And the winner is the Red Bull Press Team: Winners and Losers from Istanbul

June 1, 2010

A great deal is at stake in the battle between Team Lotus and Virgin Racing

Winners

Red Bull Racing Press Team. Forget the racing, for me the most impressive performance of the Turkish Grand Prix came from the Red Bull Press Team. With Mark Webber and Sebastien Vettel conspiring to destroy what should have been another dominant display from the Milton Keynes team (I know it just doesn’t sound the same as Maranello – no matter how many times you say it), the press spotted that golden opportunity: a very unhappy driver returning to the team base before he can be given the party line by the media team – manna from heaven for the F1 journalist. The format is simple, get unguarded comments from Driver A, feed these back to Driver B who then reacts even more strongly, go back to Driver A etc… the outcome being that you have more column inches and a very happy sports editor. However they had not reckoned on the martial arts skills of the Red Bull Racing Press Team. You may think that the main skill required for an F1 media person is to turn on a digital recorder and hold it close to your driver in order to capture those wonderful words of wisdom. Not so at Red Bull. As Vettel was spotted returning to the RBR base first one hack managed to get to him and as he hopefully raised his microphone this was swiftly grabbed and he was spun, in a graceful pirouette, by RBR’s Katie Tweedle. Vettel was now nearly home, but not quite. As he made the final steps towards his sanctuary the large form of the Daily Mail’s Jonathan McEvoy barged his way through, in a move that most second row forwards would have been proud. However, he had not reckoned on the second line of defence, and was swiftly spun around in a very effective line dancing move by one of Katie’s colleagues who then placed himself between Mr McEvoy and his scoop, at this point Mr McEvoy appeared to lose his self-control and started shouting at the RBR employee, Vettel, who by now was up the steps and nearly inside, lent over and made a calming move with his hand towards the irate journalist – this was in marked contrast to his earlier gestures to his team mate. Clearly both Mr McEvoy and Sebastien Vettel had just suffered an extreme disappointment, but it was interesting to see that the F1 driver was the one who appeared to be in a more conciliatory mood.

McLaren. One of the most impressive things about McLaren (and there are many) is their ability to develop the performance of their car during the season. They may not always produce the fastest car at the start of the year (and if they do that normally means game over for everyone else). But the breadth and depth of their expertise means that they can generally improve at a far faster rate than the competition – the only other team who gets close to this is Ferrari. In Istanbul it appeared that they had caught up with the, so far untouchable, Red Bull. It will be interesting to see if McLaren are able to maintain this impressive capability in the face of reducing budgets and resources.

Virgin Racing. I know I’m biased on this one, but VR managed to finish the race with both cars, albeit several laps down. They don’t seem to have an answer to the pace of the Lotus yet, but let’s wait and see, of course the stakes of this battle are very high with either Tony Fernandes (Lotus/Air Asia) or Richard Branson (Virgin Racing/ Virgin Atlantic) taking on the role of stewardess in their competitor’s airline if their team finishes behind the other at the end of the season. However I’m not sure how, should he win, Mr Fernandes will explain this to the Air Asia staff – “OK guys we won the bet and now you’ve got Richard Branson as part of your in-flight service team” – so what would have happened if they’d lost – would RB be flying the plane, balloon style?

Losers

Red Bull Racing. Although for many teams a place on the podium could hardly be seen to be a losing scenario, for RBR this was undoubtedly the case, as they should have been first and second. But the bigger negative is not the loss of points, but the potential for loss of team spirit. This looks like being Red Bull Racing’s year, but as with all great achievements it may come at a price. For me Christian Horner is one of the most impressive team principals we have seen for many years. He may not have the flamboyance of a Briatore or the technical abilities of a Brawn, but he gets on with the serious business of running the team quietly and professionally. He will now need all of his managerial skills to ensure that the potentially toxic fall-out from the Webber/Vettel collision does not undermine the team spirit and cohesion at Red Bull Racing. The media will clearly fuel this story as it creates headlines, particularly as there is also the added dimension of ‘what does Mr Mateschitz think?’ reminiscent of the days when Enzo Ferrari let his views be known, not directly to team members, but through the press. It was also interesting to see a number of McLaren personnel, including Martin Whitmarsh, doing their bit to fan the flames of discontent in their closest rival. However, McLaren’s Chief Engineer Tim Goss went a bit further and did rather seem to be tempting fate when he stated that “In this race Red Bull Racing did not deliver, and they’ve not delivered because their two drivers are racing. Our two drivers were racing, but I think that just shows how well our two drivers can manage themselves on the circuit.” I think it’s fair to say that McLaren have been the team where, over the years, their drivers have been the least able to manage themselves on the circuit – Prost/Senna; Hamilton/Alonso. Let’s hope those words don’t come back to haunt him.

Ferrari’s 800th Grand Prix. I don’t think that Enzo would have been too happy to hear that his beloved Scuderia only finished 8th and 9th in their 800th race. The number 800 being emblazoned on the air box of both cars – subliminally didn’t you think it looked like a number of cigarettes in a packet? Either way the Maranello based team appears to have their work cut out to pull back into contention. But let’s not forget this was only race 7 out of 19, there’s still a long way to go.

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