After a fantastic Silverstone weekend, packed with thrilling racing and sub-story after sub-story, it looks as if things are boiling over at Red Bull. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel seem to be in the middle of a feud over who is the so-called number one driver. On the other hand, however, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button seem to be dealing with the pressure of having a competitive teammate rather well. Why, then, are the McLaren boys much happier than the Red Bull team?
Webber could only watch on as his team made the decision to take away the front wing of the Australian’s car and give it to teammate Vettel, on the basis that he was leading the championship and therefore required it more. Webber, though, got his own back on Sunday when he claimed a brilliant victory at Silverstone, after cruising past Vettel on the first corner and never looking back. Vettel had started on pole after an impressive set of practise sessions and qualifying laps, while Webber was just behind him in second. British hopefuls Hamilton and Button were disappointing on Friday and Saturday, with the pair starting fourth and fourteenth on the grid respectively.
On winning the British Grand Prix, Webber exclaimed into his team radio that the win was “not bad for a number two driver”. The feud is very apparent between these two fantastic drivers. It was Christian Horner and his team’s decision to take the wing off of Webber’s car, just before qualifying for the Silverstone race. A simple act of favouritism that would commonly be found on the school playground has found its way into Formula One, a sport that is rapidly growing into a major commercial brand.
It’s clear to see why Webber would be irritated with his team. The 33-year-old first joined Red Bull Racing in 2007, where he partnered another previous Silverstone winner, David Coulthard. This season, Webber has won three Grand Prix’ and been on the podium for a total of five races. The Australian is an experienced driver who has been with Red Bull since they were vying for seventh place, rather than the top spots.
Vettel is part of the new breed of F1 drivers. The 23-year-old was brought up by Red Bull, coming through the ranks and finally getting his chance when Coulthard retired in 2009. The German has won two races this term, while being on the podium at total of four times. Not bad for his second season in Formula One with Red Bull.
The two drivers clearly don’t get along. After Webber’s Silverstone victory a very solemn-looking Vettel decided to stand at the back for a team photo, instead of at the front where the drivers normally pose. Vettel could have been unhappy with the way in which his race went; he started on pole but, after a puncture to his front tyre on the first corner forced him to pit after the first lap, the young driver battled back to claim a respectable seventh position. It cannot have been easy to watch as Webber was showered in glory, up on the top podium spot.
The story could not be more different at McLaren. After poor qualifying times, the British pair, who have both been world champions, finished second and fourth, with Hamilton on the podium. Button stated after the race that the second best thing to getting on the podium yourself is to see your teammate up there. The feeling is that within the Red Bull team that is certainly not the case.
The true extent of the problems facing Red Bull were revealed in a press conference, where he was asked about the removal of his font wing. The Australian said that he would never have signed a contract extension if he knew what was going to happen. Webber is clearly not getting any respect from his team or from Vettel, although it could be argued that Webber may not be the most respectful person towards Red Bull at the moment.
The respect that Hamilton and Button hold for each other plays a major part in their sound working relationship. Both drivers have come up through the carting aspect of racing, and now both hold the title of previous world champions, although it took Button a little while longer than Hamilton. The media seem determined to provoke bad relations between the two Brits; every so often there will be a story about the one being unhappy with another. In front of the cameras, though, this could not be more untrue. Every interview they do together is done with smiles on both faces. Banter is given and received as the pair seem to enjoy each other’s company. Sceptics would say that this is all for the cameras; that McLaren chiefs don’t want fans to think that there is disruption amongst the ranks, and so they send out the faces of the team to put them straight. The happiness seems to me, however, to be true. The respect, loyalty and friendship between the pair cannot be carved by the team.
While McLaren chiefs seem determined to convince the public that there are no problems within the team, Red Bull Racing keep provoking media frenzy by never actually denying that there is a problem. Horner, who is the team principle of Red Bull, told The Telegraph that maybe it was all just a big misunderstanding:
“My one regret is that I didn’t have time to discuss the issue with Mark personally prior to qualifying as I’m sure that would have given him a more balanced understanding.”
The McLaren team must think that Christmas has come early. The on-going argument in the Red Bull garage can only damage their title contentions, giving Hamilton and Button the chance to really take a hold on the Driver’s Championships. Hamilton is currently sitting at the top of the table with 145 points, while Button is behind him on 133. Webber and Vettel have 128 and 121 points respectively. The next race, in Hoffenheim in two weeks, could be a major point in an already thrilling season. The track is one that Button especially, enjoys racing on, having raced to a top-ten finish a total of seven times in his career. Hamilton has only raced the circuit twice but came first in 2008 on his way to claiming the Driver’s Championships.
Two teams; two very different situations. If Red Bull could get their act sorted out they would surely be streaking away in the Championships, as it is clear that they have the fastest car. Their problems, both on and off the track, though, seem to hinder them week after week. Although it wasn’t a fairytale British victory at Silverstone last weekend, it may well be another British driver claiming the Formula One Driver’s Championships.