Vettel questions Red Bull tactics

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?

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77 comments on Vettel questions Red Bull tactics

  1. Net Sticks said on 7th June 2009, 18:07

    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…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th June 2009, 18:19

      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

      • HounslowBusGarage said on 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?

        • persempre said on 8th June 2009, 0:59

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

    • persempre said on 7th June 2009, 18:47

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

      • Dougie said on 8th June 2009, 9:37

        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.

  2. Daffid said on 7th June 2009, 18:19

    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.

  3. greg76 said on 7th June 2009, 19:21

    RBR team’s order cost me a perfect prediction.

  4. red_brawn said on 7th June 2009, 20:41

    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.

    • persempre said on 7th June 2009, 21:00

      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.

    • Ace said on 8th June 2009, 3:53

      they should have told webber to let him through

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

    • yelrom said on 8th June 2009, 13:35

      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.

    • Dougie said on 8th June 2009, 13:52

      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.

  5. sommoP said on 7th June 2009, 21:39

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

  6. Where do you manage to find the perfect pictures to suit your topics Keith? Fabulous puss on Vettel!

    If Sebby didn’t screw the pooch on lap 1 and gift Jenson a free pass, this discussion might be academic. He also had ample opportunity to close the gap when he was P2 and lighter but couldn’t make up enough time.

    The “kid” is only 21 and has a lot to learn on when to criticize the team and how. Jenson was quite outspoken with his limited early success if I remember correctly.

  7. JUGNU said on 7th June 2009, 21:48


    can u help me about lowering rpm situation. I mean vettel was fighting with webber till the last lap for position but he had already lowered his engine speed. Is the rpm thing controlled by team or driver?
    as we saw with button, his lap times dropped by one second when he dropped his engine speed, and vettel lost 2nd place under a second from webber, had he stayed on full engine power, he might have beaten webber.


  8. The Nude Wizard said on 7th June 2009, 21:50

    It’s quite simple, Webber had already turned down his engine and was set to cruise to the line and sensibly preserve his engine since the win was out of the question while Vettel, angry at himself for his own failings was continuing to push when his race was over against his teams/engineers advice. He made his mistake and his strategy didnt work. He’s silly and shows his lack of experience and immaturity to question his teams decision in an official press conference based on a “what if”. Had he done his job and stayed in front the 3 stop probably would have worked and he’d have been all smiles thanking his team. You wouldnt have heard Webber moaning about his teams decisions, he would have accepted the result based on his own driving because hes a consumate professional and not a young kid who thinks hes owed things he isn’t.

    • HounslowBusGarage said on 7th June 2009, 22:47

      I love your name. “The Nude Wizard” ought to be somehow extremely naughty and vaguely painfull for the over sixties. Maybe you know about these things.
      I just named myself after the most boring thing I could think of.

      • Sush Meerkat said on 7th June 2009, 23:11

        I just named myself after the most boring thing I could think of.

        I resent that comment, I’ve had many a happy times in that bus garage stealing kit kats when I was a boy.

  9. Sush Meerkat said on 7th June 2009, 23:07

    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?

    Yes it was, Vettel isn’t that great at overtaking, and the RB5 isn’t that good in wake. Webber’s experience would overcome it only slightly against a car with less power, if Vettel had overtaken Webber the crazy Aussie would have fought back and the situation would stress both engines when it isn’t needed.

    That or we could have had a repeat of the infamous Torro Rosso Red Bull crash.

    • Matt said on 8th June 2009, 8:22

      Exactly, got 2nd and 3rd in the bag, don’t want Vettel taking Webber out AGAIN

      • yelrom said on 8th June 2009, 13:38

        yeh, so so so dissapointed in vettel when he took out vettel in fuji. more of a reason to mark webber to not let him past.

  10. Team orders are part and should be part of F1. Red Bull made the wrong call not only on strategy but on orders also, Webber should have let Vettel through. If Webber keeps on taking points off Vettel then Red Bull won’t have any kind of run at the championship. Red Bull are often poor strategically.

    • Ace said on 8th June 2009, 4:00

      That sort of strategy is usually saved until one of the drivers can’t reach the championship mathematically.

      Or, maybe Webber should’ve been letting Vettel pass him all year? Nahhhhh ;)

    • yelrom said on 8th June 2009, 13:41

      webber is only 2 pnts behing vettel, should even be ahead of him if it wasnt for malaysia shortended race, it is only early days, give webber a chance.

  11. matt said on 8th June 2009, 0:29

    This doesn’t take into account that Webber was comfortably second and probably wasn’t pushing for many of those laps. Saying Webber was faster did have a message behind it, but Vettel probably only caught up in the first place because Webber was being careful and had no need to defend.

  12. m0tion said on 8th June 2009, 2:12

    The biggest issue is the inability to overtake without taking huge risk. Look at Rubens who provided the only real entertainment in the whole race. Vettel could only wheel bash to seek second and the team orders were most likely made on that basis combined with what settings they had Mark on after his last stop. Some of Webbers lap and sector times were unusually variable( in his second stint especially). His S1 times as some said here were on average slower than Vettel but he could pull one out every now and then and I think I saw purple in his second stint on the odd lap (not just S3). So I think only Mark and the team could answer the questions. Vettel signed onto 3 stop and was totally committed to going after Button after his first stop. Changing tactics after that depended on where he would emerge after the longer stop. In Silverstone the biggest question will be the RBR and Brawn drivers competition between themselves. Webber since F3000 has been probably the fastest driver there.

  13. F1Fan said on 8th June 2009, 2:15

    This race proves beyond any doubt that the Brawn is in a class by itself. I think Ross and JB are out to try and break Michael’s record of 13 wins in 18 races. I think they will do it, because the difference between their car and everybody else’s borders on the ridiculous.

  14. The Limit said on 8th June 2009, 5:02

    I think alot of Vettel’s anger is born of frustration. He really needed the ten points today, and had secured the pole position, only to make a mistake that could only be put down to inexperience.
    The whole Red Bull strategy was turned on its head the second Jenson Button overtook the young German, which, as events turned out, went against the young man.
    This should be put down as a learning experience for Vettel, as big a learning curve as the events of Fuji 2007. To be F1 champion you cannot make the kind of mistakes that Vettel made and escape unpunished. Jenson Button drove a race of great maturity today, and did not put one foot wrong.
    As for Vettel, the frustrations go alot deeper than seeing Mark Webber beat him to second place and misplaced tactics from the team. He knows, as do all the other drivers, that he needs a miracle in order to stop the Brawn Gp cars. What we are seeing is a whitewash so severe that it is becoming embarrassing to watch.
    Today was a missed opportunity. One no team can afford.

  15. savage said on 8th June 2009, 6:45

    vettel is a youngster and should keep his chin up , he’s moving in the right direction .
    I think if anyone should be upset it should be frank williams the car is better than the drivers .

    • Patrickl said on 8th June 2009, 9:11

      But then, the people doing the strategy at Williams are even worse at it than the people at Red Bull.

      It also doesn’t help Rosberg’s race pace that they put him on short stints during most of free practice. It makes the car look better, but also makes it impossible to find the right race setup.

      Williams is a mess, Rosberg should find a professional team soon.

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