The Red Bull’s Legend – Sebastian Vettel

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull currently have four constructors titles and four drivers titles, those four titles are all courtesy of one driver, Sebastian Vettel. The German’s relationship with the team begun in 1998 at the age of 11, when he signed to their junior team. His success in the junior formulae acted as a precursor to his career at the top table as he won the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2001.

He then went on to win the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship, with a whopping 18 wins from 20 victories. This opened up his door to F1 as he was rewarded with a test in the Williams FW27. While he was winning these cups in the junior categories, in Formula One another German was taking all the plaudits. As Vettel won 18 from 20 races in 2004, Michael Schumacher was taking his seventh world championship in his most dominant season. He took 13 wins from 18 races and took his final championship win.

Vettel begun testing for the BMW Sauber Formula One team in 2006, while participating in the F3 Euroseries, coming second to Paul Di Resta. 2007 saw him get his big break, while racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Following Robert Kubica’s horror smash at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel was called up to replace him for the US Grand Prix. He qualified seventh and finished eighth, taking his first point and becoming the youngest point scorer in history, aged 19 years and 349 days.

BMW released Vettel so that he could join the Scuderia Toro Rosso team for the remainder of the 2007 season, replacing Scott Speed. This is where his journey to Red Bull stardom began. Following a few impressive results, his big break came at the Italian Grand Prix in 2008. He qualified on pole in horrendous conditions, becoming the youngest polesitter, which he then masterfully translated into his and Toro Rosso’s first win. He broke Fernando Alonso’s record set at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix of youngest winner.

For 2009, Red Bull promoted Vettel to their team alongside Mark Webber, and the rest, as they say, is history. He took Red Bull’s first win at the Chinese Grand Prix, with team mate Mark Webber in second. He took four wins that season and finished second in the championship to Jenson Button in the dominant Brawn.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

2010 however, was an interesting year for the team, at the Turkish Grand Prix, while challenging Webber for the lead, the pair collided, putting Vettel out of the race, and the relationship turned sour from that moment on. Both were fighting for the championship come the end of the season, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso joining them, in a winner takes all clash at Abu Dhabi. He took pole and won the race, taking his first championship, following in the footsteps of John Surtees in 1964 and James Hunt in 1976 in not leading the championship at any point during the season.

2011 was another story, he was dominant, taking 11 wins from 19 races, showing his driving prowess and the newly found power of Red Bull in Formula One. The Austrian team had beaten the heavyweights of McLaren and Ferrari in becoming the top team in the sport. Vettel was quickly becoming known as one of the best drivers in the sport, taking record after record. 2012 saw him take his third consecutive title, emulating Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher in the process.

He was in a battle with Fernando Alonso, again, and it went down to the final race in Brazil. After a first lap collision, Vettel was at the back of the grid, he battled back through the grid, taking sixth, while Alonso finished second, meaning there was nothing Alonso could do. A rather symbolic moment from the race however was Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher moving over for Vettel to take sixth place in Schumacher’s final race. It was almost like there was a changing of the guard between the two.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

2013 saw Vettel take an impressive fourth title, not without its hairy moments, with the now infamous multi-21 incident in Malaysia. Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber, taking the win, the Australian was incandescent. Their relationship was already fragile following the incident in 2010, and this was the final straw, with Webber believing the team was against him, he decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season.

He was booed at some races and Vettel revealed it did have a negative impact on him, though it was widely condemned by many drivers. It didn’t appear to faze him too much as he ended the season with 13 wins from 19 races, including nine consecutive wins at the end of the season.

2014 was the beginning of the end for Red Bull and Vettel, with the rules being changed, Mercedes became the dominant force, with Vettel being overshadowed by new team mate Daniel Ricciardo. In Japan it was confirmed that Vettel would join Ferrari, ending a 16 year association with Red Bull. A German at Ferrari, sound familiar?

Vettel is currently fighting for the title with Lewis Hamilton, but it’s clear that without Red Bull, Vettel’s career could have been so different.

Multi 21: The Battle of the Bulls

Team orders are a topic that often divides fans of Formula One. They are a critical, but at times, unwelcome part of motorsport. Throughout the years, the conflict of whether team orders should be implemented to manipulate results has come to the forefront on a number of occasions.

Arguably, the most famous case of team orders was in 2002 when Ferrari’s Rubens Barrichello gifted the race win to his teammate Michael Schumacher in Austria. It was a decision that caused outcry throughout the paddock and the racing world. Schumacher was dominating proceedings and his closest competitor was 21 points behind, making Ferrari’s decision seem a pointless one. After the 2002 season ended, the FIA announced that orders that influenced a race result would be banned.

