forced to leave him on intermediate tyres and then he would have to come in again at the changeover point to slicks, which was laps 5-7.

So what would have happened if they had pitted him on lap 1?

It was clearly set to be a long and chaotic race, with multiple pit stops, so even if Alonso had dropped to the back of the field, there was every chance that he would have been able to score points.

With these high degradation tyres, race consistency is the most important factor and that is something at which Alonso excels. On top of that there were several cars like Hulkenberg’s Sauber and Perez’ McLaren that had good intermediate pace but poor dry pace, the Lotuses were struggling for pace on a three stop strategy and there were also setbacks for the quick Force India cars and Button, which dropped them out of the points.

So in all likelihood, on a track where overtaking is easy, Alonso would probably have finished behind his team mate in sixth place, ahead of Romain Grosjean, taking home eight points and maintaining the gap to Vettel at 14 points, instead of 22.

TYRE STRATEGIES – Malaysia

Vettel: IN MN (5) HN (22) HN (32) MN (42)

Webber: IN HN (7) MN (19) HN (31) HN (43)
Hamilton: IN MN (7) MN (21) HN (30) MU (41)
Rosberg: IN MN (8) MN (22) HN (31) MU (42)

Massa: IN MN (5) HN (20) MN (33) MU (47)

Grosjean: IN MN (7) MU (20) HN (35)
Raikkonen: IN MN (6) MU (21) HN (34)
Hulkenberg: IN MN (7) MN (21) HN (34) HN (44)
Perez: IN MN (7) MN (22) HN (33) HN (54)

Vergne: IN HN (7) HN (26) MN (43)
Bottas: IN MN (6) MN (22) MU (40)
Gutierrez: IN HN (7) MU (22) MN (36) HN (51)

Bianchi: IN MN (6) HN (17) HN (29) MU (43)
Pic: IN MU (7) HN (20) MU (32) MN (43)
Van der Garde: IN HN (6) HN (18) HN (28) MN (42)
Chilton: IN MN (6) HN (19) MU (31) HN (41)
Button: IN MN (7) MN (21) HN (35)
Ricciardo: IN MU (6) MN (19) HN (33)

Maldonado: IN MN (6) MU (13) MU (32)
Sutil: IN MN (6) HN (22)
Di Resta: IN MN (6) HN (20)
Alonso: IN

I = Intermediate tyre

H = Hard compound
M = Medium compound

N = New compound
U = Used compound


The UBS Race Strategy Report is written by James Allen, with input and data from several of the leading F1 teams and from Pirelli

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1

From this fan’s persepctive, Vettel took matters into his own hands, and Merc played a bit heavy with Rosberg.

But we simply do not have the lap by lap car data and ALL radio transmissions to know what those decisions were based on, and, of course, we have the luxury of hindsight.

Vettel may have felt justified in going for first due to earlier strategy calls which left him behind Webber, and Rosberg may have felt justified in going for 3rd to try and pressure the Red Bulls into a mistake (who knows??).

Personally, I loved the battle between Webber and Vettel, even if it was a bit artificial due to Webber turning down his engine (was Vettel’s engine turned down too??). Great wheel to wheel action on display (oh if only they’d taken each other out!!).

What I don’t understand is people’s comments against team orders. Don’t they exist to some extent in all motorsports? It seems to be the most derided in F1. For me it adds an interesting and very human dimension to the racing beyond just the driver. Vettel’s ignoring of them added huge drama to the end of the race, as much as Rosberg’s following of them and complaining on the radio (though his attempts to pass Hamilton were fun too). Without that bit of controversy and racing, we would have watched 4 cars cruise to the finish line after the final pit stops.

If Alonso hadn’t bungled his race, we might be talking about Ferrari here too!!

2

Webber could only blame himself 4 where he is now in that team. He wasn’t equal partner to Seb, ever. There was the only one main contributor to Seb being 3X WDC. That is Webber. He was the only driver out there, in that period, who was driving the same quality equipment which he never utilized and turned into his own merit. Nikko wasn’t to much upset in the post race interview with him being told to hold on. Obviously they had already some internal agreement how they are going to be taking races, one at the time. Scuderia was overoptimistic with that broken pilon which was costly to the team and Fernando.

