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Red Bull, Green Heaven

It has been a little while since I have written a blog but I thought I would now as it was appropriate timing.

Last weekend I was fortunate enough to go to the absolutely majestic track that is the Red Bull Ring. It firstly must be stated at just how absolutely beautiful a country Austria is. It has the most outstanding landscape and scenery you could wish for. No wonder they are crazy about their skiing with the size of the mountains they have! (Congratulations Anna Fenninger)

I arrived with friends on Friday with a sense of anticipation. I have become very eager to see and hear these new generation of hybrid cars. After casually walking around the F1 Fan Village and purchasing some Ferrari and Williams t-shirts we proceeded to the grandstand along the straight between turn one to turn two.

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We hit our first problem trying to actually get in the grandstand when they said our passes were not valid which made no sense considering Friday was “meant to be” access all areas even on a general admission pass. Apparently not. Luckily we were able to peer around the grandstand and see our first glimpse of turn two. Initially I was a little underwhelmed, it looked less of an incline than I thought.

All of a sudden I could hear a rogue whistling sound followed by a large thud of booming. Sure enough FP2 had started to my absolute amazement. I did not hear them coming, I did not hear a single thing until the braking of turn two. I didn’t even need ear phones and I have a dodgy right ear!

As we ventured to the top of turn two we looked back and the landscape to centre stage. This wonderful, sweeping valley of greenery with vista’s that could only dream of. It also made me realise “Oh, turn two is rather steep.” It wasn’t until we were at the top I truly appreciated just how steep the run to turn two was or how much the track dips between one and two.

We found ourselves a spot high up on the grassed banking at turn two and took in an afternoon of sunshine and loud whistles. That really is all I can describe these V6 hybrid turbo engines. Loud whistles. I had the privilege of going to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in 2013 and remembering how my ears would ring all night long before going to the track again the next morning for them to be absolutely obliterated again with screaming V8’s at 18,000rpm. My chest would vibrate with the noise reverberating around the trees. It was pure magic. Absolute magic.

I realise and understand that the car industry and modern life itself is in a flux of trying to save the environment but I struggle to see the relevance of these engines in road cars. I thought that’s what the WEC boys were doing, oh and doing it better may I add. I have been a Formula 1 fan all my life but never have I been let down so much by the cars. They are woeful, truly woeful.

We returned for day two bright and early because one of us in the group had a press pass – the lucky bugger! So as he ventured off we took to walking around the track and taking more in until Qualifying. We were fortunate enough to find a nice little spot between turns two and three which gave us not only a spectacular view across the circuit but a demonstration of what these cars can do in to turn three.

Qualifying comes and it is fascinating to see when they turn the wick up on these cars, SORRY! Batteries, we see just what the can do. Both Mercedes were braking barely before the 50m board. Incredibly late braking in qualifying trim and even with the fly-by-wire braking systems they seem to work quite nicely. The transition from wet to dry caught Kimi out and we were left with a regular story come Q2 and Q3. Mercedes up front on their own with little interest from the others and a lockout even though they both through away what would have better laps.

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Post qualifying we ventured off in to the wilderness as the track cuts from turn three up to around the turn 8 area. This is where I captured a fantastic video through the fencing, wedging my phone between two bars and seeing the Porsche Supercup. They never cease to amaze. Wonderful machinery cascading down the hill and the drivers having to deal with both curb and camber changes. Sublime area to see cars fly through.

Race day and another early start. We arrived at 8.30am with cappuccino in hand waiting for the support races. We had found a bench the day before and being with a German we had to make sure we got our beach towels down early to avoid disappointment. The vantage point we had though was fantastic. I honestly could not have hoped for a better setting to sit and enjoy a day’s racing. I have often raved about the view from Knickerbrook at Oulton Park and the view you get there, this was better!

