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Brundle: Red Bull has a huge problem

25 March 2013

Driver-turned-pundit Martin Brundle believes that however Red Bull Racing handles the fall-out from Sunday's team orders affair, it is going to have its hands full trying to get its drivers working together for the good of the team.

Although both Christian Horner and, more surprisingly, Helmut Marko conceded that Sebastian Vettel had broken its code by passing Mark Webber for victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix, they appear to have their hands tied when it comes to 'punishing' the German, as his points cannot be taken away and the team cannot afford to bench him for one or more races in order to re-establish some element of control.

As a result, Webber is always going to feel that Vettel remains the favoured son, and is not going to be as readily disposed to playing second fiddle to the German, as he has on occasion in recent seasons.

"Red Bull have got a huge problem because the next time they're in that situation, if they're one-two and they want to call off the fight with a few laps to go, he's not going to trust anybody,” Brundle said of Webber, "He's not going to trust them that it will all take place, so he will keep racing."

The reason for Red Bull issuing the 'Multi21' message to both drivers was to try and preserve their tyres on the run to the chequered flag, but Vettel insists that he misunderstood the instruction and, possibly believing that Webber was in trouble with his rubber, decided to take matters into his own hands. Webber's body language made his mood clear for all to see on the podium, and Brundle acknowledged how hard it much have been for the Australian not to go further in expressing his frustration.

"He's watched his team-mate win three consecutive world championships in the same car, with the same opportunity he's had, and it must be very frustrating for him," the Sky Sports pundit explained, "Today, he had the edge - he definitely had the ability to win that race fair and square on pace - and he thought he'd been told 'your team-mate won't attack you'.

"He's now having to pull his punches. He really wants to scream and shout and kick and say 'this is outrageous', but he's got to play the team game.”

Using his regular post-race column to dissect the reasoning behind team orders, Brundle charts Red Bull's shift from criticising rivals of obviously favouring one driver over another to seeking to control its own line-up for the greater good of the team, and compared it to similar situations involving Gilles Villeneuve/Didier Pironi at Imola 1982 and Ayrton Senna/Alain Prost at the same circuit seven years later. Red Bull's decision to exercise some degree of order was exacerbated by Webber and Vettel colliding while leading in Turkey in 2010, as the German forced his way past his team-mate under pressure from the McLarens.

“There's historical bad blood between these two great drivers, and as Sebastian said 'we have respect for each other but we're not friends',” he wrote, “He apologised, but I suspect he feels that Mark was less than helpful to him in the championship showdown in Brazil last year, and previously at Silverstone too.”

Accepting that Red Bull was never going to 'sit back and wait for them to crash away a one-two finish', Brundle questioned why the team hadn't asked Vettel to drop back behind Webber, only to have team principal Christian Horner explain that as 'we had asked him to hold position and maintain a gap for three laps before he overtook, there was little point in asking him to reverse the move'.



David Coulthard, meanwhile, agreed that Webber had earned the right to win the Malaysian race, having made the right call to stop and change from Pirelli's intermediate tyre to a first set of slicks two laps later than Vettel – a move that gave him a lead he would not cede until Vettel passed him against orders. According to the Red Bull insider, the drivers were apparently told they could race until the last round of stops and would then have to hold position. Webber emerged fractionally ahead of Vettel as he left pit-lane and held onto the lead despite a concerted effort from the German to wrest it off him. It was two laps later that Vettel forced himself between the Australian and the pit-wall, forcing them to run side-by-side until turn four, where he finally completed his move.

Like Brundle, however, Coulthard could not see any punishment being meted out to Vettel, and expected the tension between the two Red Bull drivers to remain.

“If this was a poll of public opinion, you'd probably say Vettel has gone down a few points and Webber has gone up a few, but this is not a popularity contest,” he wrote in his BBC column, “This is not the first time that team-mates have fought over the same piece of turf, and it will not be the last. It will blow over like these things do - but there is no doubt that the next time Vettel and Webber go wheel-to-wheel we will all be holding our breath.”

Damon Hill also weighed in on the debate, suggesting that Vettel knew exactly what he was doing, instructions from the pit-wall notwithstanding, and figured that points in the bank more than out-weighed public criticism.

"I think Sebastian has taken the view that 'possession is nine tenths of the law, and we'll argue about it later',” the 1996 world champion commented, “There was clearly an understanding that they were on the edge with tyres, so the team had to think about how hard they were going to push - but Sebastian wasn't playing to that card. He's said sorry, but what is that really worth?”

John Watson, meanwhile, has called for Red Bull too suspend Vettel in a bid to re-establish just who calls the shots at Red Bull [ see separate story].


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