Sunday, 24 March 2013

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

An eventful and closely contested Grand Prix, but much of what occurred has been overshadowed by the internal ructions at Red Bull.

If nothing else, the team orders controversy offers persuasive evidence that Vettel's desire and motivation remain undiminished, even if he was apologetic afterwards. How this episode will affect his relationship with the team is unclear.  As there seems little immediate prospect of the German leaving Red Bull, it is something which the hierarchy will be required to manage.

The post-race interviews were painful to watch. Mark Webber chose his words carefully, but it seemed to me that he was placing the onus on the team to resolve this one way or the other. The Red Bull personnel on the pitwall were decidedly subdued immediately after the chequered flag. They clearly realise the extent of their dilemma. They dare not risk alienating Vettel too much, and there is perhaps an argument for saying that this compromises their ability to exercise real authority over him in these matters. For all Vettel's contrition today,  he must know that he is in a very strong position.  It is tempting to regard many of today's utterances as mere public relations.

The furore should not be permitted to obscure some of the other noteworthy elements of the Grand Prix, the most significant of which may be further hints that Mercedes are a more substantial and consistent proposition this season. They had their own team orders issue to contend with, but the outcome of this suggested much more harmony and unity than exists at Red Bull. Despite Nico Rosberg's frustration at being told to hold station late in the race, all parties at least seem to be moving broadly in the same direction.

After the nightmare in Australia, some tentatively positive noises are emanating from McLaren, notwithstanding the error which was so detrimental to Jenson Button's race.  It goes without saying that margins are very slender in this current era of Formula 1, and the signs about McLaren's prospects are mixed at present.  People will only be convinced when more concrete results are achieved.

The Lotus results in Malaysia were disappointing, in the light of what happened at Albert Park. The car appeared to have an aversion to the early slippery conditions, and the rest of the race was conditioned by lost places, and resultant traffic.  Even allowing for these factors, the machine looked a handful at times, with Kimi Raikkonen enduring a few lurid moments. It is unclear whether these issues are fundamental, or simply related to the peculiarities of the set-up at Sepang.

There is now a three week break before the Chinese Grand Prix.  Something tells me that the F1 news-wires will be far from tranquil during that time!

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