1. Will British GP winner Webber’s insubordination cost him?
2. Bad weekend for Marko as even Canadian Morad sticks it to him
3. Martin, Montoya feud highlight of dull NASCAR race; Szoke unbeatable on two wheels
There are so many areas of discussion surrounding yesterday’s British Grand Prix, which was won by Mark Webber for Red Bull, with Lewis Hamilton second in a McLaren and Nico Rosberg third for Mercedes, that it’s hard to know where to start.
While Webber won in dominant fashion, which was good for him and good for the team (on the surface), in reality he had his middle finger raised in the direction of his employer for most of the weekend.
His sarcasm immediately after the race (when he said to team principal Christian Horner via the radio: "Not bad for a No. 2 driver") and his flippant reference to teammate Sebastien Vettel during the post-race press conference (in which he referred to him as "the other car") can’t help but result in a repercussion of some kind.
Although it was absolutely great stuff and wonderful theatre, Webber is an employee under contract to that racing team and he is treading on dangerous ground by rubbing their noses in it, which he clearly did for much of the weekend.
It’s one thing to be angry. It’s another to publicly challenge the authority of the people who make the decisions, whether or not they are right or wrong. This is true whether it be car racing or any other form of employment. We are all servants to our masters.
I don’t blame Webber for being furious during qualifying on Saturday when a new and improved front wing was removed from his car and attached to Vettel’s after the one on the young German’s car was damaged.
Red Bull only had two of the new wings, so when Vettel’s was damaged they opted to give the one remaining good one, which was on Webber’s car, to him. Their explanation was simple: Vettel was ahead of Webber in the championship (at that time) and they decided to give the best equipment to him under the circumstances.
There were other reasons, of course, but Horner chose not to amplify his explanation (although he did say much later, more to cool the media anger than anything internal, that every effort would be made to smooth things over . . .).
What went unsaid by Horner, however, is that Webber is 33 and Vettel is 23. Although both are signed through 2011, Vettel is clearly the driver Red Bull expects to lead them to the promised land for years to come.
Oh, and there’s also a cultural connection between Vettel, team owner Dietrich Mateschitz and the real power behind the throne at that team, Helmut Marko, who is officially the director of driver development for Red Bull but unofficially the guy who sets policy and decides who stays in the program and who goes.
If anyone’s the outsider, it’s Webber. The aftermath of the Turkish Grand Prix illustrates that perfectly. You’ll recall that Vettel drove into the side of Webber, causing an accident (and of that, there is no doubt) but Marko blamed Webber anyway.
And now we have this.
There is supposed to be a team meeting today (Monday). Will Webber be reamed out and maybe even fined? Or will Red Bull just let it go and then quietly focus most of their attention on Vettel from here on in, essentially relegating the Australian to secondary status.
Webber did his job by winning the race but he embarrassed his team all weekend.
So something’s going to happen. You can make book on it. What shape the punishment takes, however, will be the interesting part.
British GP Notebook Jottings:
– I know Grand Prix drivers are multi-gazillionaires, with enough money to pay people to do virtually everything for them. But can’t they wipe off their own helmet visors?
– Who slipped Fernando Alonso the Valium? For the second race in a row, he got screwed – this time by the stewards instead of the safety car and yet, post-race, he was so calm and under control it was almost scary.
Alonso passed Robert Kubica by going off-track. There will be those who will argue that he should have let Kubica back in front of him immediately but others would argue that since he was forced off the track by the Polish driver, whether or not to cede back the position would be a decision best left to the stewards.
Before anybody could decide anything, Kubica dropped out of the race. Which meant that the car Alonso would have had to let past wasn’t around.
The stewards, in their wisdom (and under the guidance this race of Nigel Mansell), assessed Alonso a drive-through, which was a very serious penalty for a not-very-serious offence (if it was even that).
If I’d been him, I would have been screaming. But the Spaniard was calm, cool and collected later.
