David Coulthard braces himself for a backlash as he claims Red Bull were right to tell Mark Webber not to overtake Sebastian Vettel at the British Grand Prix.
Regular readers of this column will know my views on team orders. They are pretty simple and essentially boil down to two points: 1) yes, they should be legal because you can’t stop teams imposing them; and 2) that being the case, it is just a question of when it becomes reasonable to do so.
I felt that with a lap or two to go in the British Grand Prix – effectively the Milton Keynes-based team’s home race – and with only three points at stake in a battle between second and third, that was a reasonable moment to do so. I also felt Ferrari were right to impose them on Felipe Massa at Hockenheim last summer, with the Brazilian basically out of title contention.
'At the end of the day, the team come first'
The trouble is, Formula One is too much of a business to be a sport and too much of a sport to be a business. You cannot expect teams who have sponsorship contracts worth millions to risk throwing away valuable points at that late stage of the race.
I also believe Red Bull would have imposed team orders on Sebastian Vettel had the positions been reversed. And no, I’m not just saying that because of my connection to their parent company.
I can understand the disappointment felt by fans who forked out hundreds of pounds on tickets to see a dramatic finale – which, incidentally, they got with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, two drivers on opposing teams – but, at the end of the day, the team come first.
The other issue here is Mark’s reaction. He said he ignored the orders and raced to the end, but I think he backed off. I can understand his frustration; Mark is a fighter and is scrapping to stay in championship contention. It would be far more of a worry were he not upset.
I do not think for a moment that it will affect his ongoing contract negotiations at Red Bull. Owner Dietrich Mateschitz wants a fighter; he wants two guys battling hard for wins. He does not want a pussycat. Mark is certainly not that. It was important to him that his fans knew he was not happy about what happened. But he will not let it affect him.
All things considered, it was a fantastic British Grand Prix; a brilliant, exciting race played out to packed grandstands. It was a shame from a British perspective that McLaren made those errors, but I think the pressure team principal Martin Whitmarsh is coming under is unfair. He does not decide how much fuel goes in a car. Nor does he change the wheelnuts during pitstops.
'That Ferrari appear to be competitive again is great news'
You could question his appointment of the people who do so, but Red Bull were among many teams to make pitstop errors on Sunday. These things happen.
McLaren are second in the championship and until Sunday were the only team to have denied Red Bull the win. Now, Ferrari have done so, too. That the Italian team appear to be competitive again is great news for everyone. I don’t think Ferrari’s performance was simply down to the one-off regulations at Silverstone where the off-throttle blown diffusers, used to generate downforce, were banned.
Fernando Alonso is a ruthless competitor and it will be interesting to see if he can get on a run. One thing is for sure, he will have Ferrari fully behind him, if you know what I mean….
- British Grand Prix race report
- Driver quotes from Silverstone
- More from DC at davidcoulthard.co.uk
- Official Formula One website at formula1.com