It seems that Red Bull Racing have hung Mark Webber out to dry on the unfortunate, and probably unnecessary, incident between himself and teammate Sebastian Vettel in Turkey.
The crash cost RBR an almost certain one-two and left the team scrambling to get Webber to the line for third place. The incident occurred on lap 41 and appeared, at first glance, to be a simple racing incident caused by Vettel moving over to claim the racing line after completing a clean pass—almost.
Unfortunately, Vettel hadn’t quite completed the pass and moved across quite sharply on Webber, collecting the latter’s front wheel and wing with his rear wheel causing the young German to spin out and leaving him with little more to do than make silly hand gestures.
Commentary teams, experts, and journalists alike seemed to unanimously blame Vettel for moving across and hitting Webber’s car. Even Lewis Hamilton, who was directly behind the pair, laid the blame squarely with Vettel. The only exception was Eddie Jordan and there will be few surprised by the fact that Eddie took a contrarian stance.
But all was not as it seemed.
To everyone’s surprise, Christian Horner and Helmut Marko have come out and dropped the blame at the feet of Webber. In doing so, they have left themselves open to some interesting questions about what’s going on behind the scenes at RBR.
In the world according to Horner and Marko, Vettel had no choice but to do what he did. They were apparently under the impression that people were blaming Vettel for trying to overtake. They would have us believe that Webber, who had led for two-thirds of the race, should just pull over and let him pass.
The reality is that Webber effectively did yield the position. He didn’t shut the door on Vettel, he simply held his line, forcing Vettel to try to complete the pass on the dirty side of the track. The McLaren duo of Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button did exactly the same thing a few laps later; neither yielded to the other, but nor did they collide. It can be done.
The two team bosses claim that if Vettel did not try the move, he would have been overtaken by Hamilton. Apparently, the fact that Hamilton was unable to complete the maneuver for the previous 40 laps didn’t mean much.
Nor did the fact that they still expected a one-two finish. In an interview for F1.com, Marko was adamant that RBR would still finish on top of the podium, claiming it was, “A sure-fire, one-two to be exact! It leaves you speechless.”
But, if Hamilton was fast enough to overtake Vettel, and Vettel was fast enough to overtake Webber, logic would tell us that Hamilton should have been able to pass Webber too.
This is a grade-school logic problem, but it seems that logic is apparently in short supply at RBR.
Even more intriguing is what brought about the pass. Marko initially claimed that Vettel had better tyres, which apparently gave him a massive straight-line speed advantage.
The reality is somewhat different.
It is slowly becoming evident that there is a hierarchy at RBR. It wasn’t noticeable before when Vettel was outgunning Webber in qualifying and on the track, but Webber has had the temerity to come to terms with the car and has started to dominate his young teammate.
Naturally, RBR cannot publicly declare team orders, but they had to somehow redress the inconvenient fact that Webber was doing well.
When asked if Webber had been told to let Vettel pass in an interview for F1.com, Marko replied, “That is not correct, because that would mean a team order. We informed Mark about the situation and it is for the driver to decide.”
Webber apparently decided that he was just going to keep racing, however, just before the pass, he was told to switch his engine into fuel-saving mode.
Suddenly, it’s pretty clear why Vettel had such a massive speed differential—he was still running on full power—it had nothing to do with tyres.
So now we know what’s going on. Vettel is the team’s No. 1 driver and Webber needs to learn his place. Perhaps there really is life in the rumor that Webber and Ferrari are looking to get into bed together.
After this, you could hardly blame him.