Both GP3 and GP2 were great to watch. Viewing the rising talent through the ranks and the drivers wanting to get the elusive F1 prize. It must be said at this point at the phenomenal talent that is Stoffel Vandoorne. The guy is breath-taking to watch on track. The speed and control he has with a GP2 car and the way he controls the Pirelli tyres is awe inspiring. If he does not secure an F1 seat then it would a travesty. How do you replace Alonso or Button? Easy. Vandoorne for Button and wait for Honda to sort their engine out.

On the point of Honda. Engine? Well, none of these engines may sound particularly great but where they do come alive is a low speed. A deep gargle and splattering of fuel as it tries to pull away and then it’s gone as they crank through the eight gears. The Honda engine though sounds like it’s like an extra cylinder down than any other manufacturer. It gargles, spits, pops, it has been a long time since I have heard something quite that throaty. Do I like it? Not really but many will.

Before the F1 race we were enticed by some old machinery from the 80’s and the 90’s along with a plane from the Red Bull Air Race which was very impressive and finally a giant Austrian flag was helicoptered in. When you can hear the noise of the engines from the far side of the track, blast along the start straight with the sound bouncing off the paddock that is when the blood rushes. That thrill of the sound and noise the feel of speed rushing through your body.

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Five red lights go out and with all cars on the grid you can hear the engines but only for a lap or two until they have filtered out. That was proven after the safety car came in after the Alonso and Raikkonen had their bust up on the exit of two. Unfortunately did not get a glimpse of it but did get to see the truck take the Ferrari the wrong way turn round and go back the other way. Alonso and Kimi also going their separate ways on bikes back to the pit lane.

Once they were back to full speed it truly shocked me at just how much they lift and coast prior to a corner. They do brake incredibly late but because the aerodynamics has done most of the work by then it was makes little differences. They cars look incredibly easy to drive and not a great challenge for the driver. One thing of note though was how the Mercedes cars turn through turns three and four. They pitch the car in on the nose, let the rear slide and power on. This was actually the issue they had a few years ago with Schumacher and Rosberg with the rears overheating. By the looks of it they have not got rid of the issue but due to the longevity of the Pirelli’s the tyres heat up in to an operating window and keep them well enough to stretch their legs.

At all times the Mercedes looked like they could just turn the boost up and run away as and when they needed to. All very calculated and controlled and gave no openings or opportunities to other teams. Ferrari are coming though, the car looks very strong at the rear with little movement which could help in the future.

My overall conclusion though is one of disappointment. These cars are terrible with absolutely no heart or sole about them. Quiet, easy and just all round dull racing. There is a lot to be sorted in Formula 1 but something has got to be done about these cars. I would like to thank the Red Bull Ring for a phenomenal venue and support package though. Tremendous effort and I fully endeavour on returning to the track soon. I hear you have MotoGP coming…

The Alonso Situation

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

The driver market is wide open at the moment with speculation that Fernando Alonso will be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2014.

Alonso is the key to unlocking the door in 2015. Once Alonso has decided or Ferrari have decided who they want to in 2015 the rest of the grid will fall in to place.

I am no F1 insider and I do not know what is going on behind closed doors but let us look at the options and what we do know.

Ferrari – Staying put. The Latin blood that runs through the Spanish and the Italians oozes incredible passion. The passion lies deep at Maranello and with the Italians which Alonso finds highly relatable. McLaren are much more British and pragmatic which I do not think suits the Spanish/Latin character. This is well documented by Alain Prost often stating how he could not work with the French (Renault) as he had a much more Anglo-Saxon mentality leading to be a pragmatist and blended well with McLaren’s philosophies. I do not see Alonso in the same vain, he is a deeply passionate person.

Change is the big thing at Ferrari though. Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo have both now departed for Marco Mattiacci and Sergio Marchionne respectively. Politics a plenty here and there is likely to be a huge shift within Ferrari and a new direction under Marchionne. This may be of concern to Alonso.

– Positives: Building upon what he already knows. Ferrari have one year worth of experience in learning and understanding how the engines work and will come back stronger. It may be simple but knowing the team and have a good working relationship with mechanics really is key and it is something he would have to learn new wherever he goes.

