Posts Tagged ‘vettel’

“Not bad for a number two driver.”

Anyone who follows Formula 1 will recognise this quote from Mark Webber aimed at Christian Horner and the rest of the Red Bull team after taking victory at the British Grand Prix on Sunday. A simmering anger that has been building up for some time towards a team who appear to treat him at times as a rear gunner for Sebastian Vettel; something which first came to attention in the aftermath of the pair’s collision in Istanbuland came to a head on Saturday after the team took Webber’s front wing off his car and bolted it to Vettel’s.

Do you think it means much to Mark Webber? (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Red Bull aren’t the first team to have this problem though. Formula 1’s history is full of teams who have two drivers going head to head or a de facto number 1 driver with a second hired to support his team mate’s championship challenge.

1957: How do you think Webber would have reacted to this?! In the 1957 British Grand Prix, Stirling Moss was going for victory in the Vanwall when his car suffered from mechanical troubles and was forced to pit. A few laps later, team mate Tony Brooks was called into the pits to hand his car over to Moss who went on to win the race. Although the pair split the points for victory, you can’t imagine any Formula 1 driver today being so willing to give up their car (even if their team mate was able to fit in and drive it!).

1978: Possibly the fastest driver of the 1970s, Sweden’s Ronnie Peterson won 10 races between 1973 and 1978 for Lotus and March. In 1978 he signed for Lotus from March as team mate to Mario Andretti. Despite being renowned for his speed, Peterson spent most of 1978 following his American team mate, coming second in four 1-2s during the year with both his wins coming when Andretti ran into difficulty. It worked with Andretti claiming the 1978 championship. Sadly Petersen died the day after a startline crash at that year’s Italian Grand Prix and is now regarded as one of the greatest drivers to never win the world championship.

Petersen was a loyal number 2 until his death

1979: An almost identical situation occurred the following year at Ferrari. South African Jody Scheckter and young Canadian Gilles Villeneuve headed the drivers’ championship as the Formula 1 circus arrived at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Despite knowing that a win could help him put one on the championship, Villeneuve faithfully obeyed team orders and followed Scheckter home to allow the South African to take his only title.

1982: Ferrari and Villeneuve again, however very different circumstances. One of the most famous on-track duels between team mates as Villeneuve and Frenchman Didier Pironi battled for victory in the 1982 San Marino Grand Prix. Expecting Pironi to obey Ferrari team orders, Villeneuve expected his team mate to stay behind him. He didn’t and Pironi sweeped past the fuming Canadian on the last lap to take victory. The pair never spoke again and Villeneuve was killed 13 days later whilst attempting to beat Pironi’s time during qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder.

1987: Two team mates who again never spoke to each other but helped to enthrall crowds during 1986 and 1987. Williams drivers Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet were both in the running for the 1986 title but mechanical problems during the last race in Australia allowed McLaren’s Alain Prost to retain his crown. In 1987 though it was a straight fight between the two Williams drivers. That year’s British Grand Prix saw a classic fight as Mansell closed down the Brazilian’s 20s lead in 20 laps to sweep past in one of the most famous overtaking moves of all time, despite running low on fuel. A crash during practice for the Japanese Grand Prix ended Mansell’s challenge as the Englisman suffered a back injury and handed the title to Piquet.

1988-89: The most famous fall out between team mates in motor racing history. Double world champion Alain Prost was joined by Ayrton Senna at McLaren for the 1988 season and the young Brazilian quickly set about attempts to beat his team mate. There isn’t anything that hasn’t already been said about the two drivers. Senna won the 1988 championship whilst Prost won in 1989 after the infamous collision at Suzuka before leaving for Ferrari.

The moment the 1989 championship was decided

2000-2004: The Schumacher era. Despite having Eddie Irvine as number two from 1996-1999 at Ferrari (and numerous number two team mates at Benetton), it was the German’s five year championship winning streak which is most famous with one incident symbolising the whole era. The 2002 Austrian Grand Prix saw Schumacher’s team mate Rubens Barrichello out qualify the German and lead virtually the entire race when radio orders came through with eight laps remaining to let Schumi by. Arguments raged over the last few laps until Barrichello moved over on the start/finish straight. And for what? So Schumacher could extend his lead over Juan Pablo Montoya to 27 points rather than 23 points. The crowd booed. Ferrari got fined and criticised. Team orders were banned. And everyone was very embarrassed.

Woops!

2007: Perhaps the most recent dispute between team mates before Vettel and Webber. Fernando Alonso arrived at McLaren from Renault expecting to be number 1 whilst his rookie team mate, Lewis Hamilton, found his way into the sport. What Alonso didn’t count on was Hamilton matching his speed and becoming a championship contender. In Hungary Alonso became fed up with what he saw as preferential treatment for the young Englishman and deliberately mucked up his team mate’s qualifying and ensured he got pole, however he was later demoted five places and Hamilton took pole and the win. Alonso returned to Renault for 2008 whilst Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came up and nicked the title away from Hamilton and Alonso in the final race in Brazil.

So what has history told us? Well for the fans it will be far more interesting and exciting for both Webber and Vettel to battle it out on the track rather than have Red Bull decide who will be number 1. Although the team have been hinting at favouritism towards Vettel (who is effectively their answer to Lewis Hamilton), Webber makes it impossible for them with strong drives when it matters to retake the German in the championship standings.

However history suggests that this form of rivalry will lead to trouble and could potentially missing out ono one or both championships in 2010. With a fragile car and evenly matched team mates, there is the danger that they’ll just take points off each other, as well as front wings!

Since the infamous collision in Turkey, Red Bull appear to support Vettel more in the heat of the moment then attempt to come out more even handed a few days later, which does nothing for their PR machine and creates unnecessary tension.

Guys, watch where you're going! (EPA)

One thing the recent wing saga has done though is raised Webber’s credibility in F1 circles and he proved a popular winner at the weekend and proved that this will be settled on the track rather than on the pitwall. Three wins this season to Vettel’s two so far shows that the Aussie means business.

For Formula 1 and to be fair to both drivers, Red Bull must allow the two to race each other until one of them cannot win the title.. But they can’t pick a number one, so they should stop hinting at one otherwise they could lose more than just a championship.

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