In 2010, despite the ban still been in place, Ferrari once more showed their blatant disregard for the rules at the German Grand Prix. “Fernando is faster than you.” uttered by Felipe Massa’s race engineer, Rob Smedley, is now a phrase that has found it’s place in Formula One history. Massa proceeded to allow his teammate and title contender Fernando Alonso through to clinch the win. However, after the race, Ferrari were reprimanded with a $100,000 fine. It was shortly after this incident that the ban on team orders were lifted.

The relaxation of the ban brought about a situation that would be discussed several years later, that would be ingrained into the history of Formula One. The year was 2013. The previous three seasons had been dominated by a new force. Red Bull had claimed the crown of the constructor’s championship and the driver’s championship for the third consecutive time and this season, the aim was no different. They wanted to continue to build on the success they had forged with the dynamic partnership of three time world champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Things however, were not rosy within Red Bull. Over the past three years, it was clear that Red Bull seemed to favour Vettel, leading to quips from Webber such as “Not bad for a number two driver.” at the 2010 British Grand Prix. However, Webber continued to perform admirably, often securing podium finishes to cement Red Bull’s standing at the top of the driver’s championship.

The opening race of the 2013 season had not gone to plan for the Austrian based team. Their lead driver Sebastian Vettel had taken pole but thanks to a mistimed pit stop, had to settle for third behind Räikkönen and Alonso. Webber had less luck, struggling with a ECU problem which dropped him to a lowly sixth position. It was not the start that Red Bull had envisioned.

Things had to change in Malaysia. They did, but not in the way they had hoped. Vettel claimed a dominant pole but gambled with dry weather tyres early in the race, falling back several positions on the still-wet track. Webber on the other hand, took over the lead of the race and held the position until the last set of pit stops as Vettel carved his way back through the field. However, as lap 44 began and Webber emerged ahead of Vettel in his final pit stop, the delicate harmony that had existed between the two Red Bull teammates would once more be shattered.

Red Bull had opted to retain their current 1-2 status. They did not want a repeat of the events that unfolded at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix. The situation had been identical. Webber had fended off a chasing Vettel until fuel saving had left him open to attack. Vettel had dived down the inside but the two teammates collided, sending Vettel spinning into the gravel and out of the race. Webber recovered to take third place. Both drivers blamed the other for the crash. Red Bull team advisor Helmut Marko and team principal Christian Horner were livid and for good reason, their driver’s actions had thrown away the perfect team result.

“Multi map 2-1, multi map 2-1.” was the order given to Vettel in Malaysia as he chased down his teammate, hungry for his first win of the season. Red Bull wanted to preserve their driver’s current positions. However, the three time world champion chose to ignore the order, continuing to press Webber.

Horner chose to intervene at that moment, seeing Vettel on the gearbox of the sister car. He told Vettel to give Webber space and to hold position. But that order was also ignored by Vettel who pressed forward, pulling alongside Webber. Webber fought back, but it was to no avail. Vettel got ahead of the Australian at turn four, going on to claim another victory and the top spot of the driver’s championship. Webber finished second, but he was furious that Vettel had ignored direct team orders.

Tempers flared in the cool-down room as Webber uttered the infamous words “Yeah, Multi 21, Seb. Multi 21.” reinforcing the team orders that Vettel had disregarded. His anger continued into the press conference as he confirmed that Vettel had made his own decisions but he would probably be afforded protection as the main driver at the Austrian outfit.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Although Vettel apologised at the end of the race, his teammate’s remarks made him withdraw his apology ahead of the next race in China. He claimed that he had not understood the instruction he was given and that Webber did not deserve to win, pointing to the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix as evidence. Vettel had fought back from last to sixth, only for his progress to be hindered by his teammate. Thankfully, for the championship leader, fellow German Michael Schumacher allowed him to pass, clinching the title by a mere three points.  

It wasn’t until 2015 when Webber was finally able to release his book Aussie Grit that further details on the incident were released. Vettel had sent lawyer’s documents to Red Bull, preventing them from reprimanding him further. By this point, however, the dust had settled on the events and they were a distant memory.

