Vettel the Villain

Sebastian Vettel’s dominant win at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday was a masterful drive. He dominated both qualifying and the race, putting all the rest to shame, giving him an almost unassailable points lead and puts him well on course for his 4th consecutive championship.

However, despite his stunning drive, the now standard pantomime booing of Vettel while on the podium once again emphasizes a nasty habit that F1 fans seem to have developed this year.

The Malaysian Grand Prix and the ‘Mult-21’ situation between Webber and Vettel 6 months ago was undeniably the catalyst for the ‘boo boys’ and despite plenty of clean racing since then, F1 race fans are still labelling Vettel as the F1 Villain.

I believe it’s a combination of factors, not just the Red Bull team orders row from the Malaysia Grand Prix. I believe the booing fans are actually making a bigger statement, that they are finally bored of Vettel’s dominance of F1 over the last 4 years.

Let’s be 100% clear, if this is true, it has nothing to do with Sebastian Vettel. The fault here lays with the other team in not doing a job as well as Red Bull team and Vettel.

Hypothetically I ask the question, if Vettel was currently 3rd in this years’ championship and behind say, Alonso and Hamilton in the championship and he picked up say, his second win of the year in Singapore, would there be the same reaction to a Vettel win? Unlikely I say.

So what can the German do about it?

I noticed both Sky Sports F1’s Martin Brundle and Ted Kravitz supporting Vettel over the weekend, with Kravitz saying in his Notepad summary s that he felt it was for Vettel to show what a likable and nice character he was and that he isn’t as evil as the crowd make out. I find this view interesting, not least because it is essentially blaming Vettel again: His fault – he needs to change. This is a rather odd opinion if you assume he is actually guilty of the above charges in the first place.

Why isn’t it for the FIA, Teams, Drivers and Circuits to educate those race day fans who are booing him to stop? Help shape the culture and behaviours that we expect from the F1 community while at the race trace, but ultimately the blame lies with those who are the booing and it is them that need to change their reaction to him.

While Vettel is winning races and closing out the championship, the fans perspective of him will not change and no charm offensive from Vettel will nip this in the bud.

Vettel is no Villain! Nothing he has done on the race track in his career comes close to what Ayrton Senna or Michael Schumacher did on the track to win championships. In fact he is largely impeccable most of the time, on and off the track.

Time will tell if the F1 fans are aware of how poor it sounds to the global public when the winner of a Grand Prix is greeted with a chorus of boos. I wonder what the sponsors of Red Bull or prospective sponsors to the sport make of it? Is it worth the negative press on live global TV?

I have a feeling the F1 public will only be happy when Vettel leaves Red Bull and joins a lesser team to take that new challenge F1 fans seem to demand of multiple champions, before they finally seem to accept the greatness of a top driver.

People seem to forget though, Vettel won in a Torro Rosso and has contributed hugely to the success of Red Bull, who had never won a race before he joined the team.

Vettel the villain – Vettel the legend more like!


A reason to be truly thankful – Mark Webber survives horrifying accident

VALENCIA, SPAIN - JUNE 25: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing is seen at lunchtime during practice for the European Formula One Grand Prix at the Valencia Street Circuit on July 25, 2010, in Valencia, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

After the completion of today’s race there has not been any lack of negative hyperbol from certain teams and drivers about how their races were wrecked for one reason or another, but as Sunday turns in to Monday I cannot get away from the major incident in the race and Mark Webber’s terrifying accident in which I am so thankful that we are not here talking about the loss of a racing driver.

Webber’s accident, caused when he apparently missed his braking point and rode up the back of Kovalainen’s Lotus and became airborne.  In the split seconds that he became airborne my mind instantly took me to the fatal accident that claimed the life of Indycar driver Jeff Krosnof in very similar circumstances in 1996 racing on the streets of Toronto, Canada. On that day Krosnof’s car took off and turned in the to catch fencing destroying the car instantly.

When any racing car becomes airborne it is in the hands of the gods, and today was no exception. The moment Webber started to take off absolutely anything could have happened and despite flipping over and landing upside down and then rolling round the correct way and hurtling towards the barrier and undiminished speed the whole of the F1 world held it’s breath.

This was, and should act as a timely reminder that our sport is always very dangerous and that those that have input in to the safety rules and regulations should never get complacent.

