Vettel’s focus gives him edge over Alonso, says Marko

2013 F1 season

Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Circuit of the Americas, 2012Sebastian Vettel’s concentration is what sets him apart from his top F1 rivals.

That’s the view of Red Bull’s motorsport director and former F1 driver Helmut Marko.

Speaking to Red Bulletin, Marko said: “Sebastian’s driving was virtually flawless. But he is a phenomenon: it is always like that.

“After the summer break, his performance curve shoots up. That?s what happened in previous years, too. I don?t know how he does it, but to keep doing it cannot be a coincidence.

“That brings us back to his method of preparation, the way he shuts himself off from the rest of the world, so that he can still call on reserves that other drivers might not have: Fernando Alonso, for example, who is busy with politics and funny comments.

“Vettel ignores it all, he doesn?t read the newspapers, or the internet. And that?s the point, you see, we concentrate on our job: to make the fastest car and the best team possible.”

Marko said Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber reaches similar peaks in performance but can’t sustain them:

“It seems to me that Webber has on average two races per year where he is unbeatable, but he can?t maintain this form throughout the year.

“And as soon as his prospects start to look good in the world championship, he has a little trouble with the pressure that this creates. In comparison with Seb?s rising form, it seems to me that Mark?s form somehow flattens out.

“Then, if some technical mishap occurs, like with the alternator for example, he falls relatively easily into a downward spiral. No driver remains unaffected by this, because the tension is palpable.

“In 2010, it was particularly extreme. Webber headed into the final race with better chances than Vettel, and he probably carried easy, of course; this would gnaw away at anyone?s confidence. It?s more than understandable.”

“There’s no need for Vettel if we can’t give him the car he needs”

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2012Marko added chief technical officer Adrian Newey was “very irritated” by the setbacks suffered by the team during the year. Newey’s response was to “increase his work rate ?ǣ which was already significant.”

“First, he concentrated on understanding the relationship between the car and the tyres, which was a very, very finicky job [last] year,” said Marko. “Secondly, there was his response to the supposed illegality the front wing.”

“Third, he had to deal with the prohibition of the ‘exhaust blowings’. This was perhaps the hardest setback for us, because we were absolutely brilliant when it came to using the exhaust. Our old method has actually been reinstated, albeit in a modified form.

“Lastly, we can say that, at that stage of the season, the ideal Vettel set-up had yet to be found. It is quite different from that of the Webber cars. Only with that set-up can you see the incredible, 110 per cent Vettel in qualifying.”

Marko admitted he suffered sleepless nights at this point in the championship: “The tension was there, but problems make me even more focused than usual. The harder it gets, the calmer I see things, but my sleep suffers.

“I told my people, ‘Boys, there is no need for Vettel if we can?t give him the car he needs in order for his skills to shine.’ Everyone made such an incredible effort, but for a while even we didn?t quite understand what was going on.”

Thanks to Red Bulletin for supplying the quotes. Visit www.redbulletin.com to read the full feature and to download the Red Bulletin iPad app for free, for more sports, culture and lifestyle content.

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208 comments on Vettel’s focus gives him edge over Alonso, says Marko

  1. stirper said on 8th January 2013, 12:27

    Unfortunately like it or not like it Alonso is the best driver in the grid… Marko you gonna live with it

  2. Ben (@benchuiii) said on 8th January 2013, 12:33

    While I don’t like Marko, he is right about Webber. In places like Monaco and Silverstone he can be quite the unstoppable force yet others he is absolutely nowhere like Spain and Abu Dhabi this year. It says a lot that all 9 of his wins have come on ‘traditional’ circuits.

  3. Nick (@npf1) said on 8th January 2013, 13:19

    I guess you could say Marko has an eye for these kinds of things.

    Seriously though, I think he was a great sportscar driver and I respect him a lot for that. But I often wonder whether or not he’s been hired by Red Bull to keep the publicity going and being a scapegoat, or to actually serve as some sort of motorsport director.

  4. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 8th January 2013, 13:29

    Oh Helmut…I think most of us are inclined to agree on many points but certain things you should keep to yourself…i.e your opinion on Webber’s ability. You’re a team so don’t drive a wedge in there.

  5. magon4 (@magon4) said on 8th January 2013, 13:42

    Mark Webber can be is a good as Seb Vettel. True.
    Seb Vettel is more consistant than Mark Webber. True.
    eb Vettel has a greater end-of-the-season form than Fernando Alonso. True from 2008-2012, check it out.

    One might not agree with all the wording, but Helmut is speaking his mind honestly, not doing PR. That’s what he thinks, and it is less far from the truth than many are ready to admit.

