Talking Turkey and other Bull

Red Bull Racing

Jun.04 (Aaron Noah) In the press conference immediately following the Turkish GP, the television commentator prodded Mark Webber for details on the now infamous Lap 41 crash, which erased a one-two lead for Red Bull and gifted McLaren 43 points.  The Australian didn’t need to say much; the anguished grimace on his face disclosed the true story. War has been declared inside team Red Bull.

Mark Webber during the post Turkish GP press conference

Mark Webber during the post Turkish GP press conference

If not for the collision with teammate Sebastian Vettel, was Webber confident he was on course to finish the race with a victory?  The commentator posed the question and Mark glared in silence, taking a few seconds to calm the fury within.  Then he barely managed a response, “Yeah.  Yeah, I was, yes.”

The tension was contagious.  Even Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton looked anxious while proceeding to the podium with Webber.  Maybe their euphoria was tempered by the realization that McLaren themselves had narrowly escaped the same fate of the RB6s when Button and Hamilton tangled for the lead in the final laps at Istanbul Park.  For now, the two Britons can continue to smile and hug each other on camera.

(L to R): Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB6 and team mate Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB6 after the two collided in the race. Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday 30 May 2010.

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber during their collision in Istanbul

Not so for Red Bull.  The finger pointing began immediately.  After Vettel and Webber made contact, the German’s beloved Randy Mandy was torn apart and cast aside into the circuit runoff, while the Australian managed to limp his car back to the pits to replace a damaged nosecone.  Vettel climbed out of the wreck in disgust, pointing to his head and twirling his finger in circles, indicating that he thought his teammate’s actions were crazy.

Red Bull team bosses Christian Horner and Helmut Marko initially seemed to agree with the German.  They both cited that Vettel had the speed advantage over Webber on that lap and that Hamilton was threatening to pass from behind.  Sebastian needed to pass but Mark squeezed him to the inside.

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing retired from the race after colliding with his team mate Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing. Formula One World Championship, Rd 7, Turkish Grand Prix, Race, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Sunday 30 May 2010.

Sebastian Vettel's Turkish GP ends

“Vettel was so much faster that he had to pass. If Webber and he had braked together, then Hamilton would have passed Vettel,” said Marko.

Horner added, “It looks as though he didn’t leave Sebastian enough space. It was very clear he (Vettel) was by his side and in front.”

Vettel was confident, “If you watch it on the TV, you can see what happened. I’m not in the happiest of moods. I was on the inside going into the corner. I was there, I was ahead and focusing on the braking point and then we touched. Mark’s car hit my rear right wheel and I went off – there’s not much more to say.”

TV replays vindicated Mark Webber after the incident

TV replays vindicated Mark Webber after the incident

But watching the TV footage seems to vindicate Webber, not Vettel.  The cockpit views show Mark drifting over slightly to pen Vettel to the dirty side of the track, but then he maintains a straight line, allowing space for his teammate to pass.  Switch to the circuit camera views and this becomes even more apparent.  Vettel has room on the inside to overtake, and in fact he does just that, but before his car is fully clear, he cuts back to the right and makes contact with the other RB6.  The video plainly shows Vettel coming off line too soon and initiating the collision.  Webber’s actions were cheeky but not the direct cause of contact.

Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Red Bull  Racing Motorsport Consultant Dr Helmut Marko

Christian Horner with team advisor Helmut Marko

Christian Horner shifted to a neutral stance with the official race report, “They were too far over on the left, Sebastian got a run on the inside of Mark, but then came across too early. They didn’t give each other room; it’s as simple as that.”

Yet no controversy is complete without a good conspiracy theory.  It is now known that Red Bull had instructed Mark Webber to switch his engine to a fuel-saving mode on lap 41.  Sebastian Vettel remained at optimum engine mode, which enabled him to gain significant top speed advantage over his teammate.  When reporters asked Webber about his thoughts on this, he hinted, “Hmm, maybe. You guys need to dig more, somewhere else.”

(L to R): Dr Helmut Marko (AUT) Red Bull Motorsport Consultant  with Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Christian Horner (GBR)  Red Bull Racing Team Principal. Formula One World Championship, Rd 3,  Malaysian Grand Prix, Practice Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Friday 2 April  2010.

Sebastian Vettel is the team's blue eyed boy

The paddock was buzzing.  Did Red Bull deliberately reel Mark in to conduct rear guard defensive action against the McLarens to let Sebastian coast in for the victory?  Horner defended the team’s calls.

He stated that “He (Vettel) had managed to save an extra kilo of fuel – as both cars started the race with the same amount of fuel. Effectively he had one more lap of the optimum engine mode, but we couldn’t back him off because he was under pressure from Lewis Hamilton behind.”

MONTE CARLO, MONACO - MAY 16:  Race winner Mark Webber (R) of Australia and Red Bull Racing and second placed team mate Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and Red Bull Racing celebrate by jumping into the Red Bull Energy Station swimming pool following the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at the Monte Carlo Circuit on May 16, 2010 in Monte Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber; Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel helps celebrate Mark Webber's victory at Monaco two weeks before Turkey

Sebastian was clearly the team darling for Red Bull at the start of this season, but Mark Webber has clawed his way into the limelight with an impressive three poles and two wins in the last three races.  Paddock whispers have indicated that there has been friction between the two Red Bull drivers for quite some time, although cleverly disguised by a series of smiling, hugging photo ops.  Lap 41 might have gouged a huge hole in the energy drink’s spin machine.