I am delighted to see Mark walk away from this terrifying incident and  I am sorry for any driver or team that is celebrating or bemoaning their luck in today’s race because more importantly we still have 24 fit and able racing drivers heading to Silverstone in 2 weeks time.

See you at Silverstone Mark!

Jenson Button – Lost in translation?

F1 2010 - Rd7 Turkish GP - Hamilton wins in McLaren 1-2

There is much to say about the inter team fractions at in the Red Bull team post the Turkish Grand Prix,  but the other talking point was the on track battle between Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button which despite there being no tangible accident poses a similar threat of self-destruction within the team.

Despite Hamilton taking his first win of the season, he looked angry and forlorn as he got out of the car and went through the podium ceremony.  It was clear this was a thoroughly angry and slightly paranoid Hamilton and he was not sure where to point the blame – Button or the team.

The incident involved took place over 4 corners between lap 48 and the first corner of lap 49. Hamilton had been told on previous laps that both cars were being ordered to save fuel.  Most of the F1 world took this as an indirect rule to not overtake each other, but it seems one party didn’t understand what that meant and information appearing today seems to indicate that Hamilton was right to feel aggrieved.

Almost unbelievably after the Red Bull drivers going toe to toe, we saw the Mclaren drivers in the same situation. Button seemed to take advantage of Hamilton slowing up the pace to launch a surprise attack on the his team-mate.

Credit where credit is due, both drivers managed to keep it clean, but it was certainly touch and go at turn 1 on lap 49 where Hamilton threw himself in to the corner 3 quarters of a car length behind Button and risked Button turning him in and taking them both out.

The question begs why was Button attacking Hamilton?

Was he unaware of the order to save fuel and to understand what most saw as a coded message to hold positions, or was he aware of the order and tried to get one over on Lewis by playing on the trust for the team Hamilton has?

Without the information from Button’s radio it’s not clear how the message was given to Jenson before his attack on Hamilton for the lead.  What we do know is that Hamilton clearly asked the team for clarification that Button would hold fire and not attack Lewis for the lead.

We could point the finger at Button’s race engineer for perhaps not making the message clear, but I feel the blame here is at Button’s door.  He would have been told about the need to save fuel, even if or perhaps neither driver needed to save fuel, any F1 observer would have understood the message as the race is over, hold you position and bring the car in.  Button seemed to pump up the confidence to go over and above the communication from this team.

Hamilton, who has been caught out more than once this season by the directorship of this teams information was right to look a bit peeved. He had been told that no attack on him would happen, and against all expectations he had to roll his sleeves up and aggressively force his own team-mate out of the way in order to take the win.

Questions should be asked of the team as to why Button performed his attack on Hamilton.  I have heard Button say that he was told to save fuel, but had no idea as to how much he needed to save.

Martin Whitmarsh needs to explain this to Hamilton and if there is a fault in the lines of communication, he needs to get that sorted.  If the boot had been on the other foot Button would have started to feel the team was lying to him in order to help Hamilton, and I am not saying Hamilton is starting to feel paranoid, but you would understand why he perhaps in a little nervous or unsure of the directorship and control the Mclaren management have and seem to make Hamilton’s races harder than easier.

This could be damaging in the relationship between Hamilton and Button, but if one person is likely to lose respect for what he did, it is most likely to be Jenson Button.

Analysis of the Red Bull accident

Formula One Turkish Grand Prix

The incident involving the Red Bull drivers was clearly the hottest topic from the Turkish Grand Prix. The first rule in F1 is not to take your team-mate out, it is the worst sin in the sport that is seen as a team game despite the individual ego’s of the drivers. By having what is perceived as the fastest car in F1 at the moment, the chances that the two Red Bull drivers fighting it out on the track are greatly increased. We have seen in previous years how destructive it can be when team-mates go head to head on the track. Some of the sports most famous incidents over the past 30 years has come as team-mates take strips off each other.

Senna & Prost in 1989 is perhaps the most famous on track incident between team mates. However I feel the incident at Istanbul Park is slightly different. We are yet half way through the championship, and despite the pressure being on the drivers, now is not a time for at all costs driving.

