Ross Brawn

A Team Divided At Red Bull Racing

I wanted to elaborate a bit more on the events that unfolded at yesterday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. The race recap covered the overall event, but the team orders involving Red Bull are worthy of another look. I’ve been discussing it a lot on Twitter over the last 24 hours and you can read more of that here.


In many ways yesterday’s Grand Prix served as a study into the pros and cons of team orders in Formula 1. On one hand you have Mercedes, who used them to keep their drivers from racing one another and risking valuable points in the World Championship. On the other hand you have Red Bull who used them so ineffectively that it’s created a massive rift on their team. I won’t elaborate too much on Mercedes as the situation is more straight forward. I can understand why Ross Brawn wanted to keep his drivers from racing one another, but I can’t understand what difference it would’ve made to let Nico Rosberg overtake Lewis Hamilton. The decision goes against the team’s philosophy that both drivers are equals, in which case it shouldn’t have mattered who finished ahead. After Hamilton’s humbling podium speech, the team should have no problem getting past this one, if they haven’t already.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

The greater problem lies within Red Bull Racing. After being told explicitly by team bosses to hold position, Sebastian Vettel decided to take matters into his own hands and perform a risky passing maneuver on his teammate and the race leader Mark Webber. The pass had come after both drivers were instructed to power down their engines and bring the cars home safely. Unfortunately for Webber it meant losing out on his first win since last year’s British Grand Prix.

While the media has done their best to perpetuate the situation to far greater depths, it does create some serious problems for Red Bull as a team. In one corner you have Mark Webber,  a workhorse of a driver who produces consistent results and rarely finishes outside of the points. At most other teams, Webber would be a clear number 1 driver. In the other corner is a proven World Champion in Sebastian Vettel with 3 titles to his name.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

Many have taken Vettel’s side and made the argument that the German displays the qualities needed to win championships. His ruthlessness isn’t unlike some of his predecessors, including Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. But at what point does a driver believe he’s bigger than the team that supports him? Despite Schumacher’s cunning and Senna’s sheer aggression, they knew their places within their respective teams and in a sport like Formula 1, no driver is bigger than his team. Vettel’s actions on Sunday say otherwise. By ignoring the team’s orders he showed a lack of respect and everyone watching, that he knows what’s best for himself and potentially his team. Irrational decisions can be made in the heat of the moment and it’s only after the fact that we allow ourselves to consider different perspectives. However, it won’t be easy for Vettel to come back from this. Not only has he put himself in a difficult position, he’s put Red Bull in a difficult position with Mark Webber.

If the World Championship comes down to the line at the end of the season, can Red Bull expect Webber to offer support, if his own championship bid is obsolete? The Australian has reached a point in his career where the opportunities of winning a championship of his own are numbered. 2013 could be his last realistic possibility to do so. Nothing is certain in Formula 1 and if this were to be Webber’s last season with Red Bull, then he would have no greater opportunity than right now. At age 36, this could even be his last season in Formula 1. If that were the case, he’d have nothing to lose and that will certainly affect his willingness to be a team player during crunch time. Red Bull understands this and it could prove to be a major downfall, as they seek to add a fourth consecutive World Constructor’s Championship to their legacy.


After the events that unfolded in Malaysia, Sebastian Vettel has not only further alienated himself from Webber, but potentially his team as well. Even his biggest supporter, Helmut Marko wasn’t pleased with Vettel’s lack of compliance to the team’s orders. Time heals all wounds but some take longer than others. We’re already a month into the Formula 1 season and Vettel may have run out of opportunities to connect with his teammate. The rivalry between both Red Bull drivers has been fierce since day 1, but as Webber stated yesterday, Vettel has protection within the team. While penalizing him isn’t necessarily the answer, Red Bull owe it to themselves to make a move in Webber’s favor or they risk loosing one of their greatest allies on the track. However, that ship may have already sailed.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.


The 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

Formula 1 wrapped up the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier today and what is typically a rain soaked procession, turned out to be one of the most dramatic races in recent memory. The events at Sepang International Circuit conjured up memories of the Senna-Prost era at McLaren and cemented Formula 1’s identity as a team sport.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

There’s an infinite amount of story lines to discuss as Europe’s sporting columns are ablaze with Red Bull and Mercedes gossip. With pit stop foibles, mechanical maladies and host of very unhappy teammates, lets get straight to it.


