Webber 'not fine' with 'don't race' order
11 July 2011
Mark Webber said before the 2011 British Grand Prix that the event always seemed to throw some sort of controversy his, and Red Bull Racing's, way and that continued to be true right to the last lap of the Silverstone event.
Having apparently found a solution to the engine regulation row that blighted the first two days of the weekend, Red Bull was sitting pretty at the front of the grid, with Webber on pole for only the second time this season. However, he was beaten away from the line by team-mate Sebastian Vettel as the lights went out, and that fleeting moment set the scene for another controversial moment at the other end of the 52-lap race.
Ironically, by that point, neither Red Bull driver was in contention for the win, both having suffered tardy pit-stops that allowed Ferrari's Fernando Alonso to take the lead, but Webber was able to close on a tyre-troubled Vettel in the closing stages, setting up a fascinating battle to the flag.
"It was a mixed race," the Australian reflected, "It was very, very slippery and tricky with the inters at the start. Half the track was dry and half the track was wet. It made it very frustrating as all of us had to stay out on the inters for longer than we would have liked as we had to wait for slicks to come into play at that part of the track. Seb did a good pace on the inters and we were pretty evenly apart. Pace-wise, [we were] too-ing and fro-ing a little bit when the inters were going off. Then the pit-stops started and all of us had different types of strategies, different in- and out-laps, and the pit-stops weren't the smoothest today so, all in all, we didn't perform to the maximum."
Webber refused to blame the decision to site pole position on the left-hand side of the track for his poor start, indeed he had claimed that he would insist on it being there following Saturday's qualifying session.
"Fernando and I spoke about it - the right-hand side looked pretty good in those greasy conditions, so that's the way it went today," he sighed, "I am not really bothered about that to be honest. The race wasn't won or lost there. Fernando definitely deserved to win the grand prix, no question about it. He drove very, very well and the team did a great job, so Ferrari deserved to win. Both Seb and I were in big trouble with the tyres at the end. I tried to pass him but not quite, so that was the race. I finished third."
That, too, is probably how the fans watching from the stands would have read it. Instead, as television viewers were aware, Webber was receiving instructions to hold station behind his young team-mate, despite appearing to have the faster car in the closing stages. While F1 Communications saw fit to broadcast one order from the RBR pitwall, it later transpired that Webber had been told several times not to race Vettel, despite the fact that the German held a commanding 77-point advantage over the field going into the ninth round of the season. The Australian's demeanour from the moment he stepped from the cockpit in parc ferme did little to disguise his feelings.
"I am not fine with it," he confirmed, "That's the answer to that. If Fernando retires on the last lap, we are battling for the victory, so I was fine until the end. Of course, I ignored the team as I want to try and get another place.
"Seb was doing his best and I was doing my best. I don't want to crash with anyone, but that was it. I tried to do my best with the amount of conversation I had. [It was] one-way conversation obviously, as I wasn't talking too much back. There was a lot of traffic coming to me, but I was still trying to do my best to pass the guy in front."
Revealing that he had ignored 'probably four or five' messages from the team, Webber insisted that he every reason to be allowed to pass his team-mate, even if the move carried a degree of risk.
"I just want to race to the end but, with four or five laps to [go], they started to chat to me about holding my position," he repeated, shrugging off suggestions that he was again feeling like 'a number two driver', "Of course, they want the points, but I also need to try and get some more points as well."
Despite claims to the contrary, Webber was not asked whether the issue would make him reconsider his position at Red Bull, something that has already come under some scrutiny as his contract runs out at the end of the year. Prior to the race, the Australian insisted that he was wanted by the team, but that the final decision was his. Ironically, he has been linked to a move to Ferrari, where he would almost certainly play second fiddle to racewinner Alonso unless he can prove a worthy opponent for the Spaniard.
Webber was among the few drivers to support the Scuderia's controversial decision to order Felipe Massa to move over for Alonso in last season's German Grand Prix - a decision that ultimately assisted the Spaniard's late championship challenge - but insists that that situation was very different to his at Silverstone.
"I stick by what I said last year," he insisted, "Obviously, they had one guy trying to stay in the championship fight – Fernando. Felipe was not having the season that he's having this year. Fernando was much, much quicker, it was in the middle of a grand prix and [Massa] released him. This is pretty straightforward stuff."