It will be the first full year James Allison has had control of the design of the car. Key to note that Alonso wanted Allison so to leave when he is about to give him is first produced Ferrari car seems a little strange.

Number one status. Supposedly in modern Formula 1 this does not exist but let’s be honest, Alonso has exclusivity when it comes to lead driver in Ferrari. I doubt he wants to let that freedom go too quickly.

Strong links to suggest that Ferrari and Mercedes have an aerodynamic advantage for 2015 as they already have low shaped noses which are mandatory for 2015. This may seem small but to have that air data of how it shapes around the car is significant.

– Negatives: Alonso does not seem to be either the type of person or the type of driver that Mattiachi wants and I believe Marchionne seems to be in the bracket of tolerating Alonso. Difficulties with management could be an issue in the foreseeable future.

2014 is the worst Ferrari that Alonso has driven. 2010 and 2012 were both glorious opportunities for titles but development against Red Bull slipped and never had the car he needed to beat Vettel. Upgrades and development a concern.

Does he believe in Ferrari? Simple as that really, does Alonso believe that Ferrari can give him a race winning car? At the age of 33 he is getting no younger but is still hungry for World Championships.

McLaren – This link is ever growing and throughout the free practice sessions in Japan it grew even more that Alonso and McLaren will happen in 2015. Strong sources called that Alonso arrived in Japan early on Monday and was headed towards the Honda headquarters but that was never confirmed.

– Positive: Moving to McLaren is a fresh challenge with the entire of Honda backing Alonso who know his capabilities.

Peter Prodromou the chief aero dynamist at Red Bull has moved to the team. Prodromou was second to Newey and certainly knows his aero packages.

Ron Dennis reformed team will start to take shape.

– Negatives: Alonso left on bad terms with McLaren and Ron Dennis at the end of 2007. Alonso is often quick to quell any differences between himself and Lewis Hamilton but more so seemed to be with Ron Dennis and the McLaren team.

Rumblings are that the Honda engine is three months behind development, too heavy and not producing enough power. That is of definite concern considering the Prancing Horse has hardly been a Mercedes beater.

McLaren have not made an all-round good package since 2008 where it was competitive at all tracks. This could also be looked at that under Martin Whitmarsh the team was not as strong but with Ron Dennis back in charge the entire McLaren team is likely to improve.

Red Bull – It is highly likely that this would turn in to a straight swap with Sebastian Vettel who has been linked for many years with a Ferrari seat in the future. Vettel himself having an average season and beaten by his team mate.

– Positive: 2015 car is going to be the last designed Adrian Newey car before he moves on to pastures new, likely to be the Americas Cup in sailing. One season in a Newey designed car is always going to be competitive and Alonso would no doubt utilise that package very well.

Much of the team is still there even though some key people have left. 2015 and beyond are to be transition years for Red Bull, likely to lead to their departure from the sport in a few years.

Many of the Renault mechanics from his championship winning seasons are at Red Bull at will likely feel very much at home there.

– Negatives: The most alarming one here is the Renault engine. It has been under powered and a let-down this season. While Ricciardo has done wonders to win, it has been at Mercedes misfortune or mistake. The Renault engine needs a significant re-design and much improvement. Renault have even threatened to leave the sport in the not too distant future which does not bode well for Alonso, who would want factory backing.

Beyond 2015 there will be new designers and aero dynamists at Red Bull. It will no longer be an Adrian Newey designed car. Conversely it has been documented that Newey will still been in a mentor styled role which will allow him to help the new team. Therefore that is not all doom and gloom.

Alonso has stated that he wants “low-risk” in reality staying at Ferrari is lowest risk option for the Spaniard. Build on what you have try to believe in the new philosophies of those stepping up at Maranello. Arguable Red Bull is also relatively low risk in the short term but that may fizzle out. McLaren to me is a huge, in fact, massive risk. I do not see or understand why Alonso would go somewhere where there are striking differences in how both operate and go about their business. He is not a McLaren type of driver and would be better suited at staying at Ferrari what he knows or blast his final few years in a Red Bull car that will likely stretch it legs for two maybe three years.

