Vettel questions Red Bull tactics

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Vettel lost out to team mate Webber on strategy
Vettel lost out to team mate Webber on strategy

Sebastian Vettel had doubts that Red Bull got his strategy right in the Turkish Grand Prix and made his displeasure plain in the post-race press conference.

And the team trod a fine line with the rule book by issuing a covert order to Vettel late in the race preventing him from overtaking team mate Mark Webber.

Vettel’s race was thrown into disarray when he ran wide on the first lap, letting Jenson Button into the lead.

That left the team searching for a way to get around the Brawn and they elected to use a three-stop strategy to do it. That rested on Vettel overtaking Button on the track – which didn’t happen – and the further time loss relegated Vettel to third behind team mate Webber.

In many ways, this was a repeat of what happened to Rubens Barrichello at Spain, when a three-stop strategy dropped him from first to second behind team mate Button.

In the closing stages of the race Vettel quickly closed in on Webber, cutting his lead to a little over a second. This reality was contradicted by the team, who told Vettel that Webber was quicker:

Mark is faster, mark is faster. Sebastian: save your car, save your car. Mark is faster.

The sub-text to the message was unmistakeable – Vettel was being ordered not to overtake Webber.

Most F1 fans have an opinion about whether team orders like this are good for the sport or not. But Horner muddied the water further immediately after the race by insisting “the pace was identical”. He added that, with new engines in the RB5s, they wanted to take the opportunity to preserve them.

After what happened to McLaren at Australia, he might want to take more care about offering a consistent explanation for what happened – and not picking a version of events so obviously at odds with the facts. Here’s how his drivers’ lap times compared after Vettel completed his final pit stop:

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's lap times (click to enlarge)
Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber's lap times (click to enlarge)

After the race Vettel was more concerned about the strategy mistake:

I was quite surprised we stayed on a three-stop strategy at the first pit stop. From what we had discussed before the race, if we found ourself behind Jenson it made no sense to stay on a three-stop.

Vettel stuck to the team’s version of events regarding the Webber instruction:

They didn’t really say not to pass Mark. I got the message ‘Mark is faster than you’. I thought I better keep this one for myself.

There seems little doubt that Red Bull got Vettel’s strategy wrong. But was ordering him not to pass Webber the right thing to do?

77 comments on “Vettel questions Red Bull tactics”

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  1. i was disappointed when i saw vettel come in so early for his 2nd stop. bad strategy red bull!

  2. I think they did the right thing. The points difference between Vettal & Webber is small.

  3. Of course, its bad for viewers but Red Bull should be thinking about themselves. They wanted to get both cars home. Vettel had lost vital points and 3rd place in Australia.

    They did right thing by not allowing their drivers to fight on track.

    1. i think they did it to save the engines as well as bringing both cars home safely.

      How is webber supposed to safe the engine if Vettel is attacking him?

      Right decision by the team, Vettel shouldn’t whine about it.

  4. Vettel was right to be disappointed. Regardless of wether he could’ve passed Webber they still shouldn’t have came out with nonsense such as they did. It would have been better for them and less more factual if they had just said lets settle for third, passing Webber will be risky.

    Also, Vettel is right to question the decision not to switch to a two stop; everyone could see that once Button was in the lead Vettel had a snowflake in hells chance of winning the race. He should have been switched to a two stop from that moment as he rightly mentioned.

    1. “less more factual” haha, of course I really meant “more factual”!

    2. So you would rather see a team settle for 2nd and 3rd, than take a gamble for the win with the risk of finishing… 2nd and 3rd ?

      And some people find Formula 1 boring…

      1. we are not talking about taking a gamble for the win.

        We are talking about gambling with your two cars which are both going to finish 2nd and 3rd unless they take each other out.

        I would agree with you if they were making this decision to not try to overtake button. But that had nothing to do with this.

        In this situation, they probably did the right thing.

        1. I think he replied to:

          Also, Vettel is right to question the decision not to switch to a two stop;

      2. Sadly I think you’ve missed my point…

        The team told him to not attack Webber because Webber was FASTER, which was not true. Infact the opposite was true, hence they should have just said straight up ‘keep third’ instead of telling Vettel something he knew wasn’t true and to compound the issue Vettel rightly believed that his second position was GIVEN to Webber via a flawed strategy.