  6. KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 8th January 2013, 14:07

    I find it refreshing to hear these talks (LdM first and now Marko) during the off-season. It’s definitely something different from the usual PR we get.

  7. MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 8th January 2013, 14:32

    So, talk up the team and you get criticised for being a mindless PR guy. Speak your mind though and say some honest stuff, and you get criticised for not being a team player. You can’t win. Well, I mean, you can win six championships in three years, but I mean like, hearts and minds.

    Marko speaks truth about Webber. He’s a decent peddler on his day but he’s not in the same league as the likes of Vettel. It doesn’t take a very detailed analysis to see where he’s coming from. He also speaks truth about Vettel’s levels of dedication being potentially higher than any other driver. Of course, it’s easy to be focused and unflustered when everything is going so smoothly, but this is certainly a factor in his success. There’s something which I think marks out the very top drivers in F1 as being special. And this is probably true in other sports too. Their performance gets stronger when they’re under pressure. It’s true of Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton, and to a lesser extent Raikkonen. When they get close to achieving success, they get stronger, not weaker. it’s something Button and Webber have both lacked. It’ll be interesting to see if an unshackled Button in a good car without a stronger teammate can finally achieve this next year.

    But certainly, the only way for Webber to counter what Marko is saying would be to prove him wrong on the track. I know that that’s exactly how Vettel would respond to that kind of criticism.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th January 2013, 15:01

      Agree with almost everything you have said here. Not entirely convinced SV’s levels of dedication are higher than any other driver, and I think mostly of FA here, but you did say ‘potentially.’ And I’m splitting hairs. Well said.

    • So, talk up the team and you get criticised for being a mindless PR guy. Speak your mind though and say some honest stuff, and you get criticised for not being a team player.

      Bingo. There’s literally nothing Marko can say in an interview that wouldn’t get these sorts of reactions. If he plays it safe, people don’t buy it; if he speaks his mind, people howl in outrage.

      I’m having trouble finding anything he said about Webber that isn’t true — and none of what he says even approaches what I would call “bashing,” as I’ve seen some people call it.

    • Girts (@girts) said on 8th January 2013, 15:46

      Marko speaks truth about Webber

      Unfortunately he clearly doesn’t speak truth about Vettel, otherwise he would have mentioned his mistakes, hot-headed moments and all the times when Webber outqualified him this season, even when Seb obviously had ‘the ideal Vettel set-up’. Even though I believe that Marko should show more support to the team’s less victorious driver anyway, I would accept the truth, if it wasn’t selective.

      • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 8th January 2013, 16:01

        Mistakes aside, I would infer from him saying that Webber has weekends where he is ‘unbeatable’ that these would cover weekends where he outqualifies Vettel. And his comment on Vettel’s performance was that it was “virtually flawless” which to my eyes does not imply that he has made literally no mistakes, rather than he has consistently put in performances which were as close to perfect as you could reasonably expect. Your reading of his comments seems to be as selective as the comments themselves. I do agree that usually Marko talks right out of his DRS slot, but on this occasion I’d say that what he says makes an awful lot of sense. Yes, he does talk up his star driver over his rivals, but even on these sandy beaches of bias, can you fine a few grains of truth – for all his occasional petulance in the heat of the moment, it IS true that Vettel has tended to rise above the kind of politicking that Alonso has deployed for most of the 2012 season. He’s quietly, and fairly maturely, gone about the business of getting the job done. And the result is another championship in the bag. Another job well done. Yes, Marko would heap praise on him regardless, but in this instance I’d say it’s well justified and pretty spot on.

        Whether or not he should be making comments like those about the number 2 driver is a case of personal opinion. It doesn’t really sit well with me, personally, but in this age of vacuous PR guff spilling endlessly from the mouths of team personnel, it is still refreshing to see someone genuinely expressing their own opinions, no matter how galling those opinions may be.

      • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th January 2013, 16:02

        And there’s the rub. Isn’t it time Red Bull just admits they too are a one-rooster team, rather than trying to claim there is racing going on there? I think it is masked by the fact that MW has usually done better relative to his teammate than FM has. But it is unmasked by comments such as MH’s.

        As I reread the article of this topic, HM claims that AN clawed back the EBD that was taken away from 2011 to 2012. Was it not common knowledge that the EBD was something that gave MW headaches? And yet AN put a huge amount of energy into that very issue. Unless someone can tell me that he only pursued that for SV’s car, and left MW’s car alone so that he (MW) would be happier with how the car felt, I don’t see the EBD concentration as anything but trying to look after the one rooster on the team.