I am an avid Alonso fan if you have not noticed. I think he is the all-round best driver in Formula 1 and has been for many years. Hamilton gives him a run but I believe he is still number one. I do not see him at McLaren at all. There is no logical sense to move to a team that is in a bigger state of flux than Ferrari are themselves. The switch to Red Bull I could understand more but I think staying where he is and keeping the faith is the way forwards.

Just my thoughts though…

The Mercedes Dilemma

It has again been a while since I have taken the time to write a blog but as with much of life, finding time is always the issue.

I recently posted this on my Facebook wall: “On reflection. Mercedes did play the situation wrong. Rosberg’s attacking skills are somewhat average at best. He is not as clinical a driver as others out there. Merc really had no reason to ask Hamilton to move over. Split strategy, yes, but they would come back together due to degradation. All it would do is create Rosberg with a smaller gap to close, something like 10 seconds over 22. Still prefer a Rosberg champ over Hamilton but to me it more so illustrates just how good Alonso is and how Ricciardo is fast becoming one of the best drivers in the field.”

I wanted to elaborate on this more and felt going back to my blogging would be the ideal way to approach this.

The 2014 season has turned in to a straight Mercedes fight for the Drivers World Championship while the team romp off with the Constructors Championship. I find you can understand a driver or a person more when then they fight through adversity. It is when their skill, talent and mental capabilities are tested to the maximum.

Lewis Hamilton has been tested pretty significantly now throughout this season and to be fair has actually done a remarkable job to keep his title chances alive. Arguably showing his strength mentally but then also shows utter frailties when it comes to the media which a more closely associated with throwing toys out of the pram. So, how does a guy that seemingly has the mentality of a yo-yo overcome someone that appears to play cool-calm-collected?

Quite simply we saw the Hunger in Hungary. Hamilton’s all out driven, balls to the wall, bin it or win it shows that he will stop at nothing to win the 2014 championship. Hamilton said his hunger is greater than Rosberg’s due to his background and upbringing “”I come from a not great place in Stevenage and lived on a couch in my dad’s apartment,” said Hamilton.
“Nico grew up in Monaco with jets and boats and all these kind of things – so the hunger is different.” This entire statement is utter nonsense really and just a psychological tactic and a pretty poor one at that.

Hamilton’s direct ignoring of the Mercedes team wall of team orders to move aside for his team mate and championship rival showing that his tenacity prevails over any team need. The phrase “team player” seemingly lost on Hamilton but in a sport that is the most individual team sport, do you blame him?

Mercedes stance is that they tried to maximise both strategies to get the best for the team. That is fair but also the team are fighting for a World Drivers’ Championship therefore a driver is not just going to back down. Not in the current position. I do believe there is a time and place for team orders but they are circumstantial not just a one set rule. Evaluating the whole picture is required.

I am not a Hamilton fan, I never will be a Hamilton fan but I have a level of admiration for the job he is doing, even if that is through gritted teeth. Rosberg for me is not clinical enough. He does not have that natural rawness of a Champion. He plays the media well and wins a lot of media fights. Let’s be frank here if Hamilton had not had his troubles then the Championship would be long gone. Rosberg though in truth is kinder to his car and deals with heated situations and moments better, at least until Hungary.

Hamilton during qualifying seemed incredibly calm even through a burning backside. His calmness over team radio was personified during the race. So my question is has his mentality changed? Is he now viewing things differently and simply believing he is better than Rosberg anyway and the title will come to him? Well if he does not already, he should.

Sounds like I am backing someone I do not like? No, not really. I would actually prefer a Rosberg win for the sport. I think across the first half of the season he has achieved the maximum possible during Hamilton’s difficulties and that speaks volumes also. If we evaluate this though what real challenge has he had? Williams in Austria could be viewed as a challenge but that was more patience than a challenge.