Ferrari came out of qualifying in prime position to score their first race win of the season, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa starting P2 and P3. After an aggressive start by the Red Bulls, Alonso fought for position, coming out of turn 1. The Ferrari driver’s front wing became dislodged after making contact with Sebastian Vettel and then Mark Webber as he fought the Red Bulls. Alsonso was expected to come into the pits after the first lap to have his wing replaced, but failed to do so.


Upon completing the first straight of lap 2, his font wing broke free, lodging itself under the F138’s front tires and sending Alonso off the track. With his race over, it left most scratching their heads at Alonso’s bizarre decision to stay on track. The assumption was a strategy to complete 1 more lap and pit for a wing and tire change, as the track began to dry. Unfortunately things ended differently and costed Alonso valuable points in his bid to win the 2013 World Driver’s Championship. It’s still early enough in the season, but as we’ve seen so many times before, mishaps from earlier in the season tend to rear their ugly face in November. His teammate Felipe Massa completed a solid drive, finishing 5th overall.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Malaysian Grand Prix - Race Day - Sepang, Malaysia

Pit stop woes followed Alonso’s retirement for the remainder of Malaysia’s first half. In an unfortunate turn, Force India had to retire both cars as they experienced a number of issues with improperly securing wheel nuts. A collision in the pits involving Caterham and a Freudian Slip saw Lewis Hamilton pull into the McLaren pits for a brief second. Early in the race McLaren displayed flashes of brilliance with some very quick tire changes and saw Jenson Button leading the race. His success was short lived after another horrendous stop in which the mechanics sent Button out, after failing to secure the MP4-28’s right front wheel nut.

Jenson Button leaves the pits

The team did manage to rescuer it, only to have Button return to the track in 14th and later retire with 3 laps to go. McLaren have gotten off to another tough start in 2013. With an admittedly sluggish car, the team can’t afford to make costly mistakes in the pits. The question is how long Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh will have to right his ship before his job comes into question. Sergio Perez secured 1 point after finishing 10th overall.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

With an abundance of drama happening throughout pit lane, it was Red Bull and Mercedes that stole the show. Both teams dealt with similar issues involving team orders in an effort to conserve fuel and keep both cars on the track. Mark Webber displayed some brilliant driving as he lead most of the race and it seemed inevitable that he would secure his first win since last year’s British Grand Prix. Unfortunately his teammate Sebastian Vettel struggled with playing second fiddle and had a number of exchanges with race engineers in a bid to overtake Webber. After an excellent pit stop on lap 44, Webber emerged ahead of Vettel in P1. The two drivers battled for the next 2 laps, fighting for the lead which Webber maintained. After some interjection by team bosses, the Red Bull drivers were told to maintain the gap and bring the cars home for some valuable points. The strategy didn’t sit well with Vettel as he took to the inside, nearly colliding with the pit wall to overtake Webber in turn 1. The move was a blatant disregard for team orders and a fuming Webber showed his lack of gratitude by giving Vettel the finger. The pass has been the most talked about event following the race and in many ways brings to light the internal problems that have followed Red Bull the last few seasons. It’s no secret that Webber and Vettel aren’t the greatest of friends and Webber’s response to the move and a complete lack of sympathy on behalf of Vettel go on to illustrate a mutual dislike between the teammates. Vettel ultimately won the race, his 27th career win, with Webber finishing a close 2nd.


Mercedes experienced their own issues resulting from team orders as Lewis Hamilton struggled to outpace his teammate Nico Roseberg, in an effort to maintain tires and fuel. Rosberg had a number of exchanges with Team Principal Ross Brawn, urging him to allow a pass on Hamilton. There was concern for both cars’ fuel loads following the race and Rosberg was instructed to maintain his position. Had fuel levels not been an issue for Mercedes, it’s likely that both drivers would’ve caught the Red Bulls and there may have been a different outcome. Hamilton finished 3rd overall with Rosberg in 4th. Mercedes should be very pleased with their efforts this weekend. Many speculated that the success of the team would be a work in progress for most of 2013, however in the 2nd race of the season the team are fighting for race wins. Their time will certainly come and soon.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

Once the checkered flag was raised everyone was talking about the pending podium ceremonies. A very dejected Lewis Hamilton joined fueding Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel. A very uncelebratory air surrounded the podium as everyone anxiously awaited the driver’s interviews, lead by Martin Brundle.

