If you were Mark Webber, you were probably wondering yesterday afternoon just what you had to do to please your team. Perhaps he should start taking German lessons.
As Sebastian Vettel narrowly beat him to pole position it transpired that behind the scenes the German had been favoured at the Australian's expense over equipment.
Red Bull, like all the top teams, are in a continuous development race. They had two new front wings available this weekend, but after one failed on Vettel's car in yesterday morning's free practice session the other was taken off Webber's car and given to Vettel for qualifying.
"Obviously it wasn't ideal, and it was very sudden," Vettel said of the breakage. "I was coming out of Club corner and approaching Abbey. When you are inside the car you don't see your own front wing so I didn't know what happened. I had to cut the corner. The wing was broken but fortunately we could continue. The key for this afternoon was to be able to continue with the same type of wing."
And thereby hung the tale. Red Bull gives you wings. At least, it does if you're Vettel. If you're Webber, it takes them away.
"It was a team decision, and sometimes you have to make tough decisions but that was what was best for the team," said the team principal Christian Horner, who made no attempt to resort to subterfuge. "Sebastian is our leading driver in the world championship." Horner also allowed that they would have made the same decision in Webber's favour had the roles been reversed. Right. That was no consolation for the Australian. He was clearly not a happy skippy as he sat tight-lipped afterwards, contemplating starting from the dirty side of the grid.
"I think the team are happy with the result today," he grated. "I'm not happy with second on the grid, nor will I be happy to finish second tomorrow. I'd rather be third on the grid, because second on most of the tracks this year has been shit. But it's a long race, so we'll see what happens."
On a more upbeat note, Webber went on to explain why the Red Bull remains the car to beat. "We brought some new parts in overnight, we are always pushing hard. I think when you have the level of our car, you are just nicking away, finding small bits here and there, there's no need for us to panic. We've done a good job with the F duct. When we climbed the tree, we knew why we got up there."
Vettel, smiling the way he does only when things are going his way, made a clumsy effort to explain away the favouritism. "If you look at us, we are different," he said of Webber. "Maybe one of us likes tea, one of us coffee. You look back to quallie and it was extremely tight with not much between us. In Q1 we were the same, in Q2 Mark was ahead, in Q3 I was ahead. I don't think there is a black and white answer on the wing, but I'm very happy to be able to continue with the same kind of wing."
As well he might be, though it's doubtful that the wing would be worth as much as the seven-tenths of a second gap to the nearest non-Red Bull challenger.
This week that was Fernando Alonso, who drove the wheels off his Ferrari to lap in 1min 30.426sec, compared to Vettel's 1:29.615 and Webber's 1:29.758.
The red car was better than its results suggested at either Montreal or Valencia, where it could be argued that circumstances militated against the Scuderia. And Alonso's coarser style of jerking the steering wheel to throw the car into corners and thus to generate tyre temperature, worked in his favour as he took third place on the grid while his team-mate Felipe Massa struggled to seventh in 1:31.172.
Of course, all the pre-qualifying attention was lavished upon Britain's home boys, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, whose McLarens were expected to be Red Bull's principal challengers. The Woking team are the true masters of upgrading technical specifications. But a new front wing and a blown diffuser proved a step too far on Friday and even though test driver Gary Paffett spent all night in the factory simulator trying to cure its wayward behaviour, the decision was taken to revert to the standard underfloor yesterday. Hamilton and Button thus struggled on their back foot with an unoptimised car, and while Hamilton got the best from it to start a heroic fourth, Button did not and will start a disappointing 14th.
This just made it an even better day for Vettel. "I will start from pole on the clean side and that's the key to the race," he continued chirpily as Webber sat grinding his teeth. "The weather forecast is sunny, which is unusual for Silverstone. England becomes more and more tropical. It's probably the place to come to, to invest."
Which seems to be exactly how Red Bull feel about their young protégé.Reuse content