3

I hope Vettel has learned his lesson, he could have blown the tyres, he also could have crashed the cars if Mark didn’t keep a cool head. Thanks to Mark both cars now have Constructors points. I feel sorry for Vettel this year because next time he goes out of control could mean the end of the race for him, you have to think and drive well. The tyre situation this year gives Mark the edge, because Mark knows they need the teams telemetry to win races and keep the engines safe for the next race,

4

now that red bull/horner/marko state that ‘they shook hands’ and it’s all over,what exactly does that mean?

if webber has accepted vettels apology as genuine then i would be disappointed to the max. at this stage it appears that webbers forecast, ‘he will be protected’ has been proved beyond doubt as there will be no sanction.

does this also mean that there will be no team orders in future and no pre race agreements as to who will take preference after the last pit stop? the absence of any sanction seems to confirm this as team orders are there to be broken at will. sepang has now proved to be a watershed for red bull insofar as horner has been shown to be a weak team boss and his failure to insist that vettel give the place back confirms this as well.

hopefully webber takes the issue into his own hands in future.

6

You keep posting offensive comments

Please stop or your posts will be deleted – Mod

7

James, since the money is in the constructors championship, should all teams forbid their drivers from racing against each other ?

8

No, but they clearly feel they have to be careful when they start racing each other

9

Careful yes but not forbidden. Racing between teammates provides some of the most interesting moments in a rece…

10

James,

How many engine modes there are for the fuel economy, i.e. reduced power output(apart from a boost mode, and what’s the actual lap timing impact.

11

Can someone please clarify the fuel situation? It is obvious that the more the mass, the longer the lap time. However, as James points out, the amount of time lost is “1/10th of a second per lap, or 5/6 seconds over a race distance.” Hamilton finished 12 seconds behind Vettel (and it would have been more had he not weaved and slowed over the line), which is 6 to 7 seconds more than if he had put in 3 to 4kg more fuel?? End result, 6 to 7 loss over the race distance. Surely it is better to put the extra in, to enable you to run as fast as you like? We have seen this many times over the past few seasons now and it always seems that more time is lost than gained over the race distance by short fueling!

12

I disagree with this one. In the early stages of the race you need to open the gap ASAP and as much as possible. However that goes for the front runners. Lots of fuel would contribute to even more severe tire degradation which in the case of the current tire formula could be one extra pit stop. Not to mention the car balance that would more radically changed/ compromised from laden to nearly empty.

13

It would be good if something could be clarified.

In this article it states “…the team’s decision to pit Vettel” in reference to Seb’s first pit stop. I find it very difficult to believe that it was the team’s decision. A change from inters to slicks is usually a driver decision, with the team assisting through monitoring of others’ lap times on new rubber.

In this instance Vettel was the first to pit, so the team had no data available from competitors cars to tell them whether or not it was the right move.

14

Red Bull:

My judgement, Vettel is and will be the protected one and we all know that very well. If not for Dietrich Mateschitz, Webber would have been long gone in RB. But Webber collect points which concluded in gaining 3 WCC. Was Horner pretending to be pissed? Don’t forget he needs Webber, it’s business! Finally that Markoish character should keep his mouth zipped!

Mercedes:

Lewis style has always been hard on acceleration and that burns fuel and chew up tires, so he adapted to the tyres as well as he could but still the basic spots are there. Nico has been in Mercedes for 3 years and by now the car is part of him. I would love to see Nico beat Lewis this year without any favors. Oh yes, Lewis is the star and paid much more than Nico so you can guess who’s the highlight.

Alonso should treat this year like 2012 but with a much faster car. His mistake at Sepang was his fault being a tad too close to Vettel. Massa will be doing much much better and I hope he’ll be on the top steps of the podium. Will Nando be WDC? 90% of me says so.

The last stint of the race was kinda strange until Vettel created high drama, which I don’t mind at all and it’s not a crime for crying out loud. At the end of the day after he passed Mark and nothing happened at all, so RB got their 43 points. Mind you I’m a supporter of Mark, Kimi and Alonso.