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia

This is a scenario where the podium interviews are useless because rarely do we get honest emotion from the drivers as they maintain composure under the spotlight. Everyone had hoped for Vettel to provide some reasoning for his actions but ended up getting a half hearted apology for not following the team’s orders. Webber was considerably more candid, however his choice in words held back most of what he was probably thinking. Hamilton showed real class in his acceptance of 3rd with his mention of Rosberg and a lack of willingness to accept his trophy. It appears as though Hamilton is desperate to turn over a new leaf this season and change people’s perceptions of himself. He certainly won a few fans back today.


It was a fantastically exciting Malaysian Grand Prix and a departure from the boring race F1 fans have grown accustomed to. It’s a 2 week break until the teams are in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

The 2013 Mercedes W04

It has been an interesting offseason for Mercedes who have seen massive power shifts in both the front office and in the driver’s seat. In what was easily the biggest off track story of 2012, Lewis Hamilton announced that he would leave McLaren and head to Mercedes, to take spot of a retiring Michael Schumacher. Many are still questioning if Lewis’ decision was the right one.

In his first public appearance since joining the team, Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg were out to unveil Mercedes’ 2013 contender, the W04.


It’s tough to see any difference between the W03 and it’s successor apart from a slight nose job. Like all of the other teams, the W04 is an “evolution” car and will certainly look different come race day.


According to Mercedes, the W04 is the result of “many thousands of hours of work”.



The W04 may have more of a burden than any other car on the starting grid in 2013. Mercedes have made big claims since acquiring Hamilton. Their 2012 season fell flat after the first few races and much of the responsibility will be on the shoulders of Ross Brawn if this car follows a similar path.

Granted no racing has been done, but I still don’t understand the move from Hamilton’s perspective, apart from having more free time due to less sponsorship constraints. There’s also the strange hiring of Niki Lauda as Mercedes’ special informant. Between Brawn, Lauda and Toto Wolff, this team has way too many captains and I think it’s only a matter of time before this ticking time bomb goes off. There have already been rumblings of a Brawn departure from the team. None of this is good news for Hamilton who left McLaren to get away from the “drama”. I expect 2013 to be a very interesting season for Mercedes and we’ll all be following them closely.

Photos courtesy of Mercedes.

Done Deal: Hamilton To Mercedes, Perez To McLaren

Disregard my speculative post from a few hours ago. It’s a done deal.

He who laughs last.

McLaren have confirmed that Sauber driver Sergio Perez will be Lewis Hamilton’s replacement in 2013. If that doesn’t say Vettel to Ferrari in 2014, I don’t know what does.

Lewis Hamilton is on his way to Brackley with an official announcement expected today. The question of Schumacher’s future in Formula 1 still remains. The consensus is that he will be forced to retire at the end of this season.

I still can’t believe it.

The 2012 Mercedes W03

With just 4 weeks to go until the Australian Grand Prix, Mercedes revealed their 2012 contender. The W03 made its debut yesterday at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain. It sports many of the same changes we’ve been seeing with the rest of the grid, including everyone’s favorite step-nose.

Mercedes Team Principle Ross Brawn says the step-nose is a result of a compromise, which allows the teams to continue using their 2011 chassis.

The improved downward airflow is fed underneath the car and into its side pods.

The lack of exhaust blown diffusers, has produced a less cluttered rear end, with improved airflow.

Brawn’s goal for 2012 are victories for both of his drivers, who were unable to do so last season. I’ve always been curious to see what Michael Schumacher could do for Mercedes in a better car. This could be a definitive season for both the former World Champion and his teammate Nico Rosberg.

Photos courtesy of Daimler & Jamey Price.