Hamilton: No preferential treatment at Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton has said that there is no top driver at Mercedes.

In the latter stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg repeatedly asked if he could take third place from his team-mate saying he was ‘too slow’. This has led to speculation that Hamilton was lured to Mercedes from Mclaren with a contract stating he was to be top driver for the team.

However Hamilton has refuted these claims. “It didn’t,” Hamilton said, talking about the contract negotiations. “I remember just saying to Ross [Brawn] that I wanted equality in the team.

Red Bull’s Helmut Marko has said that he believes Hamilton was promised preferential treatment by Mercedes.

“I think that is rubbish,” Hamilton said. “They [Red Bull] have a clear one and two – they always have and that is why they have the problem they have always had.

“We don’t have a one and two here. I have always said, from the moment I was speaking to the team, that i wanted equality and that I didn’t want to be favoured.

“They didn’t even offer to fvaour me but I just wanted to make the point that i am not a driver that comes and requests that like a lot of other dtivers do. you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say you won fair and square.

“Just like in Malaysia I don’t feel like I won my spot fair and square. Although I did drive a decent race, I don’t feel spectacular about it.”

Watson: Red Bull should suspend Vettel for one race

Former McLaren driver John Watson believes that Sebastian Vettel should be suspended by his team for a race for disobeying team orders at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

With 13 laps left, Sebastian Vettel overtook his team-mate Mark Webber at the Malaysian Grand Prix and went on to take the top step on the podium. This was despite orders from his team to stay behind Webber. Webber was clearly unhappy with the race result and there was a definite iciness between the two drivers at the podium ceremony.

“The only purposeful way to bring him to book is to say ‘you will stand out one race’,” Watson told BBC Radio 4. “I know that if other drivers in other teams disobeyed a team order they would be suspended or even fired.

“If Christian Horner doesn’t reassert his authority in the team – because he has been totally subjugated by Sebastian Vettel – then his position in the team is not exactly the role it is designed to be.

“The only conclusion I can reach is that Vettel should be suspended for the next grand prix. You can’t take the points away from him and give them to Mark Webber – that’s now history and Sebastian has the benefit of those seven additional points.

“You can’t really fine him. It is almost irrelevant to fine to him.

“So the only purposeful way to bring him to book is to say, ‘you will stand out one race’.”

Boullier: Lotus is one of the top four F1 teams

Boullier is confident that his Lotus team are currently in the top four despite Raikkonen finishing over half a minute adrift of Malaysian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel.

Boullier believes that there will be many different race winners this season thanks to the Pirelli tyres and that Lotus are in the top four F1 teams along with Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull.

“It is a prediction we had after the winter testing,” Boullier explained. “It is going to be very, very tight. I think you can expect – mainly because of the tyre management situation – a different race winner each time.

“But we can say we are definitely in the top four – Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and us are very, very close.”

So why weren’t Raikkonen and Grosjean competing at the sharp end during the Malaysian Grand Prix?

“First it was [wet] qualifying and then we did not make the best start ever,” Boullier explained. “After that we lost a lot in the first stint compared to the leaders, especially Mercedes.

“If you then compare the race pace after tha, we were not bad – we were there.

“In Melbourne clearly we had an advantage because again some circumstances during qualifying and Friday practice did not help some teams to get their setup ready.”

Force India to persevere with new wheelnut system

Force India have said that they will persevere with their new wheelnut system despite the issue causing the team a double retirement at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Silverstone based team were hoping to repeat the double points scoring finish achieved at the Australian Grand Prix just a week before. However both Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta were forced to retire after the Force India pit crew experienced problems with wheelnuts during their pitstops.

“Both cars had the same problem with the wheel nuts and it cost us a lot of time in the pits,” Sutil explained. “We aren’t sure exactly what happened yet so the team stopped the cars to make sure we understand the issue.”

The new captive wheelnut system was in use during the Australian Grand Prix however the temperatures in Malaysia were much higher and it is believed that this is a factor in the problem.

The Force India team now have three weeks to sort the wheelnut issue out before the next race in China.

“We won’t go back to the old part,” deputy team principal Bob Fernley confirmed to Autosport. “We can’t go backwards.

“You need to cure the problem and carry on with your development. Today, everyone’s pitstops are well under four seconds. But it you go back to the traditional route you are plus four.”

Think before criticising Vettel: fallout from Malaysia 2013

Today’s Malaysian Grand Prix was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull Racing RB9. He was followed home by team mate Mark Webber and by Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes. Such prosaic sentences belie a race full of drama and intrigue, which resulted in one of the most awkward podium presentation ceremonies ever seen in F1.

A good eight hours after the end of the race, a clear picture has emerged about what actually happened – although subject to the caveat that more information will surely come to light in the next few months. After the final pit stop Red Bull as a team had agreed to hold station; that is, not to race each other. A decision made in a board room, no doubt, or the motorhome equivalent, but full of common sense, as we’ll come to.