Despite this, the Multi 21 situation changed everything. It is still discussed within fans of motorsport, even today. The team were left embarrassed by Vettel’s comments, the gulf between their two drivers was plain to see. The decision to allow team orders in the sport was once again questioned as fans feared that it diluted the excitement of watching drivers duel without any influence. Despite this animosity, Vettel still claimed his fourth consecutive title in dominating fashion that season. However, it came at the cost of losing Webber. In June 2013, the Australian called time on his eleven year Formula One career, declaring that he was moving on to drive for Porsche on their new LMP1 sportscar programme.

Webber has never stated that the Multi 21 situation alone was reason for him to choose to walk away from the successful team. It seems, rather, to be one of a number of catalysts that forced his decision. He no longer wanted to sit back and watch his teammate get the preferential treatment. It turned out to be a decision worth making as Webber would go on to claim the 2015 WEC championship with teammates Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Rivalries between teammates have become part of what makes Formula One great. Two men fighting side by side in the same machinery.  Prost and Senna. Mansell and Piquet. Alonso and Hamilton. Hamilton and Rosberg. These names are forever ingrained in the history of the sport together, as fierce competitors in intense battles. Vettel and Webber are no exception to this. Multi 21 however, exposed the ugly side of being teammates, of favouring one driver over the other blatantly played out in the public eye. Team orders have always been a part of motorsport. They always will be as teams push to claim the result that suits them best. Multi 21 was not the first time team orders were issued and ignored, nor will it be the last. It will still remain as one of the great controversies of the sport for years to come, cementing both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber as fierce competitors during their time together at Red Bull. 

Why Evergreen Kimi Raikkonen Continues to Stay at Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen’s last three years at Ferrari have dominated by rumours over whether the team would dump him in favour of a younger charger.

The Finn’s F1 obituaries have been written plenty of times during his second spell at Maranello as a roster of drivers including Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz and Sergio Perez have their names linked with Ferrari’s second seat.

And yet, every year, the publishing of all those obituaries are postponed again.

Ferrari have always been reluctant to rock the boat with their driver pairings unless a genuine star becomes available.

Since the change of the millennium 17 years ago, the Scuderia have

Despite being well behind teammate Vettel, Raikkonen’s relationship with the German has paid dividends for Ferrari –
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changed their line-up just six times. Raikkonen himself only joined Ferrari at the expiry of a lengthy McLaren contract in 2006.

So it should come as little surprise should Ferrari announce that they will retain the 2007 World Champion as well as Championship leader Sebastian Vettel for 2018.

The dynamic between Raikkonen and Vettel is helpful to Ferrari if somewhat unusual in Formula One.

While Michael Schumacher had a dutiful teammate in Rubens Barrichello during the juggernaut era of 2000-04, the feeling between Raikkonen and team leader Vettel is somewhat more harmonious.

The 37-year-old is not a demonstrative character and while Monaco and Hungary – where Ferrari lined up behind Vettel to deny and denied Raikkonen victories – proved the Iceman’s fire still burns, he is not a man to hold a grudge and this is a characteristic that Ferrari value.

Raikkonen has  played the team role well in 2017 GP GRAN BRETAGNA F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE) – Ferrari Media

Certainly, there would have been more uproar at Mercedes during the tempestuous partnership between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, while the atmosphere is bubbling at Red Bull too.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have shown this season the cost of letting teammate issues fester, losing out in Canada and Azerbaijan.

Raikkonen is also helped by the fact that aside from Fernando Alonso, there is no obvious replacement available for next year. The Prancing Horse will not look at Alonso, even if the Spaniard now regrets moving to McLaren-Honda.

Verstappen is locked in a long-term contract at Red Bull while Ricciardo will also remain there until at least the end of next year, and it will be difficult to convince any of the top brass there to part with either driver early.

It will be similarly difficult to persuade them to release Carlos Sainz either, with the Spaniard likely to remain at Toro Rosso next year despite voicing discontent at recent races.

The driver market for 2018 has also been kind to the Iceman GP UNGHERIA F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE) Ferrari Media

2018 will also come too soon for the highly rated Charles Leclerc, who has impressed in F2 this season. With Ferrari having tight bonds to both Haas and Sauber, the Monegasque driver is likely to be loaned to Sauber next season.

This time last year Perez looked a good option for Ferrari, but his everlasting spat with Ocon and the two’s collective penchant for near misses at Force India will likely have put off Sergio Marchionne and Maurizio Arrivabene. Ex-teammate Nico Hulkenberg, previously linked with Ferrari for 2014, signed a long-term contract with Renault at the end of 2016 and will not leave Enstone soon.

While observers and pundits continue to write about the end for one of Formula One’s unique characters, Raikkonen looks likely to remain at Ferrari for 2018 at least.

