Red Bull Gives You Wings…..Unless Your Name Is Mark Webber
Red Bull’s slogan gave me that terrific title you read above, okay perhaps its no better than something you might read in a tabliod newspaper like The Sun but this weekend’s controversy surrounding the Red Bull Racing team once again highlights the problems with in-team politics and the effect it can have on the drivers.
Mark Webber was denied the use of the new Red Bull front wing, after his was given to team mate Sebastian Vettel for qualifying whose new wing had been damaged in Saturday morning practice. The Australian was duly annoyed when Vettel took pole position. It was another item of favouritsm toward the young German from this season, Webber is even using one of Sebastian’s old chassis.
Despite all of this, Webber managed to win the Grand Prix – barging Vettel off the road into turn 1 – but no amount of nice press photos with Christian Horner and Adrian Newey could put the lid on the problems within the team. Mark claimed down the radio on victory “not bad for a second driver”, a clear point towards his status within the team – or at least his percieved status. Red Bull had defended themselves by claiming they were giving the championship leader the advantage, but we will see if that is true in Germany as Webber now leads the standings ahead of Red Bull favourite Vettel.
“Whether the gap between us in qualifying was the difference between the two front wings, I don’t know,” said Webber after last weekend’s British Grand Prix. “But it was a far from ideal situation and it definitely made my win taste even sweeter.”
Christian Horner came out in the Monday newspapers claiming he regretted not speaking with Webber before the decision was made, and he categorically denied that it had anything to do with Helmut Marko or Dietrich Mateschitz the owners of the Red Bull Energy Drink brand.
“There has never been any pressure from Red Bull to favour one driver over the other.” Horner told The Daily Telegraph in England
“I didn’t have a conversation with Helmut or anyone from Red Bull regarding the decision to give Sebastian the wing. It was purely a technical decision, which I discussed with Adrian [Newey].
“My one regret is that I didn’t have time to discuss the issue with Mark personally prior to qualifying as I’m sure that would have given him a more balanced understanding.”
We have seen many instances of team bias and favouritsm over the years, most recently with the arguments between Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso at McLaren, a row which has never really been cleared up and forced the Spaniard to leave the team and then earlier between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello during their time at Ferrari.
Top teams have trouble keeping their drivers together and motivated, especially when they are fighting for the championship – Barrichello even had trouble with Brawn GP last year with their dominance. However this is the first time we have seen the management of a team really getting involved and openly favouring one driver over another, even during the Schumacher days at Ferrari they did not willingly pass equipment or new parts over Barrichello – definitely not during a race weekend in any case.
The path Red Bull now tread with Webber is a difficult one, but they really have the Australian cornered to an extent. He has signed a new contract, and there aren’t really any race seats with top teams on offer for next season. He could potentially leave the team, who are looking likely to win the world championship, and head to Renault alongside Robert Kubica. That would leave the door wide open for Red Bull sponsored rally driver Kimi Raikkonen to come back to F1. Or Webber can just live with the favouritism toward Vettel and get on in trying to win the World Championship.
Nick Fry, the CEO of Mercedes Benz has seen these problems before, having dealt with the Button/Barrichello problems last year and advises Red Bull to sort the issues out quickly otherwise they have the potential of shooting themselves in the foot.
“I do sympathise on the one hand with them,” said Fry
“But one of the main points is to stop shooting yourself in the foot. Just looking at it from the outside, there seems to be a case of Red Bull causing more problems than they need to.
“They have clearly got the fastest car by quite a margin, and they should be way ahead of the rest of us, and they are not. So they do need to look at themselves and try and work out what they are doing wrong.
“They are beating themselves – which is very satisfying for the rest of us but it should not be what they are up to.”
All I know is, I am glad I am not in Christian Horner’s shoes this week!!