Former Red Bull driver David Coulthard (DC)—now a BBC F1 commentator—has offered his view of the Japanese Grand Prix strategy employed by the team. Coulthard doesn’t believe there is a conspiracy to thwart Mark Webber’s certain victory in Japan saying:
“Do I think that Red Bull would deliberately compromise Mark’s strategy to allow Sebastian to win? No, I don’t.”
The reasoning behind Coulthard’s thinking is really down to the unknown. The call was made on lap 11 and according to DC, the team couldn’t have known, with certainty, that Vettel would manage to pass Gosjean:
“At the point the strategy was being made, Vettel was still behind Grosjean, so there was no guarantee he could win.
I don’t think on lap 11 – when Webber was called for his first stop – the team could make a decision with any certainty that Vettel would be able to catch and pass Grosjean.”
He also feels that if there were some sort of grand conspiracy to ruin his race, the usually outspoken Webber would have said something:
“Why would he hide anything with four races of his F1 career to go if that was the case?
I don’t think he would be holding back if he had anything to say, and if anything, given the strained relationship he has had with Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko, it would almost be a parting gift.”
Perhaps DC is right and the truth is simply something many fans don’t want to hear…Vettel is just faster and more consistent than Webber. To illuminate that point, DC takes aim at his own career and performances when he was at McLaren with dual-champion Mika Hakkinen:
“The question marks over the strategy are a nice news story for those who want to stir the pot, but Mark is on the floor. He has done four re-matches with Sebastian in the same car and each time he has come up short.
It’s a bit like when I was at McLaren. I don’t believe I was ever given a lesser opportunity machinery-wise than Mika Hakkinen, but it was difficult for me to acknowledge until we weren’t team-mates any more that he was simply quicker.”
I argued the case as well on our Japanese Grand Prix review podcast here. The fact is, teams may have played tactical games in the past to orchestrate the results of a race. That much is clear but have teams purposefully scuttled, impeded, hampered and created poor performing cars in order to stop one of their drivers from potentially winning a race? If they have, it would be a rare case.
If they had, wouldn’t we be reading comments from former team mechanics about how they put wrong wings on a car or adjusted wing setting to slow the car down or the actions they took to prevent a car from going as quick as possible? It would be a huge conspiracy and one that I believe would have been revealed through tell-all books and the press by now.
If Webber thought he could cruise to victory by running in second place behind a flying Romain Grosjean and never need to pass anyone, he underestimated Grosjean and Vettel’s pace. He was going to have to pass someone and he eventually did but it took seven laps to pass Grosjean and that was too long.
In the end, DC feels it is a simple case of Sebastian Vettel being lighter and more capable of making the 2013 Pirelli tires last longer.
“You can always argue it any way you want to suit the defense, but Mark is a bit heavier and sometimes hasn’t been able to get the weight distribution just so. Seb just makes the tyres last longer. Those are the facts.”
Are those the facts? Or are those the views of a Red Bull ambassador?