With Vettel also rumoured to be casting longing looks at Mercedes, don’t be surprised if Kimi’s ice cream doesn’t melt away beyond then, either.

Mid-Season Report, Who will Rule Formula 1?

It’s this time of the season, where the drivers and the crews are taking their summer break and enjoying some days off with their families and friends.

For the fans, it’s a good point to see how the Formula One teams and drivers performed during the first half of the season. After eleven races Sebastian Vettel is leading in the drivers’ standings (202 pts) followed by the British champion Lewis Hamilton (188 pts), the gap between the two drivers is just 14 points, Mercedes and Ferrari are very close this season, that can be seen from their results and the points that the two teams have collected.

The Silver Arrows are first, on the constructors’ standings, by 39 points. As it seems the title will be a battle of two teams, but what about the drivers?  Will it be decided only between Vettel and Hamilton?

There is one driver who seems able to challenge the two champions, he will try to take advantage of their battle and slowly he will try to claim Formula One’s throne. That driver is Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn is third with 169 points, he is 19 points behind his team-mate and 33 points behind the leader, Sebastian Vettel. Bottas, have finished eight times on the podium and have won two races, his first victory was in Russia and his last one in Austria. It is a great achievement if you consider that it’s his debut season with Mercedes and that he is racing alongside a three-time champion who is fighting for his fourth title.

London, United Kingdom.
Wednesday 12 July 2017.
Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso STR12 Renault.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
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Mercedes will face a challenge, Bottas is in a good form, Hamilton is desperately wanting to win this season, after last year’s defeat from his team-mate, now their team has to decide if they will let them race or if they will pull the card of number 1 and number 2 driver.

Red Bull Racing is far away from the two contenders, the Bulls are currently third, they have scored 184 points and most of these points were scored by Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has finished five times on the podium and won in Azerbaijan. From the other hand, Daniel’s team-mate, Max Verstappen is not facing, the best moments of his Formula 1 career. The young driver finished third in China, and retired on five of the eleven races. It looks that Red Bull can secure the third place and focus one the following season, their only threat is Force India.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon are doing a good job this season, they have scored 101 points, 72 less of the points which Force India scored in 2016. They both look to be enjoying their season, Perez has finished in the points in nine of the eleven races, whilst Ocon failed to score point/s only in Monaco where he finished 12th.

Williams is not facing its best season so far, Felipe Massa returned from retirement, in order to give the chance to Bottas to move to Mercedes and try his luck in a better team, was it the right decision? The Brazilian finished sixth in the season premiere in Australia, in Bahrain he also finished in the same position, these were Massa’s two best finishes. Last season at the summer break, Felipe had 38 points, fifteen more points from those that he has now.

Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Sunday 25 June 2017.
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From the other hand, his team-mate, Lance Stroll crashed or trashed (if you prefer) his Williams with every possible way he could think of. From the pre-season tests the young driver was not looking very “skilful”, his results confirmed that. The Canadian had four retirements in the first four races of the season and one more retirement in Monaco, five DNF in eleven races. He scored his first two points in Canada, where he finished 9th. In Azerbaijan, Lance achieved the unachievable, after a top drive he finished third. That was the only podium for Williams this season.

Toro Rosso is only two points behind Williams and chasing them for the fifth place in the constructors’ championship. A battle between Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault is expected for the fifth place. Last season, Williams secured easily the fifth place, but now they are struggling, these four teams are close to each other and all of them have at least one good drive to racing.

Romain Grosjean finished sixth Austria and scored eight valuable points for Haas, a one man show is a good slogan, which suits, to Renault as Nico Hulkenberg have scored all their points (26) so far. Toro Rosso is in an almost similar situation, Kvyat has scored just four points, whilst Sainz is doing all the hard work. Carlos, finished sixth in Monaco, that was his highest finish and until now he has 56 points, eleven less than Max Verstappen.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada.
Friday 09 June 2017.
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McLaren, is the team which impressed me the most in the last race before the summer break. Fernando, was ready for his holidays but he had only one obstacle to face, the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Spaniard, finished sixth in Hungary, scored eight points and then he took his yacht and visited Greece.

Pascal Wehrelin is trying to save Sauber from its disaster, but his results are not enough. Five points for Pascal, he finished eighth in Spain and tenth in Azerbaijan, his team-mate(s) is still trying to figure out if he is racing in Formula One or..

With nine races to go I am expecting a strong fight between Vettel Hamilton and Bottas, don’t underestimate the Finns!

Who will rule the Formula 1 Kingdom?

