I’d like to address this to all and sundry, denizens of the internet, the Skysports commentary team and the gentlemen on the Red Bull pit wall: calm the fuck down.
For those not in the know, what happened last weekend was this: Red Bull’s #1 driver (Sebastian Vettel) was running second behind their #2 driver (Mark Webber) in the final stages of the race. Not content with this, Vettel decided to pass Webber going into the twisty section in the first sector to take the lead and eventually win the race. What ensued can only be described as pure melodrama, as Vettel has been issued some sort of naughty-boy reprimand from the team, Mark Webber’s screwed off to Australia for a week and isn’t talking to anyone, and the media has been going nuts with things like this:
If we look at the facts, however, I think we can come to a consensus about how ridiculous all this furor is. Mark was leading the race in the final stint after what was some very good driving, that’s fair enough. However, to get there, he had to push really, really hard. After the final pit stop, he was told by the team to turn his engine down (reduce output via a selectable control) to save fuel and component wear. Meanwhile, Seb was pulling close behind in second, having gotten to the final round of pit stops without needing to save fuel. This is because –and I know I’m about to piss a lot of people off here- Seb is a better driver. So when he was told to stay behind his team mate and come second because Mark was at a disadvantage and he wasn’t, he did what can only be reasonably expected of him and said “no, screw that. I can win this race, so deal with it.” And then he won it. Podium ceremony, everyone sulks, Mark looks like he’s about one wrong word away from clocking Seb in the face, Seb apologizes, and everyone’s still vilifying him, calling him a spoiled brat, etc, etc.
Why is anyone surprised? In F1 the first person you’re racing is the man who has the same car you do: your team mate. Imagine if the situation had been reversed, and Mark had passed Seb to take the win against team orders. We’d all be overjoyed because Mark is the underdog. Look at Mercedes, where team orders were actually upheld. Ross Brawn told Rosberg not to pass Hamilton in the final leg of the race, despite Lewis having to nurse the car home and Rosberg having plenty of pace left in him to take a podium, and he didn’t. I’m more annoyed with Rosberg than I am with Vettel, honestly.
F1 is a sport, a competition, and we like to watch it because it’s exciting. We like our racing drivers to be fighty, brazen young men who give their all to be number one. They’ve had to work so hard, harder than most of you can possibly imagine to even be on the race track. So excuse me if I find it a bit disconcerting when a driver is condemned for not taking “no” for an answer. Besides, Schumacher used to do this all time, and he never apologized.
Images courtesy of loosewheelnut.co.uk