So to Rosberg’s credit he has done everything he can. To Hamilton’s credit he has fought with all his might to stay in the title. Who deserves it more? Alonso. But that is for another blog.

@Nico888

Battle of the Strategies

April 14, 2013 Leave a comment

After a three week gap and the dust settling over the Red Bull saga, the Formula 1 circus rolled in to the Jiading circuit in Shanghai, China. After the practice sessions it was evident to see that the Lotus and Ferrari’s were quick on the long run pace. Tyre degradation was the biggest concern though as the soft compound was degrading at such a high rate.

Qualifying was uninspiring due to the teams conserving tyres for the race. Only seven drivers setting Q3 times with Button, Vettel and Hulkenburg settling for slow times or no times to optimize strategy on the Medium compound tyres. Lewis Hamilton made the most of the soft tyres and taking pole position.

As the five lights dropped the Mercedes of Hamilton had a good jump and pulled away from second position Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus who in turn was swamped by both Ferrari’s of Alonso and Massa. A clean start for the rest of the field behind as Kimi settled in to fourth position.

Fernando Alonso wanted to make an early impression and lay down a marker and on lap three with DRS enabled swept around the outside of Hamilton in to turn one and with a great run out of the final corner, Massa took second spot off Hamilton going in to turn one. The soft tyres, as predicted, dropped away after just six laps. Mercedes gambled and stacked their cars on pit entry, but thanks to some slick pit work Hamilton had a quick stop and Rosberg was serviced in quick sharp time also. Ferrari opted not to stop both cars and Massa lost out massively by staying out one lap longer and dropped to fifth and never recovered from that position.

With thanks to © Getty Images and ESPN

Mark Webber started from pit lane after his car stopped out on track in qualifying without fuel due to a fuel rig bowser error meant that his car was not carrying the required fuel sample putting him to the back of the grid. Red Bull decided to start the Australian from pit lane to break parc fermé and allow for setup changes. This all came undone on lap fourteen when Webber tried to pass the sister team car of Vergne in to turn six but the door was firmly slammed in front of him and it damaged the front wing. After his stop there was an issue with the rear left wheel at it popped off in turn fourteen forcing him to retire from that race.

Story of the opening part of the race was how Hulkenburg was able to get past both Button and Vettel and had great pace in front of Vettel. They pitted on the same lap for new medium tyres but a slow stop for Sauber allowed Vettel through. Sauber on the second stop switched the soft compound but left Nico out for too long and his race pace fell away and dropped backwards through the field.

Due to the strategic warfare playing out it allowed for plenty of overtaking but the DRS zones were too powerful and allowed for relative easy overtakes unless you are Kimi Raikkonen. The Lotus with clearly more grip tried to go to the outside of turns four and five to negotiate a slower Perez at the time but was pushed way out on the grass and speared in to the back of the McLaren damaging the front wing. The Iceman opted not to pit and to battle on, to his credit considering the understeer he still maintained great pace.

If it was not for that damage it would have been likely that Kimi could have made an impression on Fernando Alonso who at this point was romping away to an emphatic victory. Controlled, patient and calculated allowed the ‘all-round’ best driver to secure his first win of the season in front of Raikkonen and Hamilton.

The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel was on the mirror strategy by starting on the mediums and running them all race until the last five laps where he pitted and came out thirteen seconds behind Hamilton’s Mercedes. Vettel’s imperious driving qualities once again prevailed by holding on to those tyres but also smashing the lap times and came right up behind Hamilton going in to sector three of the final lap. On the approach to turn eleven both cars had to negotiate a Caterham and Vettel ran too deep in to the corner, he ran under the one second marker required for DRS but could not make the impression in the final couple of corners and Hamilton took another podium for Mercedes.