Jules Bianchi, WOW!

15

Silverstone 2011. Webber did not disobey team orders. He was just playing with Vettel, showing him that he could overtake him. He then backed off following team orders. His statement following the race was at the behest of RBR so as not to put Vettel in a bad light.

So, Webber did not deserve to be shafted by Vettel at Sepang.

16

Webber almost did cost Vettel the 2012 championship in the last race in Sao Paulo. [mod]
I also find it ironic to read (in the media) that Webber is now no longer going to help Vettel. When did he ever?

17
amateuropenwheelracer

+1

I believed at the time, and going back to watch still believe. webber had kers and drs, vettel neither. horner refused to say mark had disobeyed team orders despite being asked directly. only said mw not happy about it. for my mind mw just proving a point – its a team sport and he is there to help rbr win wcc not sv win wdc.

As for all the traffic on brazil last yr i agree mw didnt gift seb anything off the start or restart, but certainly let him through mid race to help him win wdc.

18

That’s the first time I’ve heard that version of what happened at Silverstone.

Not sure how true it is, but I like it 🙂

19

All that drama allows us to forget how awful the Pirelli tires were. The amount of marbles made passing dangerous. We don’t watch Formula One to see who can drive to a set time because the tires won’t last. Truly sickening.

20

Can’t they make tires that degrade similarly… but with tiny particles coming off instead of marbles, and thinner ‘consumable’ layer so it’s a similar longevity? Like road car tires?

Surely it would be better for the racing and overtaking if you could go off-line, but how can you when it’s a field of ‘marbles’ ?

Ban marbles!

21

Agreed!

22

I guess one only needs to ask the Red Bull team why they pit Vettel first for the last tyre stop; rather than speculate.

To me, my guess is that they called Vettel in to cover Hamilton. Vettel pit the lap immediately after Hamilton dived in for his final pitstop.

The fast degradation of tyres this season will mean that the car ahead will always need to cover the pitstop of the car behind.

Another reason for doing so is to avoid the risk of Hamilton under cutting Vettel, or Vettel being delayed by back markers etc.

(There is also the risk of a safety car if you don’t cover off a pitstop. But this would not explain why Vettel first up instead of Webber)

Just my 5 cents worth of speculation. All we need is to ask the Red Bull team rather than speculate.

23

Interesting point about pitting Vettel early and reducing Mark’s lead over him from 4.5 to 0.5 after the last stop. I can’t help but feel that this was a deliberate decision to give Vettel the opportunity to take the win, he had 1/2 laps to get ahead of Webber and if he had succeeded then it would have been formation flying to the end of the race.

Trouble is he didn’t succeed and it still should have been formation flying and the rest is history.

24

I’m wondering what the difference in overall race time would be if Mercedes had fueled their cars sufficiently to run to the limits of the tires for the full distance? The article points out that they gained 5-6 seconds by running light, but how much did they lose by having to fuel save for about half the race distance? More or less than 6 seconds?

25

James , Looks like Mclaren would find pace at the 5th or 6th race. Do you think Jenson Button , Sergio Perez and Mclaren Mercedes are knocked out of any title contenship this year?

26

I think so, yes

It will take a while to sort and although they may do some winning, the others will be out of sight by then

27

James great article again as always. Can you answer me a question?

How long do you think it will take hamilton to get on top of the car. The competition between him and rosberg is a little too close for comfort for me at the momment lol. If he wants to win the title he needs to be further down the road to rosberg than he is currently doing.

I am just wondering how much is it to do with getting used to the car/environment? How different is it driving one car compared to another and can it take up to half a season to be comfortable?

Keep up the good work.

28

At the end of the day a few things have come out of this. Ross Brawn and Nico Rosberg have gone up, and Christian Horner and Sebastion Vettel have gone down in my estimation in regard of team management, and sportsmanship.

29

What are the safety car stats for F1 at Sepang? Regarding Alonso’s front wing, would Ferrari have considered the possibility of an incident in the early race slipperiness to trigger the SC and tighten the pack up again, or are SCs (rain problems aside) relatively rare at Sepang?