        And should that be any surprise, given that as 2010 was winding down Horner said that if MW won the WDC he could see him retiring on top, in which case the team would be SV’s, and if SV won it….’nough said…

        • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 8th January 2013, 16:17

          I don’t really agree that the EBD was developed solely because of Vettel’s preference for it. I think it was more a case of ‘this is what makes the car go fastest, you’re paid millions of pounds, here’s a fast car, now do your job’. Vettel managed it better than Webber. Theories abound as to why exactly that was, but the most plausible is that the EBD required a driving technique which required the driver to use a lot of throttle mid-corner and this wasn’t something that Webber found he could do naturally, while Vettel adapted to it quickly.

          It certainly wasn’t a feature which was created specifically to the tastes of Vettel, since every team was trying to create their own version of it, and some went even further than Red Bull did with the development. That’s true in both 2011 with direct blowing, and with the downwash/coanda exhaust concepts used by all the top teams in 2012. Especially Mclaren, and it was a major part of why their car was the fastest on the grid in 2012.

          In fact, Webber seemed to be the only driver who really struggled with it, which suggests to me that, rather than it being evidence of Red Bull favouring Vettel, it’s actually evidence of Mark’s inability to adapt his driving style as the situation demands. Evidence, therefor, of the fact that Webber is good when he finds the sweet spot and has a car to his liking, but he lacks the adaptability of a top driver to allow him to extract the maximum performance from a car which is naturally difficult to drive.

          • xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 8th January 2013, 16:45

            The EBD makes a car go quicker.
            Webber can go faster with an EBD than without it; he just prefers without I assume.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th January 2013, 16:45

            No, you are absolutely right that all the teams were trying to maximize EBD in 2011, as well as in 2012 when it had been heavily curtailed by changes to the technical regs. So I didn’t mean to imply that AN’s pursuit of it was strictly to favour SV.

            But you haven’t convinced me that they needed to jam it down MW’s throat. If it didn’t suit him naturally, could they not have worked with his car in a slightly different way? Isn’t the goal for any driver’s side of the garage to make the car less difficult to drive? Webber is no different from every F1 driver who ‘is good when he finds the sweet spot and has a car to his liking.’

            I take your point about the better drivers being able to maximize a difficult car, but that doesn’t mean you give a driver a difficult car (for him) and say ‘good luck.’

          • MazdaChris (@mazdachris) said on 8th January 2013, 16:59

            You’re right of course that it’s an oversimplification so suggest that they’re just given a car and told to get on with it. Each driver has his own team of engineers and mechanics who will work with them to make the car as usable as possible. It’s what they use free practise for, as much as finding the best setup for the track. But you need to accept that Webber in an EBD car, albeit one he doesn’t really get along with, is still faster than Webber in a non-EBD car. It’s also a fact that, especially in 2011, the car’s aero concept was designed very heavily around the EBD so to design a car without it would mean a totally different aero package. What team would realistically pile all that money and resource into developing a second car which they knew was going to be slower than the other?

        • V. Chris (@vasschu) said on 8th January 2013, 16:31

          Webber himself said recently that the car suits better Seb’s style but also the improvements are making the car quicker for him too. So he doesn’t mind as long as he gets quicker. I am sure that no one will hold back improvements suggested by Webber as long as the car is getting better. Also lets not forget the 2009 season, when Vettel as a rookie bested Mark. People are clearly forgetting this when they are spreading “evil Red Bull holds Mark back” theories.

          • Robbie (@robbie) said on 8th January 2013, 17:20

            Fair enough guys, I accept the premise, at least for 2012, that “Webber in an EBD car, albeit one he doesn’t really get along with, is still faster than Webber in a non-EBD car.”

            I was surmising that if it truly did MW no favours in 2011, and if AN truly clawed it all back by the end of 2012 which HM implies in the article (which I don’t think AN was able to do due to the reg changes limiting his ability to dupicate the effect it had in 2011) then it seemed strange to me they would jam that down MW’s throat and send him back to more of the same struggles he had in 2011.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th January 2013, 16:21

      Yes, but if in 2010 Webbers team-mate had been Narain Kartikehan I think he would have been able to win a WDC.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 8th January 2013, 16:23

      But certainly, the only way for Webber to counter what Marko is saying would be to prove him wrong on the track. I know that that’s exactly how Vettel would respond to that kind of criticism.

      To be honest, Mark probably *would* prove him wrong. Silverstone 2010 springs to mind.

      Its just with these comments coming in the off-season, he can’t react in the proper way, just issue a worded rebuttal or dwell on it.