        Think about it, if YOU was Vettel, started on pole with a three stop strategy and lost the lead to Button, you would understand – as he did – that there was no chance of beating Button at that stage but you would be in danger of losing your second position to your team mate Webber who was on a two stop.

        It’s as simple as that. Regardless of the team finishing 2nd and 3rd, it was Vettels’ right to question the decision that cost him 2nd place and a 4 point differential. Webber is now only 1.5 points behind instead of 5.5.

        1. I’m not so sure the statement was untrue. I’d say “Webber is faster” meant “Webber is inherently faster than he is going now”.

          The literal read of that radio message makes no sense at all. It would be ludicrous if they wanted to convince Vettel that Webber was driving faster. He saw Webber in front of him getting closer.

          BTW Hamilton performed the same 3 stop strategy vs Massa’s 2 stop in 2008 and he almost did pull it off.

  5. Red bull took a gamble. If it had paid off they would have been hailed as brilliant strategists, if it doesn’t the driver whinges.. Vettel had a chance to get past Button and couldn’t, the team gave him that opportunity, the driver has to take it. I’m a fan of Vettel, but never wise to criticize your team unless you think it will motivate them to help you.. not sure this will.

    1. MacademiaNut
      7th June 2009, 17:00

      Making the three-stopper work is most certainly in the hands of the driver — overtaking on the track. Michael Schumacher did it so smooth he made it look so easy. Now, it’s everybody’s time to find out how difficult it actually is.

    2. @footfarmer: Totally with you on this point. Vettel is sour because of the final ‘covert’ instruction for him to back off Webber.

      But he put himself in that position. First by fluffing the opening lap with Jenson absolutely primed to pounce and run.
      Then by not having ability to get past Jenson when on the three stopper.

      Vettel would be wise to take stock of this rather than having a go at his team. They gave him the car and the strategy and he simply didn’t deliver.

      1. I agree, Vettel screwed up! I agree with the position RBR took. Vettel lost the race all on his own.

  6. It was very clear to all what Redbull was telling vettal. So it’s a bit puzzling that horner didn’t get his story straight after the race. But you know what, nothing will come of it. Because the plain fact is they are not McLaren, no one will be hunting them down.

    1. The plain fact is that you can tell whatever you like to the press, as long as you don’t lie to the race stewards.

    2. The no team orders was a stupid FIA knee-jerk reaction to Rubens at Austria.
      Team orders had always existed & all it did was drive them underground.
      If a team wants to use orders there are severl ways they can still do it.
      To suggest only McLaren got picked out for ‘extra attention’ is completely untrue & was fostered by a totally biased media, Lynn, sorry.

      1. “To suggest only McLaren got picked out for ‘extra attention’ is completely untrue” – eehhh, sorry but you are wrong persempre. If this was McLaren, some form of punitive penality would already have been issued. There is no doubt in my mind that McLaren in 2007,2008 and early 2009 have been the object of a witch hunt from the FIA which it can be argued was as a result of an egocentric fight between Max Mosley and Ron Dennis

        1. I could toss this one around with you for days, NDINYO, on a number of fronts. However, there is no point reopening old arguments.
          The teams have tried to put all the differences behind them & try to move on.

  7. With the frustration of losing pole and then being overtaken by his team-mate it was inevitable that he would NOT have approached Webber with a cool head.

    I think it was the right thing to tell him. Webber wouldn’t have expected a challenge 2 laps from the end and with the frustration of Vettel who know what would have happened?

  8. MacademiaNut
    7th June 2009, 16:58

    I am surprised that the team and Vettel did not confirm that they are sticking to the three-stopper or changing to two-stopper before he pitted for the first time.

    These three-stopper strategy works only if you can accomplish the overtaking on the track. Vettel did not succeed in overtaking Button. Plain and Simple. He was stuck behind Button, who was heavy, that compromised his second position. It’s just a regular race day. Too bad for Vettel.