"The stewards . . . always make the decision they think is the right one," he said, adding: "(the penalty) is always fair."
(Oops . . . the penny just dropped. Few in Spain would probably give a hoot about what happened to Alonso because Spain was playing for the World Cup, which it won. So why waste a quality outburst when nobody back home would be paying attention.? That Alonso’s a smart guy . . .)
– Defending World Champion Jenson Button continues his very impressive season. He suffered through a rotten qualifying session on Saturday and started yesterday’s race in 14th place. He then drove strongly and methodically and finished fourth. He sits second in the championship behind his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. He is very much in the hunt.
Vettel also impressed, after he stopped sulking. He started from pole but was outfoxed into the first corner by Webber, who also pushed him right off the track. However, at some point he’d touched (or been touched by) Hamilton and suffered a puncture which – once fixed – had him running at the tail end of the field.
His heart clearly wasn’t in it and he was nearly lapped by his teammate. (Horner was smart enough to call Webber in for his mandatory tire stop before that happened or else it could have been Red Bull Collisionville all over again.)
In any event, there was a safety car period (to clean up debris) and that closed up the field. Vettel saw that he had a chance at points and delivered, eventually finishing seventh.
– Sir Frank Williams announced at the weekend that he’s started what will likely be a gradual retirement from the sport by relinquishing his role as chairman of AT&T Williams. He’ll continue as team principal but has bowed out of the day-to-day running of the team. Of the "old gang of F1" – Williams, Ron Dennis, Eddie Jordan and Bernie Ecclestone – Bernie’s the only one still at the top of his game.
– The official name of yesterday’s race was the Santander Grand Prix of Great Britain. Now, I know globalization has changed everything but did the British Grand Prix really have to have a Spanish bank as its title sponsor? Was there not a British company or institution willing to step up?
– Martin Brundle. Anybody who reads my stuff regularly knows I’m not a fan. He was a little inconsistent on several occasions yesterday, notably concerning Alonso’s pass of Kubica. But what really irked me was his obvious joy over Vettel’s difficulties.
The Second World War’s been over for 65 years, Martin. Move on.
Markham’s Daniel Morad wins GP3 race
When I wrote the headline above that says, "Bad weekend for Marko as even Canadian Morad sticks it to him," this is what I meant.
Red Bull power broker Helmut Marko doesn’t like Mark Webber and, in addition to saying the Australian was at fault in the coming-together with Vettel at Turkey, has stated publicly that Webber should be replaced for the 2012 season, if not sooner.
So when Webber, despite all the difficulties facing him, won the British GP yesterday, it must have been a real slap in the face for Marko.
Then, to add insult to injury, a young Canadian driver from Markham that Marko told to get lost three years ago went out and won a major support race at Silverstone.
Daniel Morad grabbed the lead for the GP3 Series race at the start and was never headed. He went on to record his first win in that class. Teammate Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto finished fifth.
In 2006, Wickens won the Formula BMW Americas championship and, under the direction of Marko, became a Red Bull-sponsored driver. In 2007, Morad won that title and fully expected to join Wickens at Red Bull but was rebuffed outright.
Morad told me that Marko never explained why he didn’t want him. My reply to Morad was this: "He didn’t want two Canadians. You two (Morad and Wickens) might be the two best young guys in the world right now but you’re both from this side of the Atlantic and that won’t work politically in Europe."
So Morad has been quietly beavering away to prove Marko wrong. He made his point, complete with a giant explanation mark, yesterday.
Good for you, Daniel. I trust that win will be the first of many.
Montoya, Martin feud enlivens dull NASCAR race.
I tried on several occasions to watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup race from Chicagoland Saturday night but after 10 or 15 minutes of watching cars going round and round and round and not much of anything happening (the announcers were so bored themselves that they started talkin’ trivia – "how many points can a driver earn in a race, Kyle?") I kept switching to the last half of "Days of Wine and Roses," on TVO, which is a very good, but ultimately depressing, movie.