The scene is set in Turkey as Vettel saw he early season performances overshadowed in recent races by Mark Webber, who was now leading the championship and was coming off the back of two wins and a comprehensive display in Monaco. In summary, the balance of power in the Red Bull team was shifting away from Vettel in the course of the last month. Vettel wanted to put a stop to this in Istanbul and a problem for Vettel in Qualifying meant that the German was further behind his now nemesis (Webber) for the start of the race.

Vettel got the jump on Hamilton away from the starting grid, but was convincingly past by the Briton by turn 3. Vettel however got lucky during the pit-stop window. Having pit earlier than Hamilton he was able to jump up to second and get on the tail of Mark Webber. Vettel however, unlike Hamilton didn’t seem to be able to press Webber so aggressively. Perhaps because the cars were so closely matched Vettel never really looked like making a move stick on Webber. However on lap 38 Vettel was able to take advantage of a ‘fuel saving’ phase that Webber was asked to enter for a couple of laps to ensure that he could make the end of the race. Webber having less horse power was vulnerable down the straight and Vettel decided to put himself on the inside line for the left handed hairpin at turn 12.

The gap left by Webber wasn’t large, it was just enough space to put a car, and initially when Vettel made the move to the left hand side Vettel was almost over the white line and on to the dirt. Mark Webber kept a straight and true line to the hairpin as Vettel pulled along side and marginally in front and if both drivers kept their trajectory to turn 12 then the change in position would have happened and both drivers would still have finished 1-2 for Red Bull, but in a dangerous move Vettel tried to edge Webber out to the right to give Vettel the much easier line for the hairpin and also to robustly elbow Webber out of the way.

The move slightly to the right in to Mark’s path is what in my opinion caused the accident and why I would put most of the blame on Vettel. What was Webber expected to do? He was leading the race, leading the championship and had given just enough space for his team-mate to decide if he wanted to take the risky move. Vettel under the duress his previous form in recent races acted like it was all or nothing, not from a driver that understood that there were still many laps to go and to look at the wider picture of the championship as a whole. Let’s not forget that Vettel had already lost some key points in earlier rounds of the season and could have been on top of the championship. His driving indicated that he did not appreciate his situation and had a very narrow perspective on his racing. It was win at all costs, and the need to stop Webber here in Turkey. Where in reality a more mature outlook would have realised the long game would be better. If he had listened to any words of wisdom from any world championship winner that most would have told him championships are won at the end of the season not at round 7. Sports News - May 30, 2010

I remember Jackie Stewart saying that Nigel Mansell struggled to win Championships in the late 1980’s because he was too aggressive all the time. He drove like he was always out to prove everyone wrong, and this move by Vettel reminded me that perhaps the German could do with a sit down with the 3 times world champion about his approach.

The case against Webber in my opinion is small, but let’s have a look at what he could have done.

Firstly we know he had less power and would have expected a move from Vettel on the back straight. Webber could have closed the door completely through turn 11 making sure that Vettel had to switch over the the right hand side for the left handed turn 12. This would have made Vettel’s task almost impossible.

Webber could have also have just let Vettel through. Applying the logic or commonsense I mentioned in the previous paragraphs, Webber might have been better off just letting his team-mate through, after all he would have only lost a hand full of points. This, however, would have set an astonishing precedent. It would have sent a message out the Red Bull team, Sebastian Vettel and Webber’s rivals that in a straight out dog fight he would just succumb.

David Coulthard I feel had this tag, Riccardo Patrese, Rubens Barrichello and Damon Hill to a certain extent had their careers blighted by seemingly being happy to make things easy for their team-mates. All drivers are very fast, but once you get pigeon holed with that reputation, it becomes a constant up-hill battle to convince the F1 public that you are the real deal. Mark Webber being Australian by nature doesn’t have know what capitulate means. The fighting spirit of the Australian sportsman is famous and I don’t think for one minute it should have been expected for a driver who wants to win the championship to easily give away his position not just in the race, but in the team. Webber isn’t a spring chicken and this could be his one and only chance to win the championship, Vettel underestimated his older team-mate and got his hands burnt in return for his aggressiveness towards Webber.

The Red Bull team were instantly in the public eye and the reaction from some of the senior management was telling. There seemed to be sympathy for Vettel and condemnation of Webber for not giving him room. This is just  Bull-Shit in my opinion.