One week now before the chaos resumes in Bahrain. This race will hold special regard for me after visiting the track in 2011 for the race to be cancelled and also my parents living in the volatile country for three years. Protesters have already started to use the F1 as leverage to make their voices heard once again for the human rights campaign. It is likely tyres will again be at the forefront of the teams minds. I for one sincerely hope the tyres are the only issue and the Grand Prix is not over shadowed by politics as the teams head to the Middle-East.

The Racing Edge #2 – Malaysian F1 GP Podcast

March 25, 2013 Leave a comment

This is our second podcast and we take a look at the antics that went on between the Red Bull and Mercedes team mates along with a brief review of the race. We are looking to get as many people involved and round table discussions open. Please like and comment below and we look forward to reading your comments out on the next show.

The Racing Edge #2 – Malaysian F1 GP Podcast.

The heat is on… at Red Bull!

March 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Searching for the right words to describe what we saw at the Malaysian is really very tough. Eventful comes to mind as being the main one but many others would apply fittingly also.

Before we get on to the chaos of the race, let us review qualifying. Sebastian Vettel once again showed he was class of the field by pitting for fresh inters and set a blistering time nine tenths quicker than Massa and a second faster than Alonso. Australian GP winner, Raikkonen was not so clever and also fell foul to a three place grid penalty for impeding Nico Rosberg.

Twenty-four hours pass and the race is started on intermediate tyres after a down pour of rain prior to the race. Lights out and Alonso’s Ferrari got a quick start but Massa was not as quick as in Australia and was passed by his team mate with relative ease. Alonso saw an opportunity to capitalise but locked his brakes on entry to turn two, clipped the back of race leader Vettel and damaged his front wing. Incredibly he battled and held second place until the line of the first lap, but going down the pit straight his front wing collapsed underneath the front tyres and sent him spearing off in to the gravel. Ferrari had told him to pit and were ready with a new front wing but the Spaniard did not and paid the price. Reminded me of Raikkonen at the Nurburgring in 2005 for McLaren where his front right tyre exploded on the last lap of the race.

Alonso’s wing disappears under his car

The first laps unfolded and as the track dried, Vettel was the first to dive in to pit lane for a set of slicks. Turns one to four were still very wet, too wet in fact and Vettel was left battling cars on inters and trying to get his slicks up to temperature. Webber pitted two laps later and benefited massively by jumping his team mate and coming out in the race lead. With Massa’s relative lack of pace it allowed both Mercedes of Hamilton and Rosberg to capitalise and close down the Red Bull pair. Hamilton in particular in the mid part of the race had some excellent pace but it was too much too fast, he had to settle in to fuel conservation mode which allowed Rosberg to close up even further but he was also managing his tyres better.

The turning point of the race came for both Red Bull and Mercedes. Webber had been controlling his pace, tyres and engine management to the point where Vettel came out just behind him after the final round of pit stops. Vettel then engulfed in an all-out battle with his team mate chopping and changing positions for two laps which saw the young German get pushed right up against the pit wall. Vettel had earlier moaned in the race that Webber was too slow but knowing how the Pirelli rubber works, Webber was simply controlling his pace. Vettel eventually threw the car around the outside of turn four and took the lead of the race. While Webber’s earlier battling was valiant he was not too forceful to push his fellow Red Bull driver off the circuit.

Behind the Red Bull pair the battle raged on between Nico Rosberg and, not Hamilton, but Ross Brawn. Hamilton was in pure tyre and fuel conservation mode but settled in to a third place and podium finish. Brawn clearly having understanding of the situation told his drivers to just settle in to their respective positions. A wiley fox like Ross Brawn is not going to be told by anyone, if Schumacher could not then Rosberg is definitely not going to be telling him.

The chequered flag dropped with Vettel crossing the line first, an angered Webber in second and a disappointed Rosberg in third. You can imagine at this point this podium is going to be a rather feisty place. Before the drivers stepped on to the podium and furious Mark Webber walked in to the post-race room, steam pouring out of his ears, glaring looks at Vettel and with a deep Aussie boom voicing the words “Multi 21, Seb. Mutli 21” This is code from the Red Bull team indicating team orders and stay in your positions. On the other side of the podium we had a glum looking Hamilton almost scratching his head and wondering what had just happened.