Mark Webber was the man in the lead at this point. You know, Mark Webber, the occasionally awkward spanner in Sebastian Vettel’s sweep-all-before-him works. The Australian who tends to speak his mind and minds no one knowing that he doesn’t like his boss because his boss prefers the German boy. The Mark Webber who might legitimately hope and expect, given the number of times he had held station behind Vettel, for a bit of reciprocity. Or just some gentlemanliness.

But Vettel had other ideas. Way before all this, he’d lamented on the radio that the team needed to ‘get Mark out of the way’ because he was ‘too slow’. Strong words, but not as strong as the physical act of challenging your team mate when your team has expressly requested you not to.

The drivers’ pre-podium room was taut with tension even before Webber walked in, to shake the hand of Hamilton but ignore that of Vettel. The younger man began, “Mark…”, but Webber interrupted him with “multi 21, Seb, multi 21″ – the team’s jargon for holding station. The podium ceremony was icy. The climax came when a visibly angry and disappointed Webber told the world that despite what he had done today, Vettel would have the team’s protection. Ouch.

In an odd coincidence, Mercedes also had their own team-driver controversy today in Malaysia. After a close race for third, Hamilton and Rosberg were told to hold station themselves. Unlike Vettel, Rosberg obeyed, but not silently – he must have argued for a full ten minutes on the team radio with his boss about it. Hamilton, on the podium, looked positively lachrymose to be there – and said as much.

So what do we make of all this? Firstly, that team orders are very much alive and kicking and (theoretically) affecting race outcomes. Secondly, that although Vettel’s comportment may not be to the liking of all (and certainly not Australians), he didn’t actually do much wrong today – and here’s why.

F1 is a sport with a contradiction at its heart. It is a team sport in which teams race teams for glory. Teams provide a lot of the money, they provide the technology, they provide the cache that manufacturers and advertisers so adore. In the case of Ferrari, they also inspire great loyalty from the fans. But principally fans love the drivers and the competition between the drivers, regardless of the colours in which they race. But every team currently in F1 has two drivers. And if my maths isn’t wrong, only one of them can be in front.

Add to that the fact that if they can’t win the race, and only one out of the field actually can, the car they need to beat the most (for career reasons) is the driver in the other car in their team. So although the teams require drivers to obtain the maximum number of points, a line-astern finish is a monumentally unhappy event for 50% of the team.

From Red Bull and Mercedes’ points of view, today’s team orders were sound and unimpeachable. A no-brainer for RBR to win the race and take the maximum number of points than allow the drivers to race, ruin their tyres and possible crash into each other. Better by far for Mercedes to take a recently rare podium than to fall off the cliff of tyre performance, run out of fuel or collide.

But the drivers are not like that, and there lies the rub. Vettel raced Webber because he wanted to win himself, and the selfish and perhaps even ungentlemanly desire to do that is part of his DNA – part of what makes him such a successful young man. And if fans are honest with themselves, what they want to see is that skill, that talent, and that racing, like the wonderful rollicking duel the two RBR men had today.

In sum, criticism of Vettel should be tempered by awareness of the inherent contradictions of this sport – driver vs driver, team vs team and driver vs team, making legal team orders a necessary evil. But also, by acknowledgement that we cannot have our cake and eat it; that Vettel and Rosberg are racers, and we couldn’t have it any other way.

Vettel ignored team orders during Malaysian GP?

Sebastian Vettel may have won the Malaysian Grand Prix but it appears that he has some explaining to do.

Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber led most of the race however the German driver overtook his team-mate late on. According to Webber after the last pit stop, he was told by the team that the race was over and he just needed to bring the car home. However it appears that his team-mate chose to continue to fight for the race win.

“After the last pit stop the team told me that they race was over and we turn the engines down and we go to the end,” Webber explained. “I won the race as well but in the end the team made a decision – we always say before the race, ‘Look after the tyres and get the car to the end’.

“In the end, Seb made his own decisions today. He will have protection as usual and that’s the way it goes,” Webber added.

A radio message to Vettel at the end of the race said, “You looked like you wanted it bad enough but there will be some explaining to do.”

Embarrassment for Hamilton at Malaysian Grand Prix

It was an embarrassing moment for Lewis Hamilton during the Malaysian Grand Prix when the British driver accidentally pulled into the McLaren garage for his pit stop.

The McLaren crew were out in the pitlane waiting for Jenson button when Lewis Hamilton pulled into their pit garage on lap seven. Fortunately the Brit realised his mistake immediately and he drove straight through before pulling into the Mercedes pit box.

“I did a Jenson,” Hamilton said. “He did that a couple of years ago. i am used to driving in the McLaren pits. I don’t know how I got it wrong so I apologise to my team.”

Despite being told to save fuel towards the end of the race, Hamilton finished on the podium for the first time with his new team. Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg finished just behind.

“If I am honest, Nico [Rosberg] should be standing here,” Hamilton said. “He had better pace. I was was fuel saving for a long, long time.

“But the guys did a great job and I brought it home.

“I can’t say it’s the best feeling being up here but racing is racing.”