Controversy and crisis raging in Red Bull pen
31 May, 2010
May 31 (GMM & YallaF1.com) Having arrived with a dominant car and leading both world championships, Red Bull Racing has departed Turkey as a team in crisis.
“They step on their tails too often,” said BBC commentator Martin Brundle, after Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel crashed while running one-two at Istanbul Park.
Crash and loss of tempers aside, the team’s management then misled the media about Webber’s fuel-saving engine setting and gave the undoubtable impression that it is the young German Vettel who they want to win the 2010 title.
Compounding the team-induced mess is that the isolated Webber, 33 – who had been in the midst of contract negotiations about 2011 – is now the clear leader of the world championship.
Even Webber’s race engineer Ciaron Pilbeam has been put offside. When asked why Webber was not told that Vettel was much faster, Marko told Auto Motor und Sport: “We told his engineer but he did not pass on the information.”
Dr Helmut Marko, believed to be leading the German-speaking faction of the Austrian-owned team, denied that Red Bull is poisoned by an internal division.
“That’s not true. We are handling our team and both drivers in the same way.”
The speed of the crisis is marked out by the memories of just two weeks ago, when Vettel and Webber exaltedly leapt off the motor home into the Monaco harbour.
“I’m sure they are not going to be going out for dinner in the coming days,” Marko said when asked if Sunday had destroyed their relationship.
For many in the paddock, despite their apparent media-savvy humour, Red Bull has never been the friendliest team in the paddock.
“They were always trying to squeeze (tension) between Fernando (Alonso) and Felipe (Massa) and at the moment they are facing this situation on their side,” said Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali.
Referring to his Maranello employer, Fernando Alonso said: “It shows that there is a united team in the paddock.”
“The important thing is to have respect,” Felipe Massa added.
Team boss Christian Horner insists he will sort out the mess before Canada, after a patch-up job in the Turkey paddock proved impossible because Vettel had stormed out of the circuit.
“One of our drivers has gone,” Marko confirmed when asked by the press late on Sunday.
Earlier it was reported that Red Bull had instructed Webber to switch his engine to a fuel-saving mode in the moments before his crash with teammate Vettel in Turkey.
In the aftermath of the controversial incident, rumours began to swirl inside the Istanbul Park paddock that there was more to it than met the eye.
The media therefore went to team bosses Horner and Marko, who initially did not confirm that Webber and Vettel’s engines were running on different settings.
“I think it was in the tyres,” said advisor Marko, when asked specifically if there was a reason that Vettel was so much quicker than Webber at the time of the shunt.
Both Horner and Marko seemed to blame Webber for the crash, directly contradicting many experts within the paddock.
It is rumoured that, as the pair were on equal points at the head of the world championship at the time of the shunt, Red Bull wanted Vettel to pass Webber and win the race.
Marko denied that Webber’s engineer had been instructed to tell the driver to let Vettel past.
“That is not correct,” said the Austrian, “because that would mean a team order. “We informed Mark about the situation and it is for the driver to decide. The fact is that if Sebastian hadn’t passed he would have been overtaken by Hamilton.”
Webber alluded to the intrigue by telling reporters after the race that Vettel had a “big top speed advantage” when he launched the move.
Pressed for whether there was a reason for the speed difference, Webber answered: “Hmm, maybe. You guys need to dig more, somewhere else.
Meanwhile speaking to the media on the evening after the race, Horner tried to sum up the incident, “We now have all the facts. Mark had changed down into a fuel saving mode that cost him a little bit of performance on the straights, which also explains how Sebastian got a very clear run on him.”
He added, “The large mistake remains that not enough room was given, and the explanation is there on how Sebastian had managed to get into the tow. He 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.”
Horner is adamant that the fiasco will be put behind them before Canada in two weeks. He told Autosport.com, “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.”