The high profile and dramatic collision between the Red Bull Racing drivers, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, not only cost them the Turkish GP but could potentially end up being the turning point of the 2010 season.
All Formula One championships have that one major turning point which many agree was the pivotal moment which swung the championship one way or the other.
If you look back to last season it was the British GP when the season completely changed. We saw an end to Brawn GP’s total dominance, and Red Bull began to make a fight for the championship, but ultimately lost in the end.
In 2008 many regard Nelson Piquet Jr’s deliberate crash in Singapore, which led to the events that cost Felipe Massa race victory, as the turning point. Massa would have been champion if he had won that race.
Then there was 2007 at Hungary when civil war broke out fully at McLaren when Fernando Alonso blocked Lewis Hamilton in the pits and Alonso supposedly blackmailed Ron Dennis over the spygate affair. McLaren never recovered from the repercussions of that weekend.
It lost them both championships to Ferrari. This is a feat which Red Bull has to avoid now. Although when there is a big disagreement within the team it’s so easy for things to spiral out of control as we saw in 2007.
If the Red Bulls hadn’t crashed into each other it’s likely that the positions at the front wouldn’t have changed. The McLarens had more straight line speed thanks to their superior Mercedes power and F-duct but couldn’t get close enough to comfortably overtake the Red Bulls.
If the positions on lap 39 at the front (the lap before you know what happened) had remained the same this is how the constructor’s championship would have looked:
Red Bull – 199
McLaren Mercedes – 156
Ferrari – 148
As you can see if Red Bull had held on to their one-two position they would have extended their lead in the constructor’s championship. Not only that, but their lead would be looking pretty handy too.
However, thanks to those few seconds of pure madness the complexion of the 2010 championship has completely changed:
McLaren/Mercedes – 172
Red Bull – 171
Ferrari – 146
Instead of Red Bull comfortably leading the championship by 43 points, they are now trailing McLaren by a single point. So that is effectively a 44 point swing in McLaren’s favour due to the Red Bulls going on a collision course. At the end of the season that 44 point swing could make all the difference as to which garage has an end of season party in Abu Dhabi.
Furthermore, Red Bull have now lost their momentum, which had been gathering alarming pace in Spain and Monaco. Instead, they have now gifted that momentum straight to the McLaren boys.
This result has now given McLaren a huge unexpected boast, which they will thrive on in the next two races in Canada and Valencia. McLaren have also taken confidence from the fact that Red Bull’s civil war could help them in the championship.
Jenson Button told British newspapers, “When you disagree with someone like that and have a coming together, you might take your eye off the ball a bit and you might think the most important person to beat is your teammate,”
Button added, “That could really hurt your performance. But they might be fine when they get to Canada. I hope not.”
McLaren will also be very pleased with their pace in the Turkish GP. If you exclude turn eight, where the Red Bulls were superior, McLaren had the faster car.
Canada and Valencia should suit McLaren even more with longer straights, and less fast corners where the Red Bulls can stretch their legs. This is why Red Bull really needed to win the Turkish GP, and why losing it in the way they did will be even more galling.
All of a sudden from what should have been a strong position, Red Bull could find themselves playing catch-up to McLaren. Had Red Bull sealed their one-two finish, it would have just been a case of defending their lead on their upcoming weaker tracks.
Now they are playing damage limitations to try and stop McLaren from extending their lead at the next two races. All of a sudden the philosophy has changed completely.
There is also the question of how the tension and damaged morale from Turkey will effect the team’s on-track performance. This is in complete contrast to the jubilant mood and high morale the team would have taken to Canada, had they won those 43 points on Sunday.
The incident could also prove a major turning point in the drivers’ championship. Imagine if Webber had left more room and Vettel had been able to make the move stick, and the Red Bulls had finished in that order.
The points positions between the Red Bull drivers would look like this:
1. Sebastien Vettel 103
2. Mark Webber 96
Instead the situation now looks like this:
1. Mark Webber 93
5. Sebastien Vettel 78
This results in a 22 points swing in the Aussie’s favour (albeit with the McLaren drivers closing on him). However, it’s not just the points and championship positions that matter but also the psychology involved.
Had Webber been softer in his defense and let Vettel through, the psychological advantage would have shifted to Sebastien. Vettel would have left Istanbul flying high and full of confidence heading to Montreal. The immense amount of pressure that was on Vettel’s young shoulders coming into the event would have now been lifted. Vettel would have been looking very good for the championship with more wins probably following.
Webber’s hard defense on Vettel may not have endeared him to the higher hierarchy of Red Bull, but in terms of his credentials of winning the championship, he’s just ticked one of the crucial boxes on the list.
If Webber had resisted and just let Vettel through he may as well have just said to Christian Horner, “Alright mate I will be Sebastien’s No. 2.” Instead he held his ground.
Webber’s previous team mate David Coulthard, was asked by McLaren and, allowed Mika Hakkinen to overtake him to win on two consecutive occasions. The first time was in Jerez 97. At that time Hakkinen had never won in Formula One.
The fact that Coulthard allowed Mika through to win allowed him to get the monkey off his back, and from that moment he stepped up to a completely new level. He went on to win the next two championships.
For DC this was very damaging for his career as this allowed Mika Hakkinen to assume the No. 1 status, which Coulthard was then never able to change back. Had Coulthard denied Hakkinen race victory David’s career could have turned out much differently.
Webber has now effectively told his team that he will never settle for being Vettel’s number two. He has now also increased the amount of pressure on his young team mate even further.
Vettel could well be very tentative next time he starts behind Webber on the grid, and knows the only way to win will be to have to pass him. He will be very wary of a repeat incident.
One wonders if this will make Vettel push harder in qualifying, making himself more likely to hit the wall in Montreal. It’s certainly a possibility.
Webber has now made himself very difficult for Vettel to beat, who now has a massive challenge on his hands to beat his teammate.
In conclusion Red Bull have been the class act when it comes to their car in 2010. On the other hand their self-destruct button is starting to show signs of heavy wear. However in Istanbul it may have just taken a whack too far.
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