Red Bull is now desperately trying to put out the fires and move on.  In an interview with Autosport.com, Christian Horner concluded, “This will be dealt with before we go to Canada. I’ve spoken to both drivers. They are both grown ups, they are both big boys, they are both competitors, and the most important thing is that we have given away a load of points today. It must not happen again. They must learn from it.”

JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 10:  (L-R) Red Bull Racing Chief Designer Rob Marshall, Red Bull Racing Chief Technical Officer Adrian Newey, Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber of Australia, Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner and Red Bull Racing Head of Aerodynamics Peter Prodromou unveil the new RB6 during winter testing at the at the Circuito De Jerez on February 10, 2010 in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber; Sebastian Vettel; Adrian Newey; Christian Horner

Red Bull team key members during their launch earlier this year at Jerez

To make sure of it Red Bull just recently orchestrated a pow-wow at their factory in Milton Keynes.  Mark Webber, Sebastian Vettel, Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Helmut Marko all got together for a group hug and photo op.  Red Bull released a photo of Mark and Sebastian with their hands in the air, raised eyebrows, smiles, and the supplied caption, “shit happens.”  Very clever, and that’s exactly what RBR is hoping will finally shut our collective fat mouths in the world press.  Take another look at the photo though.  Who has the bigger bulls on his shirt?  Ah, the conspiracy continues…

Alonso versus Massa?  Rosberg versus Schumi?  Those rivalries are old news, gone with the fading championship hopes of both Ferarri and Mercedes GP.  Right now everything is heating up for McLaren and Red Bull.  Button and Hamilton have maintained a delicate harmony.  As for Webber and Vettel…peace has been officially declared but the gauntlets have already been dropped.  Watch this space?

  • Need4Speed

    Amazing article!

  • layang

    who’s mistake..?

  • denis james

    Now that the dust seems to have settled on this debacle perhaps now would be a good time to see if its possible to make sense of it all.
    My take and I would be interested in other opinions, is that prior to the race Marko had decided that Vettel should be given the chance to win. Horner and Vettel were so advised (and I’m giving Horner the benefit of the doubt here) .Webber and his Engineer were not!
    It went to plan .Webber established a lead, fending off the McLaren challenge with Vettel trailing along “conserving” fuel and waiting for Webber to allow him through as per “the plan”. When the McLarens went to fuel save mode ,something Marko and Horner would be aware of via the radio and with their lap times stabilised ,baring calamity the race outcome was pretty well set.
    Vettel now had a slight excess of fuel and could run full power for another lap or two (important for the PR after the race) and to make sure of the pass Webber was instructed to change his engine settings to save fuel. The stage was now set for Vettel to power past Webber and reassert his de-facto No 1 status in the Team. Sadly no one appears to have told Webbers camp of the “plan”. And when Horner gave Webbers Race Engineer the order to let Vettel pass he being a good guy with morals (apparently a rare commodity amongst the Red Bullies Management Team ) he refused to pass them on. Thus Webber treats it like a race, behaves like a genuine racer and didn’t make it too easy. Vettel expecting a freebie is taken by surprise ,locks up a rear and loses the car.
    That scenario goes a long way towards explaining Vettels antics out of the car, the hugs and kisses on the pit counter from his co-conspirators and his “not happy” interviews. Also the early comments from Marko and Horner .Webber, the rotten sod ,hadn’t followed the script!. Vettel had been awarded a race win but Webber had ignored Team Orders and Vettel had crashed out. Dear me! Mind you I’m not at all sure that Webber, had he been asked would have been party to any of this manipulation but it explains why Vettel and Marko were so incensed.
    The real villains in this are Marko and Horner. I don’t believe Vettel had the moral strength to pass up a freebie particularly after being comprehensively beaten by Webber previously but as to the other two- well I can’t think of words that would adequately describe them. All the BS and the posturing in an attempt to sacrifice an innocent Webber leaves me livid and I don’t even know the man.
    I hope the FIA get involved and perhaps if enough people email they may have to get interested. Don’t hold your breath though, too much money involved but its worth a shot..
    As for the future, for a race or two Webber will get equal treatment but after that I fully expect some of the old bad luck will reappear. Unless of course, the fans anger and rage continues.

  • Aaron Noah

    Yeah Denis, I agree, I think Marko and Horner got caught out. Webber cannot be happy with the situation; he will probably be racing his heart out to maintain the pressure on his teammate and force some team respect out of RBR.

  • Arthur

    I really don’t unerstand why they would like vettel to win that race when in fact webber was at the right momentum and at the highlights of his career. those attitudes are key ingredients for not making it to a champion. vettel still had a lot of years in him. He should have at least gave some respect to webber being a veteran.

    The reason why I love Lewis Hamilton is how he wins a race. He does it by racing not by ordering…