March 26, 2013

Horse 1453 - There Are No Gentlemen in F1 (Rd.2)

Apart from Fernando Alonso who decided to dump his Ferrari into the gravel, Jensen Button who had a wheel fall off, Kimi Raikkonen who was almost absent, the tyre choices from the FIA looking gimmicky and the mileage marathon at the end of races starting to look silly, the Malaysian GP ended with two sets of team orders from Red Bull and Mercedes. Interestingly I think that both of them reveal something of the character of all four drivers concerned.

Firstly Sebastien Vettel was not prepared to just sit idly behind Mark Webber in the two Red Bulls. Amongst other things, Vettel is accused of being whiny and spoiled but out on track, he's prepared to take positions by force, even whilst being told off by his race engineers.
In contrast Webber is more prepared to let things go.

"Webber will never win a World Championship and unless he's given the best car in the field, probably will never win a race either."
- Rollo, Motorsport Forums, 25th Mar 2006,

Although Webber has now won nine Grands Prix (as at 26-03-13), he did so in arguably the best car. Nevertheless, I still stand by my opinion of him from seven years ago.
Mark Webber is in my opinion too nice a person to ever win the World Championship. Compared with firey Vettel he's a more stayed person and I think that that is his undoing. To survive in Formula One you need skill, which he possesses in spades but to peak through into that ratified air of greatness, you need an ego the size of Belgium and you also need quite a bit of unadulterated mongrel about you. Go just a little further down that road and we find Senna, Schumacher and Prost who were all nasty pieces of work on track. Webber is far too nice a person to go down that road and I think that this is why he'll never be World Champion.

Behind them in the two Mercedes a similar story was being played out. Nico Rosberg had earned his third place and was faster than Hamilton ahead of him. Nico was given similar messages to Vettel but unlike his fellow German, remained compliant and docile.

Now of course you can understand the teams' points of view here. Formula One cars are expensive bits of kit and binning them in the gravel is not the best of outcomes. In a championship which could be won and lost on a single point, keeping them on the black stuff is vital.
Also, those of us with very long memories remember the mileage marathons which happened in the 1980s. There was something sad about watching Prost push his McLaren towards the line in the 1986 German GP and the 1985 San Marino GP had five cars run out of fuel and the race winner disqualified for finishing with an underweight car. Race engineers know this and when they ask drivers to slow down to conserve fuel at the end, they do it with learned and sometimes bitter experience behind them.

Vettel's decision to defy orders, says a lot about him; it also underlines a character that is prepared to do whatever to win. There is good reason why he is already a Triple World Champion and why Webber still has the number 2 on his car.
Rosberg it seems, doesn't want to test the patience of his employers. Of course the gentlemanly thing would have been for Lewis Hamilton to move over and let Rosberg through but there are very few gentlemen in Formula One - there might have been some in the 1930s maybe - Lewis is also an ungentleman and a previous World Champion.

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