  9. Vettel should be glad his team didn’t switch him back to a two stop. He was short fueled in the second stint, and would have spent a long time on the soft tires. In Monaco he lost seconds a lap when the soft option grained. A two stop strategy may not have saved him seconds, but lost him third instead.

    In the post race interviews Webber claimed to have turned down the engine for the last stint, since they were well ahead of any non-RBR cars and well behind Button. Vettel was obviously pushing until the end, but I don’t think Webber was.

    Webber did seem to lose time all race in the first sector though – I would think most of the time he lost in the first stint was in the first sectors. Anyone else see it this way?

    1. A two stop strategy may not have saved him seconds, but lost him third instead.

      That should read “saved him second

    2. In Monaco he lost seconds a lap when the soft option grained

      That was on the super soft tyre though, so I don’t think it’s as clear as that. He never had pace on the super-soft in Monaco, but he was quick on the soft at the end at Turkey – despite what his team told him.

  10. This again would be avoided if team orders were explicitly alowed again. I see no real sensible reason why Horner is made to dodge (by the FIA rules) answering the question that we all know the answer to.

    Vettel lost 2nd place by letting Jenson past in lap 1. End of.

  11. They messed things up for him in Barcelona, Monaco and now Turkey I’m not surprised he’s annoyed.

  12. If three stops were the strategy from the beginning, it was a bold move. It was basically the same idea as Monaco, hinged upon getting pole with a lighter car and then staying in the lead long enough to open up a gap. They got pole, but in terms of wanting to win the race, Vettel’s mistake on the first lap effectively nullified that strategy.

    It was evident, at least after his second stint, that he wasn’t going to win the race and that his three stops could even make for a close fight with Webber for second. The point is, however, that at that time, they had already committed to three stops for Vettel. Otherwise, he would have had to do half the race on the softer compound, which would not have worked out very well, could just as easily have cost him P2.

    Going for two stops from the start would have meant a heavier fuel load in qualifying, which probably would have meant no pole position. The way they started, it would only have seemed possible to switch to two stops before he made his first one, then going for a long second stint, so he could have kept his distance with the softer tyre about as short as he actually did with three stops. That would have been a difficult call as well, I don’t know if that would have given him a much better chance of keeping in second place.

  13. Webber said he was in engine saving mode. He beat Vettel already by getting in front after his stop, so what’s the point in pushing?

    Maybe the message meant that Webber could have gone faster if he needed to (ie if Vettel didn’t let up)

    I don’t understand the point anyway. Vettel was way faster than Button too and he really didn’t have a chance of passing him. Why would he be able to get past Webber?

    I think you can blame the Red Bull strategists for their idiotic belief that Vettel would be able to pass Button. Has Vettel passed anyone this season? Seriously, how do they come up with nonsense like that.

    1. That was roughly what I thought the message meant: Mark is capable of going faster, but we want to preserve engines. Given that Vettel lost another in practice, that seems reasonable.

      I agree about the overtaking too. I don’t know why Vettel would think he could overtake Webber on the same fuel after getting nowhere with Button on far less.

      1. I don’t think Vettel made that call though. he made quite a point of saying that he was surprised to hear that he was still on a three stopper.

    2. Funnily enough, Vettel passed Button in China, when he already had the race in the bag.

      1. I thought the same.

  14. Of course Vettel is annoyed – the team lied to him. He knew Webber wasn’t faster than him, he could see the gap closing. They could have hinted that he should save tyres/engine, but instead they told him an obvious untruth, and who isn’t going to be annoyed by that?

    1. Again… Webber had his engine turned down for the last stint, and Vettel wasn’t gaining on him as much as he should’ve been with full revs. That’s what ‘Mark is faster’ meant. Webber could easily have gone quicker.

    2. The team did not lie to him, it was a coded message which he fully understood the meaning of. He’s annoyed because he felt he had a chance for second place. We will never know though, as catching is one thing and getting past is another. The team made the right decision, as has happened hundreds of times before.

      The bigger picture though says Vettel is really annoyed at his own mistake and is just venting frustration. In other circumstances he would have accepted the situation with more restraint.