    • I agree about the top drivers being “on a different level”: you can just tell that Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel have that extra pace and skill that sets them apart from their teammates and indeed the rest of the field. I found it very telling of Vettel’s skill that he spotted the green flag in Brazil when we all missed it whilst driving at 100+mph in wet conditions with a damaged car, not to mention the fact he was under a huge amount of pressure after the title had just been blown wide open. That in itself is not remarkable but the drive as a whole in Brazil (barring the start) was the drive of a champion.

      That and the fact, as you have mentioned, they actually use the pressure to make themselves stronger is telling of a great driver and is why Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton will be remembered as the driver’s of this era.

  8. MW (@) said on 8th January 2013, 14:43

    Ya I agree Marko!! Alonso is just so scatty, never keeps his mind on the job.. It’s a good thing he’s had the best car all season to make it easy for him!

  9. OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 8th January 2013, 15:38

    Speaking to Red Bulletin, Marko said: “Sebastian’s driving was virtually flawless. But he is a phenomenon: it is always like that.

    It’s exaggerated from Marko to say Vettel was “flawless”, but it is exaggerated too to say Alonso was. All of the 24 (now 22) drivers are humans and they have setbacks sometimes. Alonso AND Vettel are both top drivers in F1, the hardest category to shine. You may not like their styles, their tweets, their index fingers (ehem) but you can’t just close your eyes and say “this one is a superhero and this other one is rubbish”

  10. sumedh said on 8th January 2013, 16:06

    Marko is definitely right about two things

    1. Webber indeed can only do two mega-races every season.
    2. Vettel’s upturn in performance after the summer break is a constant phenomenon. May be it is to do with the tracks that come in the 2nd half of the season. Or may be, after driving half a season, Vettel is able to learn a lot more about the car and apply it in the 2nd half. Whereas Alonso or Hamilton are not able to find anything new after driving the car for half a season. Whatever Vettel is doing, he is doing it right!

    In a way, it is good that we do not have in-season testing then. Else, Vettel would have driven lot more and reached his after-summer-break-form much earlier.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 8th January 2013, 16:25

      Webber certainly did more than two mega races in 2010.

      It all fell apart for him when Newey started investigating exhaust blowing more aggressively ahead of 2011 and he stupidly fractured his shoulder mountain biking just before the run-in.

    • Optimaximal (@optimaximal) said on 8th January 2013, 16:26

      I’d also add that were it not for reliability, McLaren’s upturn post-break would have been better.

      That said, the patch between Canada and Hungary was so dismal, the only way really was up for them.

    • HoHum (@hohum) said on 8th January 2013, 16:28

      I hope this is another attempt at sarcasm, please forgive my response if it was.
      It is absolutely clear that the reason Vettel reigns supreme in the second half of the season is that it takes the first half of the season to work out how to improve the car exactly to Vettels requirements, just as Marco said.

      • F1fanNL (@) said on 10th January 2013, 21:19

        @hohum

        That explains Vettel’s start to the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons… Oh no, wait, that was just luck.

        • HoHum (@hohum) said on 11th January 2013, 13:51

          We (Mako included) are talking more than just 1 race, and we are comparing 1st. & 2nd. halves, 2011 was an anomaly .

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th January 2013, 19:18

            @hohum Vettel most likely would have won all three of the first races in 2010 if not for stuff beyond his control, and his performance wouldn’t have been far off what he did in 2011. Though Vettel did even better in 2011, I wouldn’t call that an “anomaly”

  11. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 8th January 2013, 16:39

    Reading these comments flaming Marko for speaking, I can’t help but think why people think that way; you can’t argue with what he says at all, as Webber is a master at Silverstone and Monaco, where he is normally as fast (if not faster) than Vettel.
    Also, having Vettel come into the team and practically dominate him couldn’t have been good for him psychologically, as he says.
    All in all, one can’t argue with Markos comments at all, no matter how anti-red Bull Raing you are.

  12. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 8th January 2013, 16:57

    I find it difficult to remember where Alonso ‘lost his focus’ this year…

  13. My God, that Marko guy is such a helmut.

  14. I Love The Pope said on 8th January 2013, 17:13

    I don’t think Marko has it in for Webber, but rather just tells it like he sees it. I’m sure Mark would like to sustain the brilliant flashes of form he has from time to time too. I don’t think Marko is incorrect here.

  15. sw280 (@sw280) said on 8th January 2013, 17:22

    That’s funny, I thought it was Alonso’s focus which stopped him running into DRS marker boards and getting consistent podiums in a shoddy car?

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