That said, shouldn’t they have been at least investigated for dangerously staying out on track with a very broken front wing that indeed could have resulted in Alonso t-boning Webber into turn 1? Or another incident where ever else it decided to give up. They had a good couple o’ minutes while he came around the lap to look at the footage and data and come to a decision, and went with hoping it wouldn’t go from half off to completely off. Surely if he’d made it much further it would have been a rare use of the black/orange flag.

30

What Vettel’s supporters conveniently forget is that F1 is a TEAM sport. Not an individual sport. The TEAM pays for the cars, pays the drivers. So, Vettel should have stayed where he was.

31

Let’s just say for the moment that Seb receives a 1 race ban from the team (never going to happen but…), I believe Buemi is the reserve driver? Mark would need to be seriously on his game and not get beaten by Buemi under any circumstances, quali & race. I couldn’t see it happening but hey.

32

The basic idea behind Red Bull’s team orders were to maximize the points scored by the team. So do you seriously believe that they would entertain the idea of banning Vettel for a race and take a bigger risk of dropping points? I have nothing against him but Buemi’s only similarity to Vettel is his first name. Vettel is the most probable person to maximize the points in a race for Red Bull. They will not even consider banning him. It will be like punching your own face.

33

@Tom

The basic idea behind Red Bull’s team orders were to maximize the points scored by the team.

Thanks for clearing that up Tom.

———————————————-

So do you seriously believe that they would entertain the idea of banning Vettel for a race and take a bigger risk of dropping points?

Like I said in my post “never going to happen but…”

———————————————-

Totally missed my point mate. Never mind.

34

If we could have back the graphs that used to be in the Strategy Report last year, that would be great — it’s worth 1000 words. It’s the main thing I look forward to on JAF1 after each race. The one we saw last race wasn’t as good (my opinion). Thank you

35

>> the team’s decision to pit Vettel early on lap

It’s always driver’s decision to change tires early after rain, because only driver know actual condition of a track and ready or not to use medium tires on track in such condition.

36

It’s a collective decision, even if the driver says he thinks the track is ready

Listen to the instruction to Webber at that moment “Stay out Mark, Stay out.”

37

when they told mark to stay out they were looking at lap times on slicks, and told him WHY to stay out [ sector 1 ]

38

Yeah, but I think Vettel’s decision was final, so I would call it “Vettel risked” neither “Team risked”.

“It’s a collective decision, even if the driver says he thinks the track is ready”, but it’s a mostly personal decision and responsibility for _early_ change.

Vettel’s fault was an example for Webber and other teams – no problem, it is always a risk.

One russian site titled article with translation of this post: “Allen: Vettel tried to fix a team’s strategic mistake” 🙂

39

Trying to make sense of all of this since Sunday and from read above and many comments on the JA site (Great work James, lots of unbias, clear debate that is not available on other sites) it seems to me that Redbull created the monster and couldn’t get it back in its box.

Vettel asked to be let through and was told to be patient as it was only halfway (message: there is time later). At the last stops Vettel was pitted 1st to close a 4 second gap to Webber and put on the faster of the tyres (message: we are going to try to get you out in front of Mark, not a message of undercutting Hamilton). Vettel comes out 0.5 seconds behind Webber and sees an opportunity to take the lead, he goes for it (Not 100% clear on this part but it seems both RB has same engine setting and not as said that Webber was on low setting and a sitting duck – Can anyone clear that up?)

Vettel takes lead, hold station then (after this is silly message) and thinks I done good, this is what team wanted. Webber clearly annoyed but only say at the end of the race and not for the 10 laps Vettel was leading.

I saw a hurt Vettel on that podium. I think he is sorry for breaking an agreement. Perhaps the “I didn’t do it on purpose” was real too as he thought he was probably meant to take the lead at some stage. I can also see very little celebrations in China if Vettel does do well here. Expect a dejected Vettel in the next GP.