Christian Horner had proclaimed to want to give each driver the best chance to win the championship, but seemed to be insinuating in his subtext that Mark had to give way to Vettel in a head to head. Helmut Marko another senior member of the Red Bull management also criticised Mark Webber post race. This lead widespread rumours that Vettel was the unofficial number 1 in the team and the team should have criticised Vettel for the incident in the same way most of the F1 paddock saw the incident.

Days after the accident Red Bull seemed to have changed their corporate tone to a more balanced view, but it seems reluctantly and that the dynamics in the senior management still blame Webber and his race engineer for not managing the situation better. Before Turkey, both Red Bull and Webber looked set to resign a new contract, but now that seems to be an impossibility. Ok so they might get a grip on the tension on the track between the two drivers, but Vettel who is clearly the darling of the Red Bull young driver programme and also foreseen as a driver that could win many championships over the next 10 years, is likely to demand that Webber be replaced for next year otherwise he would look to go elsewhere.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel Meet At Team Factory

The one winner though on Sunday – Formula One. The sport is at its best when the ingredients are hot and spicy between two championship contenders in the same team and it will become a unmissable spectacle throughout the summer.

The amazing story of David Purley

Our sport is full of legends, those that have won championships, races, pole positions and those that won the adoration of the fans for their race craft and skill.  If we go to any F1 site or blog today and we  are able to read about those drivers who have stats and statics that show their footprint on the record books of Formula One, but there are a few characters that are not in those lists of F1 greats that truly deserve their position in the history of our sport and none more so in my view than the story of British racing driver David Purley.

First off, Purley has a less than distinguished record at the top level of world motor sport.  Being born in to a family business, he was able to fund his career from support from the refrigeration company LEC which his parents owned. He competed in just 11 Grands Prix of which he actually drove in 8, but his story of bravery and character stands out strong amoungst any in Formula One or any other sport.

David started his F1 career in 1973 and it was in the Dutch Grand Prix of this year that the actions of David Purley earned him the George Medial, awarded to members of the public for outstanding bravery.

On Lap 8 of the race Purley was first to the scene of an accident involving fellow British driver Roger Williamson. Williamson had gone off at high speed on a right handed bend, somersaulted and landed upside down while skating upside down across the track.  That on its own would have been bad enough, but as in the 1970’s, the car caught fire, and engulfed Williamson who was trapped helpless under the burning car.

In tragic scenes, Purley fought for the life of Williamson all on his own.  Despite the close attention of at least 4 marshalls, Williamson was left to try and turn the burning car over or at least put the fire out in a bid to save Williamson. Purley was able to take a fire extinguisher off a marshall crossing from the far side of the circuit, but with the race so early and the cars loaded with fuel, Purley alone was never going to be able to beat the flames, yet no other marshalls or fire teams joined him for minutes.  Even worse the race continued around him, despite his frantic gesticulations to get them to stop to help or at least convey the message to race authorities that the race needed to be red flagged so official assistance could get to get to the stricken March, which was by now completely engulfed in flames.

The story doesn’t have a happy ending.  Purley was unable to put the fire out or gather enough help to extract Williamson from the wreckage.  It took over 4 minutes until official assistance arrived, by which time Williamson would have died from the fire.

Images of Purley’s bravery were broadcast around the world as the race was being shown on live TV, and award winning photographer Cor Mooij caught the sequence of events unfold, and a time line of the powerful images were awared first prize in the a category of World Photograph of the year, depicting Purleys bravery and the tragedy as it unfolded.

Purley tries in vain to gather assistance to help his colleague

More of these dramatic images can be seen by clicking here

Despite the the tragedy in Holland, Purley raced on however only finishing a hand full of times, his best result being 9th place at the Italian Grand Prix in 1973.

After a bleak 1974 where he wasn’t able to qualify for any races due to substandard machinery, Purley headed back to Formula 2, where he had moderately more success, and in 1977 Purley was back in Formula 1 after being able to raise the funds to enter his own LEC chassis.  While trying to pre qualify for the British Grand Prix of 1977, Purley suffered a stuck throttle, apparently due to a chemical reaction when  elements in his fire extinguisher and surplice fuel mixed together to create a mixture that seized like cement around his throttle mechanism.  Purley was driving at just over 100mph when he arrived at Becketts corner and slammed in to the barriers head on.  This dramatic impact with the barriers stopped the car dead in less than half a meter, generating an impact of approximately 197.9G! Which at the time was the largest known accident in which a human had survived.   The car was squashed to nearly half it’s length with the driver inside the car.  Amazingly, Purley was not killed and was extracted from the accident but with massive rib, leg and pelvic injuries.

The remains of David Purleys LEC after his accident at Silverstone

Purley spend months recovering from these horrific injuries, but was seemingly determined not to lead a conventional life.  Having spent the early part of his life in the Parachute regiment as part of the British Army,  David took up aerobatics and it was in 1985  while flying over the sea of the British coastal town of Bognor Regis that his plane crashed and killed the Englishman.

What struck me about the story of David Purley was his amazing bravery and determination.  Not just in the Williamson accident that demonstrated unrivalled character to stop and help a fellow driver, while everyone raced on, but also in his determination to recover from his mind blowing accident at Silverstone.

David Purley certainly wasn’t the best F1 driver ever, he wasn’t even probably the bravest, but he deserves to be remembered for his courage in trying to save the life of a fellow driver and in his bid to recover from near life threatening injuries.

I have included a video of the Williamson accident. Those that feel they want to see the awful scenes  may want to watch it, however I do not wish to be seen to be callously and disrespectfully promoting a video of the death another person, however I felt truly moved after seeing the heroic actions of Purley from that day.

Sources for the article


World Press Photo Archive

The worrying form of Jenson Button

May 16, 2010 - Monte Carlo, Monaco - epa02159167 British Formula One driver Jenson Button of McLaren Mercedes chat with team members in the paddock prior the Monaco Grand Prix at Monte Carlo circuit in Monaco, 16 May 2010.

This is a worrying time for all the F1 drivers, all except the two Red Bull drivers.

For it seems that unless you are in a Adrian Newey designed car your chances of winning a race at the moment are slim. That is why those that have serious plans to be in this championship are having to maximise every opportunity that presents itself to score well to keep in touching distance of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettle.

In recent races we have seen strong performances from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Both who been able to show that during the race they potentially can keep the blue cars in sight at least. But there is one driver that despite two wins in the championship so far, is starting to worry me about his ability to demonstrate true race pace in “normal” dry conditions. This driver is Jenson Button.

Button who superbly won in Australia and in China when the weather flummoxed 90% of the drivers, was able to demonstrate excellent intuition and decision making when there was no definitive tyre choice to be on. I still stand by the praise and credit Jenson received after these two wins, but lets be fair, we are going to see less races in conditions like in Melbourne and Shanghai throughout the rest of the 2010 season.

If we look at Jenson’s performance in dry races then it indicates a worrying statistic. In dry races Jenson just isn’t fast enough to take the battle to the front, and this will mean he will be out of the championship battle before too long if he is not too careful.

In dry races this season Jenson has finished 7th in Bahrain, 8th in Malaysia and 5th in Spain. This gives Jenson an average dry race finishing position of about 6th place. Jenson retired from this weekends Monaco Grand Prix through no fault of his own, however, a poor qualifying put him down in around 8th, and with no significant retirements, it would be fair to expect Jenson to have finish 6th or 7th.

This means that Jenson is potentially losing 17 points to the championship runners at this stage in the season. As we are entering summer, we are approaching a critical time for the 2009 World Champion, despite him being some 11 points ahead of his team mate Lewis Hamilton and only 8 points off the lead of the championship.

Whereas Button has struggled in dry races in his Mclaren, his team mate has put in solid performances, non more so than in the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was able to force his Mclaren to split the two Red Bulls until a wheel rim failure took 18 vital points from him and it’s this form of his team mate will also add pressure on Jenson, who has yet to look stellar in normal conditions. While Lewis isn’t having a perfect season himself, he is driving really well, despite what Bernie Ecclestone says.

I might sound mad by addressing concern to Jenson’s form and perhaps as the season moves towards a string of races based in Europe where, as we all know the weather could help Button out, it remains to be seen if Jenson can demonstrate true pace in his Mclaren without having the rain gods smile down on him. It seems that this “Hope” for rain is his only chance at the moment, and as I have always been told – Hope is not a strategy!