Martin Brundle joined them on the podium for the post-race interviews and, as ever, Brundle doing an excellent job tried to defuse the situation but Webber was quick to jump and say “Vettel took it in to his own hands, and as ever will be protected by the team”. Sure enough the ears of Dr Helmut Marko and Christian Horner pricked up at that point and knew they were in for a tough evening, the team already in a hot environment the pressure cooker seemingly getting ever hotter.   Hamilton explained how he thought Rosberg should be up there will probably not go down well with Mercedes bosses as it was Ross Brawn’s call. We very much see two different dynamics of team and team mates appearing in both camps. Dr Helmut Marko was quick enough to say that there is a “Clear number one” in Mercedes trying to deflect the attention away from his own team.

Webber’s anger at Vettel © Sutton Images

More was to come yet though as Vettel and Webber had a chat after the podium and before the press conference, Vettel sat down and apologised to Webber but the Aussie was having none of it and did not accept his apology. Webber’s interview with Natalie Pinkham of Sky Sports was the most revealing though. Webber stated that he wanted some time off to head back to Australia and also that he was “questioned things” in the last ten laps of the race. That is quite a bold statement to be saying and while it may be heat of the moment you have to wonder.

I think all Formula 1 fans will have opinions and likely differing opinions on this. Team orders have always been in Formula 1, whether that be a blatant as radio communication or a pre-race agreement. Webber was clearly under the impression that he had the lead, conserve tyres, engine and control the pace to the flag. Vettel was even told “This is silly Seb” by the pit wall but still persisted to pressure and eventually pass Webber. Now, the one big thing here that has been broken is trust. Webber can not only trust Vettel, probably ever again, but also the team. How does he then trust the team that tell him one thing and then another thing happens? Not only that but they still had another ten laps or so to go that they could have swapped the positions back around and never did! This is sour situation to be in and Webber will be left wondering and questioning his own position but also the position of the team. Webber only has this year left on his contract which I am sure he just wants to enjoy racing. After the antics we saw from Vettel today you have to wonder if he will stay.

So let us look at the other side of the garage. Red Bull clearly know that Vettel is the stronger driver and the most likely to challenge for the title. After seeing Alonso drop out of the race they must have been rubbing their hands together. Vettel was behind Webber though after the stops and it took a forceful pass to get back the top step of the podium. The team stated that it was ‘silly’ and that he should be careful. Vettel even said during the race “Get him out the way, he’s too slow” about Webber who was actually looking after his tyres. A lot of comparisons have been drawn with Schumacher in the post-race aftermath and, sure, correlations can be drawn but the things that still stands out for me is Vettel’s immaturity. The youngest triple world champion but hardly the maturity of a world champion. Vettel was booed on the podium in Australia, and even as a triple world champion is far from a fans favourite. Alonso, Raikkonen and Hamilton all with fewer titles hold a better fans reputation than Vettel. After the race today, you can see why.

Flip over to Mercedes and Rosberg got out of the car, fully understood the situation, knows that the same would happen if that roles were reversed and gave a very dignified and diplomatic response to the media, an excellent showing from the German and, if anything, gone up in peoples estimations and I suspect has gained a lot of respect. Hamilton clearly unsatisfied himself, Mercedes almost have a luxury on their hands because they have two friends that want to fight, properly, but also both play the team game.

Fans may be disgruntled by what has happened but I think Red Bull actually have a greater issue on their hands. They have a driver that has clearly disobeyed team orders. Now while Schumacher, Senna or Alonso are/were rarely on the receiving end of that, I do not remember them disobeying the team quite so directly. Argument could state that it is early in the season and they should be allowed to battle, but outright disobeying the team that pays you? That is not something you want to be doing, even as a triple world champion.