40
AmateurOpenWheelRacer

James

I for one was actually happy at the end of the GP. Four areas of team support for Webber gave me heart for the season, assuming they were true and correctly represented by Christian and the team:

1. Webber was, notwithstanding the fact it actually didnt quite happen, going to be last over the start line for the best shot at pole in Q3. I cant remember the last time RB didnt give this benefit to Vettel.

2. Webbers car got off the line. I’m sorry, but even if he was really poor at starting he would perhaps lag a little off the line. The idea that he could go into anti-stall on roughly 50% of his starts for two years without learning how to fix it is utterly unbelievable for one of the world’s best drivers (not arguing he’s better or worse than vet, ham, alo etc, just saying he is one of the best).

3. Team orders were explicitly directed towards Webber winning.

4. The team backed Webber publicly in the aftermath.

We have rarely seen these things before from RB, certainly never in one weekend, and three of them happened before ‘order-gate’ but I haven’t seen it mentioned here or in other sites.

Would you care to comment?

41

All very interesting and it makes me wonder if Sepang has merely exposed an ongoing schism between RBR and the potential marketing preferences of its parent company. RBR is in an anomalous position in F1 as both a racing operation which is effectively a marketing offshoot for a global soft drinks brand rather than a more traditional motor-racing marque. Perhaps this dichotomy is inherently unstable and we are beginning to see how that model has the potential to unravel?

Despite RBR’s much-trumpeted ‘fairness’ when it comes to their drivers it has been all too plain that Vettel was the favoured child – I’m not criticising this actually. I think it’s a natural instinct within a racing team to focus on who is perceived to be a ‘winner’ whilst casting the second driver in a supporting role to pick up essential points for the WCC. Last weekend in Malaysia there appears to have been a step-change in that culture with much more forthright support offered Webber than would be normally expected, though in reality it was likely a case of ‘playing fair’, but it felt surprising all the same, and it certainly seems to have taken Vettel by surprise too, judging by the stunned and chastened look on his face in the pre-podium waiting room.

I wonder if DM Red Bull (as in Mateschitz’s global drinks conglomerate) has decided to emphasise a different agenda to CH Red Bull (Horner’s racing team). DM might have concluded that Red Bull’s brand values are better-served by zealously promoting a sense of fairness over individual brilliance and this has to be the team’s holy grail of purpose – clearly at odds with perceived opinion of RBR to date. Vettel is not a particularly popular 3xWDC either and despite being media-friendly, he has never courted celebrity and off-track visibility. Frankly I suspect the likes of DM would be overjoyed to see a new champion emerge from their team – and a gutsy Aussie Grit in his twilight years of racing, who has reputedly been fighting the darker forces of domination, and is much-loved by media circles with a PR-friendly persona, would make for a highly marketable narrative. As things stand, Red Bull shareholders must shudder at the idea of Vettel – particularly now he is so reviled, it seems – beating out the ‘good guy’ yet again. This wouldn’t be so disastrous for a racing team strongly associated with the guts and glory of high-octane motor-racing, for example, but perhaps not so great for a cool, youthful soft drinks brand.

Obviously this is all conjecture, but I cant help but wonder if Vettel’s flouting of team orders might well have been, in part, a cumulative anxiety about Webber’s status within the team and how he (Vettel) is feeling undermined – I’m not suggesting there’s pro-Webber favourtism at RBR, but it would darn well feel like it if you were a driver who’d enjoyed a ‘culture’ (not necessarily a ‘policy’) of privilege with monumental success over the last few years. Vettel would surely feel he has earned at least an ‘official’ number 1 status by now, and must look enviously at his main rivals around the paddock in more ‘standard’ situations’. His team’s somber reaction to his win on Sunday must have been a truly bitter pill to swallow, most particularly as James’s brilliant race analysis demonstrates, come that last pit stop in Sepang the team’s strategy appeared to be playing out, reflexively, to a familiar tune: Seb had been allowed to catch his team-mate and surely expected to tackle him for the lead. I think this explains Vettel’s post-race confusion. He was genuinely bemused and alarmed. He might well have good reason to be and is probably at the point in his career when his own interests (which is all he cares about) are best-served by another team, even though that would mean forgoing the best car. Can’t see where he’d go though…