Have a nice holiday!

Victor Archakis

*Twitter: @FP_Passion

Analysis: is Bottas now a title contender?

When Valtteri Bottas crossed the finish line in Austria to take his second career Grand Prix win, the calls from F1’s pundits were all but unanimous—the unassuming Finn, not so long ago dismissed as Mercedes’ number two driver, was now firmly in contention for the 2017 Drivers’ Championship.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes-AMG Petronas

Statistically speaking, it’s a solid claim to make. At 35 points adrift in third, it would take a couple of perfect storms in Britain and Hungary for Bottas to assume the lead of the championship before the summer break; but the odds of him overcoming the fifteen-point gap to Lewis Hamilton in second between now and August are certainly far from negligible.

It’s worth remembering too that if Bottas were to rack up another victory at Silverstone next week, as well as making him the first back-to-back winner of 2017, that would also bring the Finn level with Hamilton’s and Sebastian Vettel’s respective win tallies this year. Looking over his other results, Bottas has also taken only one less podium than Vettel and one more than Hamilton this season, whilst his lowest finish of sixth in China is still one better than Hamilton’s seventh place in Monaco.

Furthermore, all that is in spite of Bottas being the only driver of this title trio to suffer a DNF so far this year, when his engine blew at the Spanish Grand Prix—and if we were to assume that that had not happened, and Bottas joined Hamilton and Vettel on the podium in third that day, then the Finn would now be level on points with his teammate.

Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes-AMG Petronas

Of course, ifs and should-haves aren’t enough to win a championship, and if Bottas is to take the crown at the end of 2017 he will need to continue pushing beyond the base expectations of himself and his car. His triumphs in Sochi and Spielberg have displayed beyond doubt Bottas’ serene control at the front of the field, but he is only just beginning to show the kind of aggression necessary to assert himself as more than just the third-fastest man on track—something he will certainly need more of if he is to keep touch with Vettel and Hamilton across the season.

That is something that will only become more pronounced now that Bottas has been thrust into the title race spotlight. Up until Austria, the Finn has been able to profit from all the media attention being focused on Hamilton and Vettel, allowing Bottas to quietly rack up points in the background without being subjected to the pressures of a declared championship tilt. But now that his rivals are aware of the threat he poses, Bottas can no longer rely on the element of surprise and must come out of the shadows fighting.

Fortunately for Bottas, though, that should just be a case of doing what he’s always done, and doing it more. His two pole positions and near-level qualifying head-to-head with Hamilton are proof that he has more than enough speed to run his teammate hard on Saturday; and even if qualifying doesn’t go his way, the lightning starts he’s made all year (not to mention his stellar recovery from last to second in Baku) will ensure Bottas remains a looming presence in any polesitter’s mirrors.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes-AMG Petronas

What’s more, Bottas has proven time and again that he has the focus and mental strength needed to take on a full title challenge—even against opponents as intimidating as a three- and a four-time world champion. His level head has been one of the Finn’s defining attributes ever since winning the 2011 GP3 title at the first attempt; it was particularly evident in 2014 when, partnering a reborn Felipe Massa in a podium-worthy Williams, Bottas dove his way to an outstanding fourth in the final standings. So far, the only visible dent to his determination came under the frenzy of Ferrari speculation in 2015, but from the way Bottas has settled into his new Mercedes seat despite the rumours surrounding it would suggest that he has learnt from that episode.

His grounded nature should stand the Finn in good stead as he wades into the Hamilton–Vettel battle. He will have seen first-hand how unsettled his opponents can be by the championship’s many twists and turns, and know that when that happens (as it undoubtably did in Austria) he has only to drive a solid weekend to take full advantage. If they didn’t already, Hamilton and Vettel will now have their hands full making sure their own turbulent duel doesn’t leave Bottas with an open goal.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes-AMG Petronas

Make no mistake, Bottas faces a considerably tall order if he is to wrest this 2017 Championship away from Vettel and Hamilton. No amount of comparisons to Kimi Räikkönen in 2007 will guarantee Bottas comes out on top after Abu Dhabi—as ever, all that counts is what happens on track this year.

But if the Finn can drive home his current momentum with another victory or two before the flyaways in Asia and the Americas, there’s no reason why he can’t push his rivals all the way to the final round. Whether he quite has what it takes to beat two of modern F1’s biggest stars across the ultimate finish line is another matter—but when it comes to his talent, composure and performances so far this season, there’s no denying that Valtteri Bottas is well and truly in this title fight.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline