We used to call Mark Webber “Mr Unlucky”, but after today’s Malaysian grand prix a better name for Webber is probably “Mr I Was Robbed”* after his team “mate” Vettel went against Red Bull team orders to wrench the lead from him in the closing stages of the race (*admittedly that’s not exactly the catchiest nickname we’ve ever come up with – ideas on a postcard addressed to the Sett – ta).
Of course, this is hardly a new story. If you cast your minds back for a minute to Turkey circa 2010 (if you don’t remember what I’m talking about, click here for a refresher) … Red Bull team mates, not all rosy, competitive rivalry gone bad … sound familiar? Vettel and Webber may be “team mates” at Red Bull, but by the end of the 56 laps of today’s Malaysian grand prix it had become clear that the situation at Red Bull is more of a team ‘mare…
“Oh, wait, I don’t work here anymore”
Hamilton took a trip down memory lane as he drove merrily into the McLaren pit box for his first stop of the race, before realising that he didn’t work for the Woking-based team anymore (which, given their fairly dire performance so far in 2013, is no bad thing really). Nicole Scherzinger, Hamilton’s pop star girlfriend/WAG etc, thought the whole thing was highly entertaining as she watched the incident on her smartphone (why she wasn’t watching on the multiple TVs in front of her, no-one knows).
Alonso suffered damage to his car from a little bump into Vettel on the opening lap, which shortly after caused a spectacular failure of the front wing as it ripped underneath his car. The Spaniard was then left floundering in Sepang’s multi-coloured gravel before heading back to the Ferrari pit garage to sit out the race.
Hulkenberg, in his first race of the season for Sauber (better late than never), put in a strong showing at Malaysia. In the opening laps he comfortably passed former Sauber driver Perez (ouch) and eventually finished in a respectable 8th place.
Everyone’s favourite Venezuelan, Maldonado, certainly didn’t disappoint today at the Sepang circuit. On lap 14 the Williams driver lost half his front wing from a little excursion off the circuit and then on lap 47 he duly crashed out (amazingly, not taking anyone else out at the same time). Well, someone had to take up Kamui Kobayashi’s mantle, didn’t they?
Last week’s race winner, Kimi Raikkonen, seemed to struggle during the race – he ended up finishing in 7th, one place behind his Lotus team mate Grosjean who had a quietly confident race and finished in a not-too-shabby 6th place.
Paul Di Resta was having a solid race until a shambolic pit stop on lap 22 left him miles down the pecking order. Sky commentator David Croft’s diagnosis: “problem with the nut sticking” (perhaps one of my favourite soundbites from Crofty from today’s race, although it’s a close call between that and “the biscuit barrel is not just full of custard creams”). 2 laps later Di Resta was back in the pits, this time to retire from the race due to “overheating”. And just to round off an underwhelming race weekend for Force India, Sutil joined him back in the garage 5 laps later.
Red Bull v Red Bull
Vettel started his hunt in earnest from about half way through the race. By lap 28, Vettel was bored of being in 2nd and expressed his dissatisfaction to the team over the radio (in his least diplomatic voice):
Mark is too slow, get him out of the way. He’s too slow.
Hamilton split the Red Bulls on lap 33 following one of many pit stop rounds (those engineers are certainly earning their keep in 2013) but he only managed to keep Vettel at bay for 6 laps.
On lap 36, Jenson Button ended up beached outside the Sauber garage after a McLaren pit
disaster stop left him without a secure right front wheel. The McLaren driver eventually emerged in 14th after his engineers wheeled him back to the McLaren garage, but unfortunately he retired with just two laps to go.
Webber came out from his final pit stop just ahead of Vettel. Just. A great scrap followed between the two Red Bull drivers – Vettel’s engineer meanwhile warning him to “be careful” (those memories of Turkey 2010 don’t fade easily). Then it was back to some mighty scrappage, with Vettel coming out on top. “This is silly Seb, come on” came the radio message from the team. It later transpired that team orders had been given for the Red Bull drivers to hold their positions (again, to avoid a repeat of “that” Turkey 2010 incident), which Vettel then completely disregarded.
Mercedes had team difficulties of their own, with Nico Rosberg asking team principal Ross Brawn if he could overtake a slow Lewis Hamilton near the end of the race – the reply was a firm “negative, Nico” from Brawn. Rosberg eventually accepted the decision of the team, but not without giving a fairly blunt parting shot: “Remember this one”.
In other news, there were plenty of scraps, near misses (and crashes) in the pit lane during the race today. Somewhat mysteriously, no penalties from the stewards materialised in relation to any of the pit lane incidents.
The Vettel/Webber team orders incident was the obvious elephant in the room as Vettel and Webber got ready for the podium (in fact, it was probably more of a giant hula-hooping elephant with bells on). Webber mentioned the not-so-secret team orders code, “21” (for holding your ground), whilst displaying some classic “I’m not happy” body language. In the words of Daddy Webber, he was certainly “not a happy camper”.
Aside from being a thoroughly entertaining race, today’s Malaysian grand prix showed that the team orders
debacle debate is still very much alive and kicking.
Results & all that jazz
- 1. Sebastian Vettel (Ger), Red Bull, 1hr 38min 56.681secs
- 2. Mark Webber (Aus), Red Bull, 1:39:00.979
- 3. Lewis Hamilton (GB), Mercedes, 1:39:08.862
- 4. Nico Rosberg (Ger), Mercedes, 1:39:09.321
- 5. Felipe Massa (Brz), Ferrari, 1:39:22.329
- 6. Romain Grosjean (Fra), Lotus, 1:39:32.245
- 7. Kimi Raikkonen (Fin), Lotus, 1:39:45.160
- 8. Nico Hulkenberg (Ger), Sauber, 1:39:49.725
- 9. Sergio Perez (Mex), McLaren, 1:40:09.038
- 10. Jean-Eric Vergne (Fra), Toro Rosso, 1:40:23.805
- 11. Valtteri Bottas (Fin), Williams, 1:40:25.291
- 12. Esteban Gutierrez (Mex), Sauber, 1:39:01.194
- 13. Jules Bianchi (Fra), Marussia, 1:39:55.128
- 14. Charles Pic (Fra), Caterham, 1.40:29.370
- 15. Giedo van der Garde (Ned), Caterham, 1:40:38.354
- 16. Max Chilton (GB), Marussia, 1:39:14.486
- 17. Jenson Button (GB), McLaren, 1:35:35.060
- 18. Daniel Ricciardo (Aus), Toro Rosso, 1:32:16.617
- Did not finish
- Pastor Maldonado (Ven), Williams, 45 laps.
- Adrian Sutil (Ger), Force India, 27 laps.
- Paul di Resta (GB), Force India, 22 laps.
- Fernando Alonso (Spa), Ferrari, 1 lap.