42

Some good points here. I think I recall (J.A. correct me here) that MW was pretty much set to sign for Ferrari, and a last minute offer changed his mind. That would indicate 2 things to me: 1) MW is a good enough driver to be relied on to gain enough points to secure a WCC – you’ll never do it with 1 driver or reasonable inexperienced driver. 2) 3WDC’s for SV haven’t brought the huge worldwide popularity DM probably expected by now (though still strong in key EU markets, but not growing beyond them) and is probably thinking of other ways that can change that. I don’t think Sepang went anywhere to making DM’s market aspirations improve, and that’s where he’d be furious on this matter. And as other have suggested, it appears SV may have found himself a little more power and entitlement than any driver, even a #1, should really have. That can be very damaging for the team and DM/RB focus.

43

I agree in large part with what you say, although I personally think that Vettel’s much-fabled sense of entitlement in this matter is actually justified in some ways. (Not a popular view I’d imagine!) I suspect a 3xWDC would feel he’d earned an unqualified number 1 status within his team – and in many other teams on the grid, and/or at different times in history, this would probably be the case with minimal fuss. Giving Vettel official number 1 status would put paid to ideas of Seb being ‘protected’, which sounds sneaky and covert and is embarrassing for RBR, because they are in the (hypocritical) position of stressing they have an equal drivers policy.

There is no doubt that Vettel’s image has taken a knock in this matter, which will displease DM for sure in terms of marketing their fizzy drinks, but conversely, Red Bull is enjoying peerless publicity, and – depending on how the season pans out of course – Vettel himself might even have garnered a whole new fanbase. For sure, this furore has certainly raised his profile!

Must say I’m amazed how the Vettel/Webber story has rolled on during this week. There appears to be a desperation amongst media circles to see how RBR will ‘punish’ the feckless Vettel! In today’s gladiatorial personality-focused culture the media/public seems to demands some form of bloodletting for any perceived wrong-doing (despite the fact that there are many more interesting debates surrounding this issue to be had: team orders, tyres etc). It’s all become quite tawdry. I would be surprised if RBR do anything which could hugely alienate Vettel, (not based on ‘weakness’ but common sense), most particularly as MW has railed against TO in the past. Of course, if no penalty is meted out then the media/public bloodlust will likely remain unabated, (at least for now).

There certainly was a rumour that MW might go to Ferrari to partner his good mate Alonso – he’d have been in no doubt who was number 1 in THAT team. If this is indeed true then Ferrari weren’t being quite so loyal to Massa after all. However, this MW>Ferrari story was revealed at the same time as the Ecclestone/Lewis/RBR story which Lewis has since disputed, though I wouldn’t be surprised if his scotching Ecclestone’s statements was largely to please his new team and that there is actually some truth in the matter (though perhaps not quite as much as Ecclestone’s version of events!) The fact that MW was re-signed with this Ferrari offer in mind would have given him extra bargaining power, and perhaps his new contract reflects this – and we are seeing the corollary of that played out now. DM was also supposed to have backed MW to the hilt over the potential to have Lewis in the team. I doubt we’ll never know the full truth of the matter.

44

All good points. Also it appears that Mateschitz the owner is very unhappy about what Vettel did, he has shown a lot of loyalty to Webber

Don’t forget also that the real money in F1 is in the Constructors’ points, not what happens in the drivers’ table. So Webber’s points are as valuable as Vettels to the team.

I’m not sure where they go from here. My sense is that Vettel will have to be contrite, but also that once RBR gets on top of its tyre issues Vettel will go on a winning streak

$10 million question is, when will that be?

45

So when Dietrich was saying the last 3 seasons to let the drivers race, no matter what, he was lying?

It is only a problem when Vettel races?

Time for Vettel to sign the Ferrari contract.

46

Excellent point James re “but also that once RBR gets on top of its tyre issues Vettel will go on a winning streak”

This is the scary part the Mercs were pushing but the RBR’s were driving to a particular lap time and still won interesting times ahead. I suspect 2011 all over again soon rather than later.

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