Took me way to long to get back into writing and thankfully there are three weeks between Malaysia and China, otherwise, this would be completely irrelevant (versus the normally mostly irrelevant) by the time I hit publish.
The race started damp, but amazingly had a clean start. Well, cleaner than expected. Alonso had his typical aggressive and excellent start, but clipped the rear of Vettel’s car breaking the Ferrari’s front wing. Why Alonso (or the team) thought dragging the wing for more than a lap instead of pitting is beyond me. Sure, it did seem that Alonso was somehow able to keep pace with the rest of the leaders, but his broken wing was dangerous and I would hope that if it hadn’t broken at turn 1 after blowing passed the pit entrance, that the stewards would have black flagged the car. Maybe Massa should speak to his teammate about the dangers of high speed flying debris.
In many respects, though, this was a race about pit stops. My favorite being Lewis Hamilton having a bit of nostalgia and trying to park it at his old team.
But really, the story was around the fact that Red Bull, McLaren, and Mercedes all had pit stops under 2.3 seconds, breaking last year’s record repeatedly. Amazing how fast you can stop, change 4 tires, and send a driver off when everything in working. Not the case for the Force India duo. Both cars ended up being retired with some sort of issue around the wheel nut. And then McLaren had a flashback of Silverstone 2011 and released Button without a properly fitted right front wheel. All that and he had been in the lead.
Lots of good passing in this race as well and not all of it required the use of the DRS zones. Raikkonen made a number of early passes in the damp before DRS was enabled and the general lineup of the top 10 was completely jumbled before the first pit sequence. Regardless of the good racing though, the story almost everyone is wagging their tongues over is Vettel passing Webber.
It’s the tale of two teams with Vettel seemingly ignoring team orders and taking the fight to Vettel, while Rosberg followed orders. In the latter case, Rosberg certainly showed his displeasure throughout being told to hold back by tailing Hamilton very closely for the last laps of the race. And he was faster than Hamilton, lap for lap, almost the entire race. Rosberg’s position was lost in the pits on a delayed release which saw him lose multiple places. He earned those back, but was told to hold off Hamilton. Good for Rosberg to be the team player, but a shame he didn’t feel he could be aggressive and make the move on his teammate.
Obviously, Vettel had no such problem. Whether he violated team orders or didn’t see/hear the message from the pit is irrelevant. At a certain point he decided to make the move and pass. It’s not like Webber didn’t fight back. In fact, he nearly drove Vettel into the pit exit wall. That alone would’ve gotten him a stern warning if not a penalty last year from the stewards. Even better, Webber then continued his dangerous angry driving after the race by speeding up and cutting across Vettel so he could give him the finger. I guess some people feel sorry for Webber. In some respects, I do too. Just not for this pass. Does he have a right to be pissed. Sure, he does. He did have 13 laps to return the favor, but instead he sat there and steamed while Vettel continued to pull away. So if there is one answer to the question about Webber’s status and whether Vettel should have passed him, the answer is all over Webber’s car and his suit. He is number 2.
If this were any other team and any other pair of drivers, there wouldn’t have been a question of giving up position. Had Massa been leading Alonso for the lead with a few laps to go, Ferrari would’ve made Massa park the car if need be to have Alonso win the race. Regardless of all the PR BS which would claim that Red Bull treat their drivers exactly the same, there is no way that would be a reasonably accurate. On any other team the world champion will be your #1. With Vettel as the 3-time consecutive reigning world champion, nothing more should be needed to indicate who the number 1 driver in Red Bull should be. If team management can’t understand that, then the thing which makes Vettel a champion– the aggression, determination, skill, training, and ego will continue to do whatever is necessary to win the championship again. That’s what champions do.
For the last two years Webber has had his panties in a bunch on a number of occasions. “Not bad for a 2 driver,” summing up his feelings after winning the 2010 British GP. Yeah, sometimes Mark will win a race, but overall his performance has been far worse than Vettel’s. Whether it’s Webber’s atrocious race starts, losing anywhere from 2 to 6 positions on average, or just an inability to aggressively pass (except at Spa passing Alonso at O Rogue, that was great), Webber and his car just do not perform. Rarely does Mark Webber out qualify or finish ahead of his teammate. Since 2009 when Vettel became Webber’s teammate, Vettel has had 37 poles (26 wins) to Webber’s 11 poles (9 wins). Same car, same team, radically different results.
Will Vettel make it 4? I dunno. I wouldn’t bet on it. But if the drivers will just shut up and drive, it looks like it’ll be fun to watch.
Alcohol content: need more booze (jinond-o-nicks)