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Red Bull facing a civil war

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel collide at the Turkish GP

Vettel and Webber's catastrophic collision

BBC F1 analyst Martin Brundle
By Martin Brundle
BBC F1 analyst

I have said several times this season that the only team who appear to be able to beat Red Bull are themselves.

From seven straight pole positions they could and should have won every race but only have three victories on the scoreboard.

Their car is immensely fast, if a little fragile, and there have been a few glitches in strategy calls and pit-stop procedures.

But now they have a far bigger problem after the Turkish Grand Prix and a redesign or pit-stop practice can't easily fix this one.

A dominant car combined with two world-class drivers at the top of their form will always generate friction, and sometimes even contact, as we have seen with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at McLaren and Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams in the past.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel

Vettel unhappy after race-ending collision

It was the pace of the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button which took away Red Bull's comfort zone and applied the pressure which broke them.

One trigger for the problems is that the teams are starting races this year knowing that at some point they must save fuel to get to the finish.

It sounds crazy but it costs a 10th of a second a lap to carry a lap's worth of fuel. In the 58-lap Turkish Grand Prix, that is equivalent to 5.8 seconds.

When we saw the two Red Bulls and the two McLarens all circulating within a total of 2.2 seconds after 40 laps yesterday you can see the relevance.

So the teams under-fill their cars as much as they dare so they are as fast as possible in the crucial early part of the race leading up to the pit stops, knowing they can back the engines off to save fuel when they have secured their track position later on.

Apparently, Mark Webber was in fuel-saving mode when Sebastian Vettel started to close.

Red Bull can't claim to treat both drivers equally and then favour one because the whole situation will implode between both sides of the garage

Vettel was in second place because Red Bull had outsmarted McLaren on pit-stop strategy; Hamilton and Button were in the best grandstand seats driving in the heat haze and exhaust gases of the charging Red Bulls.

Suddenly, Vettel was close out of Turn 10 and into the slipstream of his team-mate heading at 200mph towards the obvious overtaking point of the 60mph Turn 12 hairpin.

Webber instinctively defended and left an F1 car-sized gap at the side of the road on the dirty, unused part of the track. Vettel chose to take it and moved alongside and then slightly ahead.

At this point the German either realised he would never stop in time, or he wanted to muscle and intimidate Webber across the road to ensure a better line into the hairpin.

It was a deliberate move of the wheel from Vettel, not a slide under braking.

Red Bull's Christian Horner

Horner implies Webber was to blame for crash

Unsurprisingly, Webber never moved, contact was made, Vettel was out of the race and Webber's car was damaged.

Such was the dominance of the four cars, he was able to pit for repairs and still have seven seconds in hand over Michael Schumacher's fourth-placed Mercedes, a gap he quickly stretched to more than 20 seconds.

McLaren were partly gifted a one-two but that's a little unfair because their pace was such that they pressured Red Bull into this scenario.

I spoke with Christian Horner and Helmut Marko of Red Bull immediately after the race.

They asked how I called it on TV and I told them I said it was 100% Vettel's fault for swerving into Webber.

They clearly disagreed and said that Webber should never have been squeezing his team-mate onto the dirty part of the race track when as a team they needed to be defending against the ever-present McLarens.

Red Bull's Mark Webber

Webber explains Vettel incident

There's some substance to that argument but the bottom line is that Vettel turning right into the side of Webber's car was not the right answer. He so nearly wiped him out for a second time in the run-off area at the hairpin, too.

The team can't expect Webber to score three consecutive dominant pole positions and wipe the floor with all comers, including his team-mate, in the previous two races in Spain and Monaco and then suddenly turn all passive the first time Vettel makes a move on him.

If Webber had lifted or moved over he may as well have just handed the world championship trophy to his team-mate and headed back to Australia.

He had to stand his ground. And, remember, these decisions are taken in a split second at 200mph, not in the rational aftermath with the benefit of data and video.

David Coulthard never fully recovered psychologically from being forced by McLaren to move over for Mika Hakkinen in Jerez 1997 and Melbourne 1998 - and nor did his reputation.

The problem Red Bull have is that it seems clear they favour their protégé Vettel to take the title over Webber, who is 11 years older.

They can't claim to treat both drivers equally and then apparently favour one because the whole situation will implode between the two sides of the garage.

ANDREW BENSON'S BLOG

Red Bull have assembled a tremendous group of people who have demonstrated the experience, dedication, and competitive energy to rise up and match the finest teams such as Ferrari and McLaren, who have decades of history and experience.

They have worked together to fight the enemy but now they face a civil war just when they are on the cusp of victory.

This is a delicate moment and absolute honesty and clarity behind closed doors is the only solution.

They must channel the competitive energy of the drivers and their support crew on each side of the garage into positive results for the team with clear ground rules. And then stick by them.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Red Bull driver Mark Webber.

Turkish GP - Top three drivers

Vettel does not need to be regarded as world champion, should it happen, only because Webber was held back. He only needs to study his more illustrious fellow German, Schumacher, to see how that can affect your ultimate reputation.

Although Hamilton and Button were half a metre away from doing the same thing later in the race, Red Bull can take a leaf out of McLaren's book, who have been here several times before.

I asked their team principal Martin Whitmarsh, tongue in cheek, at which point did they tell Button to pass Hamilton. His raised eyebrows and facial expression told me everything I needed to know.

I read it that Hamilton moved into fuel-saving mode as instructed, having also been told that Button was in the same situation. So when Button cruised past him it was an instant reaction to nail him straight back.

As Button squeezed Hamilton towards the pit wall the dust and discarded carbon-fibre was visibly being kicked up, we were all thinking: "How is Hamilton going to slow down enough with dirty tyres from an impossibly tight angle into the blind Turn One?"

Obviously Button was thinking the same and left him some space, otherwise Webber was about to inherit the lead once more.

I doubt that trip across the Atlantic for the next round in Montreal will extinguish these fireworks.



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see also
Red Bull drivers play blame game
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull clash hands Hamilton win
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
McLaren will improve - Hamilton
30 May 10 |  Formula 1
Turkish GP in 90 seconds
31 May 10 |  Motorsport
Hamilton pleased to win eventful race
30 May 10 |  Formula 1


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