Why refuelling would have made the Malaysian Grand Prix worse!

Apr. 4, 2010 - Sepang, Malaysia - Lewis Hamilton (GBR) McLaren MP4/25 leads Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F10. Formula One World Championship, Rd 3, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day.

Mclaren & Ferrari cut through the field in Malaysia

I don’t know about you but I though the Malaysian Grand Prix was a pretty good race overall. There was plenty to be talking about and most of it was concerning the way Ferrari and Mclaren made their way from the back of the grid.

Unfortunately the second half of the race wasn’t thrill a minute, in fact it was pretty static, but the die had already been cast in qualifying in that Redbull – clearly the fastest car in F1 at the moment was given a head start over its main rivals (Ferrari and Mclaren) by some nearly 20 places and that Vettle, who is faster than Webber most of the time got to the front by turn 1, eliminated most of the chance of an upset.

This meant that once the shuffle of the pit stops had played out, the drivers most likely to take the battle to the front were on compromised strategies and clearly on the back foot for the second half of the race, having had to punish their tyres early on.

I agree that there were situations which could have been potentially exciting but came to nothing – Hamilton on Sutil, Alonso on Massa and Alonso on Button are all examples. Hamilton not being able to pass a car that on the face of things was as fast as his and in Alonso’s case he had two problems. One being a crippling gearbox problem that limited his ability to drive in an aggressive manner, and the second being the fact he is yet to broach the problem of battling with his team-mate, who is clearly slower, but not slow enough for Alonso to put pressure on his team to let him by to attack the rest of the field.

So the net result on a race with good battling in the midfield but one that lacked real purpose up front, however this has led to the critics to start round 2 of their rule bashing campaign.  How quickly Melbourne has been forgotten.

I have listened to podcasts, read blogs and taken in tweets since Sepang, and most seem to state that Formula 1 is more processional since the ban of mid race refuelling.  But this is just utter rubbish in my opinion.

If you are a recent F1 fan and have always know F1 with refuelling then I have a level of understanding why you might be finding hard to let go of the  refuelling element, but many unhappy F1 fans claim to want the races to be entertaining and that refuelling achieved this.  Really?  Or did it over complicate and deceive many of us in to thinking otherwise?

No amount of  refuelling would have changed the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Redbull’s were head a shoulders faster than everyone else and would have won any how.  The Mercedes or Renault are not at race winning pace so don’t kid yourself in to thinking it would have been more interesting at the front.

On the contrary, refuelling would have made for an even more predictable race. The optimum strategy if you are a fast car starting at the back of the field is to carry more fuel and go longer than everyone else. Therefore we would have seen the Mclaren’s and Ferrari’s fuelled to the brim, hoping to slide up the order when everyone else in front of them pits.  This would have put the drivers in a situation where their car were heavier than many drivers in front and reduced their ability to be able to pass as many cars.  That  means that fans would have been deprived of most of the physical overtakes we saw on track and we would have been delivered them through stealth and fuel pit stops. Not my idea of a more entertaining race.

With refuelling we would have had “something” to look forward to in the last third of the race, breaking up the status quo, but would it have delivered any thing? Perhaps Force India would have stuffed up Sutil’s pit stop and deprived him of an excellent drive and beating  the Mclaren.  Or possibly Vettle might have suffered the same fate and handed Webber an undeserved win.  Would that have been the entertainment F1 fans wanted?

I feel the debate about refuelling gets confused with other issues that F1 certainly needs to address.  The fact cars cannot run as close as they used to does not promote the chance to pass each other. These are engineering issues that the Overtaking Working group needs to address.  Otherwise if you ask people such Martin Whitmarsh or Eddie Jordan for their opinion, you get ones based on entertainment, such as two mandatory tyre stops or heaven help – reversed grids! F1 doesn’t need any of those.

I think we praise the current rules for allowing actual racing in Melbourne and in Sepang, and perhaps we should be blaming the big teams for being as close to the Redbull’s as perhaps as they should be.

I am sure a lot of you readers will disagree with me, however for as long as I live I will believe F1 refuelling doesn’t make F1 more entertaining or exciting, if you want that, go watch Indycar or NASCAR.