The outcome of the Turkish Grand Prix has added yet another interesting factor behind this enthralling championship, and one which may be allowed to run and run if not adequately dealt with by Red Bull.
Forumula1.com draws upon past comparisons and future hypotheses to consider which way the potential saga between Webber and Vettel may turn next.
So there we have it. As many predicted before the start of the season we have finally had our first inter-team crisis between two top line drivers.
However, surprisingly, the two warring sides were not Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso at Ferrari or the driving pairings at Mercedes and McLaren. Instead in the blink of an eye the Turkish Grand Prix provided the start to the potential breakdown in relations between Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.
Casting all engine conspiracies to one side, it is clear that there is an evident split within the team and that it could have a destablising impact even if we are told otherwise.
On the exterior Formula One’s entrants usually like to present their in-house atmosphere as one of peace and tranquillity. However, in reality when the gloves are off and both men find themselves fighting for the championship, things usually sour -and more often than not it only takes one event on track to upset the apple cart.
Yesterday’s moment was played out in a similar fashion to what has happened in the sport’s past. It was exactly the case for igniting the famous Prost and Senna standoff at McLaren in the late 1980s. Then, in Estoril ’88, the former felt that his McLaren team-mate had foolishly pushed him up against the pit wall as he tried to pass. This in turn would act as the catalyst to the cold war which developed inside the team and which would transpire up until the Frenchman’s unsavoury departure at the end of the following year.
Therefore, could the collision between the two Red Bull drivers have the same effect and continue to tear away at the very fibre which bounds the team together? Well, there is every possibility when you consider that Vettel and Webber have previous history. Who could forget their incident under safety car conditions during the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix when Webber – who was lining up to challenge Lewis Hamilton for the lead of the race – was collected by Vettel in the Toro Rosso.
Subsequently, Webber launched a verbal tirade on Vettel – questioning his experience and blaming him for his inability to claim his elusive first victory. A tearful Vettel apologised immediately afterwards for his error – something that will not be replicated at present.
Fast forward events to just before Turkey 2010 and the mood could not have been any different in the Red Bull garage. With the strongest car in the field and comfortably leading both championships, team spirit was at an all time high. Furthermore, Webber and Vettel appeared at ease with one another both with a desire to claim their maiden championship, but not at the expense of disrupting the harmony within the team.
Now, given that both drivers are continuing to point the finger at each other for yesterday’s crash, those days appear a long and distant memory. But was a situation like this inevitable? As history would suggest it is often normal for the relationship between team-mates to become considerably strained once the lure of the championship crown is dangled above them.
Either way, suspicion will now surely surround these two for the rest of the year. Admittedly, most of this will be merely manufactured by the media, but even so there will still be a sense of apprehension which will trickle down to the rest of the team. Both drivers will be even more curious to find out why the other is running a certain program or if they can claim any new parts before the other. Potentially data will be kept from each other, garages will be divided, mistakes will be made and the likelihood for on-track accidents will increase. Do not expect either driver to play the team game like they did before.
Especially not Mark Webber, whose momentum of late has clearly been a bit of a headache for the team’s management. Although one does not doubt Red Bull insistance that it offers its drivers the utmost equality in terms of machinery, it is clear that there are a number who have a soft spot for Vettel. From a marketing side the German is the face of Red Bull Racing; the runaway success story of the company’s young driver programme and the man who was expected to stake his dominance over this year’s title pursuit. Helmut Marko, head of the programme is obviously very close to Vettel, but his opinion on the incident clearly demonstrates that a number of senior figures within the team do not blame the German for the accident and feel aggravated that Webber did not concede the place.
According to Marko’s comments, Webber should have been first to move as Vettel had got himself ahead on the run up to turn 12. But surely drivers would never concede a position until they had no other choice? Ultimately the Australian was under no obligation to do move across for his team-mate and duly held his line. If Webber had done this with say Hamilton then he would have been surely been praised for defending his position until the death? Although there remains little evidence to suggest that Red Bull’s management would prefer Vettel to take the title, it is something that will now be on the minds of fans and journalists alike whenever an issues arises again.
Ultimately, paranoia has a habit of creeping into any driver pairing on the grid just look at Lewis Hamilton’s demeanour when speaking to Jenson Button after the race. Even if it was only briefly, the Briton was left wondering why his team-mate had been allowed to attack him when both drivers were being asked to save fuel.
Sunday’s incident may also have ramifications for Mark Webber’s future at the team. Leading up to this weekend Christian Horner spoke openly about the team’s driver line-up for 2011 and said that he expected the Australian to stay. However, will this still be the case if this incident has permanently soured the mood inside the team? Could this force the 33-year-old to move elsewhere, potentially taking the title with him?
If so where could he go? Undoubtedly Felipe Massa’s seat would seem less at Ferrari, despite recent assurances that he would keep his seat at the Scuderia. Therefore the ramifications of a growing divide in Red Bull could reignite the drivers’ market and see a major shake up in next season’s line-ups.
Let’s be frank. When things go bad between team-mates they usually go extremely bad and Red Bull will hope to find a solution between its two drivers before it also finds itself embroiled in a bitter civil war.
Having the best car means nothing when your drivers are at war and taking points off each other. If this situation is allowed to continue then the team could easily find itself empty handed at the end of the season – with the likes of McLaren’s sneaking through the back door to win both titles in a similar manner to that of Raikkonen in 2007.
Christian Horner has stated that he will act fast before the next round in Canada, but will he be too late?
So how do you think the fallout from the Turkish Grand Prix will affect the title battle? Will tensions rise between the Red Bull team-mates and if so will this allow the likes of McLaren and Ferrari to remain in the championship or even leapfrog the RB6 in terms of performance?