Formula One is an ultra-competitive sport; there is competition between designers, engineers, strategists and teams let alone the drivers. The sport thus draws in winners and it is impossible to find anyone in the paddock who is happy to accept second best.
Mark Webber has embodied this concept far more than he would like. At the British Grand Prix last year, he taunted the press and his team who had designated him the “number two driver” having beaten his younger team-mate Sebastian Vettel. One year later and the revamped Silverstone circuit yet again witnessed tension between Mark and his Red Bull Racing team.
Webber was catching Vettel during the final stages of the Grand Prix…
Webber was catching Vettel during the final stages of the Grand Prix but ignored repeated team orders to “maintain the gap” to allow his team-mate to extend his lead in the championship. While Vettel retained his second position and team orders are acceptable in the 2011 season, this evidently generated friction between Mark’s competitive streak and the interests of his team.
This event must also be viewed within the context of discussion of driver’s contracts for next year. Webber appeared calmly magnanimous in his acceptance of the team’s interests and is downplaying the incident. Dietrich Mateschitz, the team owner, described talks as “positive” and Christian Horner, Team Principal, has argued against the possibility of signing McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton to race alongside Vettel.
…Red Bull have offered the best car this season…
From Mark’s perspective, Red Bull have offered the best car this season in which he currently sits second in the driver’s championship. The 34 year old Australian is unlikely to be offered a place at another top team and while he could race as a primary driver for a team further down the grid that would hurt his competitive pride even more.
Mark has therefore balanced competition with a pragmatic maturity; he has been comprehensively beaten by Vettel but appears likely to swallow his pride and sign with Red Bull in order to retain a competitive edge over the rest of the field. He is a cool and popular character but has sent another warning to Vettel and Red Bull that he still has all of the competitive edge of a winner.
Image courtesy of Mark Webber