Three weeks now until China and a lot of damage has to be repaired and a lot of conflicts to be resolved. Question is, can Red Bull do it or maybe, just maybe was that Mark Webber’s last ever Formula 1 race?

Well… that was awkward…

Now that the Malaysian GP has ended a new race has begun, one which isn’t exactly overt but is sure to be happening. The race I am speaking of is the one where the viewers are all racing towards their computers in order to duke it out on their favorite F1 sites, facebook pages, group forums, etc over the controversy witnessed at today’s race within the Red Bull and Mercedes camps. While a race to express your opinion isn’t one that can really be won, the anxiety still exists to get an opinion out there as if it could. Unfortunately I fall under that group and as I begin to hear the birds chirping in my rural midwestern town that morning has come, a part of me wishes that I was racing to my bed. However, unlike some of us out there, I am honoring my team orders and keeping up the good fight.

The title of my post pretty much sums up the race for me.  From Alonso’s decision to stay on track in order to test unique front wing designs to Hamilton’s exemplary lesson on how subconscious desires override common sense, I couldn’t help but think how awkward this race was. Don’t get me wrong, the excitement was there. This was a proper Malaysian GP with it’s changing conditions, retirements, epic wheel to wheel battles, and dramatic turn of events. Yet I still couldn’t shake the feeling that the race just felt off in a lot of ways. I just knew that some bullshit was right around the corner.

Unfortunately, I turned out to be right. The podium ‘celebration’ and subsequent interview said it all. Even if things had went smoothly and the drivers decided to just toss their champagne bottles aside and take a piss on the crowd before them, I still don’t think it would have been as awkward as to what we witnessed.

I wouldn't be surprised to see this happen

It needs to happen

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to see Mark Webber yet again receive unequal treatment and support (i.e. get screwed). One only needs to take a look at the 2010 season to confirm such things. Now before you naysayers stone me to death, I am not saying that Webber’s troubles and inability to secure a championship are down to just faulty team mechanics. He certainly has a variety of weaknesses that he has to take responsibility for (which he does). However, when a driver gives 110 percent effort it isn’t asking much to receive at least 90 percent support from his own team managers. You can get it all right and then some, but if those calling the shots aren’t fully in your corner, then there isn’t much you can do to overcome those odds. Webber wasn’t kidding when he responded to Helmut Marko’s criticism and said that “.. everyone at this level has their own agendas and it’s been evident for a long time now that I’ve never been part of Marko’s.” Oh how the anger rises inside me when I think about the final round in 2010 at the Abu Dhabi grand prix where Helmut Marko spouted off a bunch of fluff regarding the team’s views on honoring the spirit of competition and how drivers should have equal treatment as long as they still have a mathematical chance to win a championship. All talk and no walk.

Look, I understand the purpose of team orders and can accept that they happen in racing. I even support the implementation of them to an extent. However, it speaks volumes when Webber has always played the honorable role and is denied the same respect he has given countless times in the past. Some people out there may think that this is what makes Vettel one of the greats, that he will do everything it takes to get that win. But I would contest that what makes one great isn’t simply winning, but how one goes about achieving such a win. There is a reason why the ideas of honor and sportsmanship are highly praised.

Mark Webber knows that the odds have always been stacked against him. I only hope that history eventually shows this to be true. Simply put, I am not convinced that Vettel is superior to Webber as much as I am convinced that Vettel has received the greater support in both covert and overt form. Vettel’s on track actions seemed to express a belief that he can ignore team orders and act with impunity. The sad thing is that this is probably true.

The crazy thing is, this wasn’t even the most awkward thing that happened in today’s race. I think that award goes to Lewis Hamilton. Pit stop antics aside, did anyone catch how Lewis Hamilton openly admitted that Nico Rosberg ought to have been on the podium rather than himself? Kudos to Hamilton, he nearly killed me from the shock that overwhelmed my body from hearing that. It was the last thing I expected to hear from him but was certainly a pleasant surprise. At least we were able to witness some form of honorable action to help balance the dishonorable ones that took place.