  15. Well… Ok, ok…what I understand is that he made a non forced mistake at the fist lap, the team tried to let him in contention for the win and he is no happy with the team?

    The real Red Bull´s mistake is that they really believe in the hype around Vettel, only that explains why they let him in suicide strategies in two races in a whole.

    He can’t overtake in an ordinary race and in a dry track and that was what avoided him of at least keep in contention for the win if Button would made a mistake.

    Jenson is very superior at their contenders right now and the guys who could fight against him are in the wrong cars. At least we know now the real value of Hamilton and Alonso…

    1. At least we know now the real value of Hamilton and Alonso…

      Yeah, 10th and 13th in mediocre cars, much like Button this last couple of years in a crap car (11th in 2008, 13th in 2007).

  16. I only want to ask this – team orders – in plain english or coded are NOT forbidden by FIA F1 LAW this year?

    I think they are… Where are the penalties? If this was McLaren, we would have them for sure…

    This is not Formula 1…

    1. The sporting regulations state:

      39) THE RACE
      39.1 Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited.

      I guess we can take it from this example that ‘team orders’ which instruct drivers to maintain positions are OK. Telling drivers to swap positions might be more difficult, at least in a situation where both are in contention for the championship. As we saw with Ferrari at Shanghai last year, when one driver is out of the championship teams are allowed to swap their running order.

      More here: F1’s unwritten rules: team orders edition

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        7th June 2009, 22:25

        Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Mosely’s
        Or to take arms aginst a sea of FOTAs
        And by opposing end them?

        1. ROFLOL! Good one, HounslowBusGarage :)
          Next stop “A Midsummer Nights Dream”? Or would the inevitable references to Bottom & Max get us censored? ;)

    2. When is a team order not a team order? That is the question ;)

      1. Exactly, this rule sucks.

        What should have happened with Barrichello & Schumacher in Austria was that Ferrari should have sacked Rubens, or at least have him swap places with the third driver for a couple of races. Respect the team who pays your wages.

  17. Shows how boring the race was that anyone’s making a fuss about this non-event. Webber had turned the engine down, so unsuprisingly, Vettel on fresh tyres gained on him. He was never going to get passed, there was no point telling Webber to turn his engine up to fend off Vettel, so they told Vettel to turn his down. Only team orders in the sense they gave their driver the correct order to turn his engine down, perfectly within the law and perfectly common in F1 and has been for years.

    Vettel made a mistake then his team gambled leaving him on a 3-stop, safe in the knowledge they were going to get 2nd and 3rd anyway so the team would lose nothing. End of story, no need to sensationalise it.

  18. RBR team’s order cost me a perfect prediction.

    1. Nope. Vettel’s mistake on lap one did.

    2. LOL!! it gave me an extra 10 points :-D

      Though I doubt Vettel would have past Webber anyway, highly unlikely in my view.

  19. Team orders are banned. Vettel should have been allowed to challenge Webber if he wanted to. He was definately faster then Webber. If the team were so worried about them tangling they should have told webber to let him through. He’s fighting for his own drivers championship as well his teams constructors championship – it should be his choice. I think its wrong that the teams think they can put themselves before their drivers.

    1. F1 is a team sport.
      Drivers are just one part of that team.
      If hundreds of other people don`t get their part of the equation right then the driver has no chance of being even in 3rd. Jenson has had a few years knowing that & this year it is Lewis` turn to find out the hard truth.
      I doubt that RBR cared which way round the 2/3 came as long as they got it.

    2. they should have told webber to let him through

      Are you for real??
      Please read the above comments re: saving the engine.

    3. i think that being orderd to let another driver past is wrong. it was vettels own fault, not webbers. webber had a mistake free race so webber shouldnt have to give up 2nd just for vettels sake.

    4. If the team were so worried about them tangling they should have told webber to let him through.

      Which is exactly the team order the FIA are trying to guard against.

      After your drivers have been freely fighting it out all race, to tell them to “hold station” in the last few laps (or after the final stops) is all pretty okay to me and probably legal. However issueing an order which causes a change of position is against the rules.

  20. They messed things up for him in Barcelona, Monaco and now Turkey I’m not surprised he’s annoyed.

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