So, all in all, it was a less-than-lively time at my house on Saturday night.
You know, if you go to a storied speedway like Darlington (I haven’t but I’ve talked to people who have), the history of the place is going to keep you interested in the race. Maybe Daytona or Indy or Martinsville can do that, but not many others.
Why? Because the speedways are all the same now, just like the cars really are all the same, and just about all the drivers are the same. Even the big wrecks aren’t exciting anymore because they’re like a big pinball machine and everybody walks away and there are never any repercussions.
The racing has become predictable and boring and it’s no wonder International Speedway Corporation’s revenue stream is off about 20 per cent (never mind the TV ratings, which are also still falling).
So when a couple of veteran guys get into it after a little dust-up near the end of the event, it’s enough to perk you up to take notice.
For the record, Buzzie Reutimann’s kid David won the LifeLock.com 400, with Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray following. NASCAR Sprint Cup now has a two-week break before the Brickyard 400 on July 25th.
Just before the end of the race, Martin passed Montoya for 15th and the ex-F1 and Indy car pilot didn’t like it. According to Martin, Montoya told him he needed driving lessons.
Perhaps Montoya wasn’t talking about the on-track stuff, because after the checkered flag fell, Martin drove into the garage area and parked his car in front of Montoya’s hauler. That’s when the exchange of words took place.
Neither one of those guys has even come close to winning this year. Maybe that’s what’s got them frustrated.
Jordan Szoke of Brantford is continuing his wonderful season of motorcycle racing. He swept the two races at Mosport this weekend in the Parts Canada Superbike Championship and is now closing in on his seventh (count ‘em seven) national championship. He’s aiming for a perfect season when the Superbike season concludes at Atlantic Motorsport Park near Halifax the weekend of Aug. 5-8. Szoke also won both the weekend’s Pro Sport Bike races. . . Austin Dillon won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway yesterday. He led 187 of the 200 laps. He was driving the Richard Childress Racing black No. 3 truck, which was Dale Earnhardt's old number and colour scheme. Last weekend, Dale Jr. drove the No. 3 to victory in the Nationwide race. How long do you think they're going to keep up this nonsense? He's dead, folks. Move on . . . On Friday night at Chicagoland, Kyle Busch won the Nationwide Series race, with Joey Logano second and rookie Brian Scott third. Danica Patrick started 28th and finished 24th, which was her best finish to date. . . . Chris Jones of Demorestville won the Southern Ontario Sprints feature at Brighton Speedway on Saturday night. It was Jones’s first win in that travelling series . . . The American Le Mans Series was at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City in Utah yesterday. David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud were the overall winners and, natch, first in the Prototype class. Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut won the Prototype Challenge class and finished fifth overall. Gianmaria Bruni and Jaime Melo drove a Ferrari 430 to victory in the GT class (they were ninth overall) and Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen were first in the GT Challenge class in a Porsche 911 and 21st overall. Canadian content: Tony Burgess of Toronto and Bryan Willman were 18th overall and fifth in the Prototype class while Kyle Marcelli of Barrie and his partner, Brian Wong, finished 33rd overall and fifth in class in Prototype Challenge. Is it just me, or has that series lost its mojo?
AND FINALLY . . .
The Izod IndyCar Series will announce on Wednesday its chassis specifications for 2012 and beyond. A number of manufacturers have submitted proposals (see my story on them all here).
The league has already announced it will open up the series to more engine manufacturers in 2012 (all cars are currently powered by Honda engines) and I really hope it announces on Wednesday that as many manufacturers as want to are welcome to build cars for the series.
And, although the guidelines should state that the Indy car of 2012 onward will be an open wheel, open cockpit creation not to exceed certain length, width and height limits, the sky should be the limit.
There is little or no innovation in racing anymore and it's this control that's killing the sport. Let imaginations run wild, I say.