Mark Alan Webber - the first Australian with a chance of winning the world title since Alan Jones in 1980 - has explained his part in the 'Wing Affair'. In doing so, he doubtless hoped to draw a line under a matter which could conceivably have led to internecine warfare of the type not seen since the (McLaren) days of Ayrton Senna/Alain Prost.
But the fact remains that the popular British press focussed heavily on the (English-speaking) Australian and his British-based team's situation during the British Grand Prix weekend.
As always there are three sides to the story (theirs, and the truth), and while that statement does not indict Webber in any way - as this column made abundantly clear last week when it questioned Red Bull Racing's chain of command - a quirk of calendar planning has team-mate Sebastian Vettel (who, ironically, suffered greater title damage in the affair despite being equally blameless), heading for his home race in Germany with it all still fresh in his nation's media memory.
Intriguingly, RBR is totally bilingual, with English and German sharing equal billing on account of the team's ultimate owner being an Austrian billionaire and the leisure drinks brand's marketing thrust being directed from Salzburg.
Moreover, this weekend's race is crucial to the 23-year-old Vettel's designs on becoming the youngest F1 world champion in the 60-year history of the sport. To do so the Heppenheimer, born on July 3, 1987, needs to beat Lewis Hamilton's record (23 years and 301 day), and thus needs to clinch the title this year.
Having become the only teenager to score a world championship point, then the youngest driver to participate in a grand prix weekend, followed by youngest-ever pole starter and also F1's youngest grand prix winner, there remains only one 'youth' record remaining - the FIA Formula One World Championship. Come the season-closing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Vettel will be but 23 years and 134 days. It's this year, or never.
In order to succeed, it could be argued that Seb needs the full support of a team, which has, in the wake of the 'Wing Affair', pledged whichever driver is placed higher on the points log will receive preferential treatment should a similar situation arise.
Going to his home race Vettel trails Mark by 121 to 128 points, with both being shaded by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, on 145 and 133 points respectively, despite the RBR drivers having taken nine poles in ten races, five of which were one-twos. Saliently, they failed to convert said front row lockouts into one-two race results...
Equally saliently, last year, albeit at the Nürburgring on account of the rotational deal existent between Germany's two circuits, Mark beat Seb into second place by ten seconds - despite a drive-thru penalty - to score his maiden grand prix victory. Thus the younger driver has various reasons to redress the balance come Sunday.
Webberis 34 next month, knows this season represents his best-ever chance of achieving his life's ambition. It's one he dedicated himself to after first sniffing the addictive smell of speed as a gangly kid in Queanbeyan. Thus, this acknowledged fighter is pushing to the absolute limit in the knowledge that only one driver can lift motor racing's greatest prize this year.
If the English media painted Vettel as villain of the piece - as so eloquently reported here by colleague Jon Noble - how was the matter viewed in the Germany to which they now head?
Christian Horner and Flavio Briatore © Sutton
Not surprisingly, any resemblance between reports in the The Sun in England and Bild in Germany is purely coincidental; in fact, remarkably so. The latter publication adds a strange twist to a warped tale, indirectly blaming Flavio Briatore for the affair on the basis that the disgraced Italian manages Webber, and thus stands to gain from hostilities within RBR! Crashgate, Wing Gate - you get the drift...
'Is Briatore behind the Bull Fight?' asked Bild in a headline subtexted 'He is Webber's manager and will do anything to prevent a Vettel championship' after the race, before continuing 'Briatore knows all the tricks. Certainly the dirty ones. When (Michael) Schumacher became known as 'Schummel Schumi (Cheating Schumi) at Benetton he (Briatore) was team boss'. The publication then suggested the Italian pressured RBR team principal Christian Horner (into giving his charge preferential treatment) after Vettel and Webber collided in Istanbul while disputing the lead.
Post-race the same publication wrote of Webber's 'scorn and mocking' for Vettel and the team, while reporting Webber was unable to voice Vettel's name, speaking only of the 'other car'. Vettel, though, says the publication, held his nerve, quoting the German thus: "Here somebody showed his true face. I was brought up in such a way that one shows respect for the other. Such things don't belong in public, and should be handled internally within the team".
The other German Red Top, namely Germany's Express suggested Vettel's 'slap-stick' start, which saw Webber and Hamilton take him going into Turn 1 from second and fourth on the grid, was down to the German meeting (and joking with) his comic hero Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) during the build up to the race.
Webber does not escape unscathed, either: Going through Maggotts on the opening lap the 'Tasmanian Devil' (which Webber geographically is not) is said in Tuesday's edition to have gotten revenge on Vettel over the affair by forcing him off-track, while the paper's Monday edition also quotes Vettel as referring to the 'true face' of 'somebody'.
Die Welt, a broadsheet of international standing (think The Times), took a more balanced view, although it, too, took a swipe at Webber, accusing him of 'dangerously squeezing' Vettel at the start. The sub-headline of the report states 'Ahead of his home race the German Formula 1 pilot (Vettel) is under threat and pressure from his paranoid team-mate', with the main body drawing comparisons between the Senna/Prost rivalry.
Under the headline 'Webber drives his own course', sub-headed 'Red Bull's Cold War which saw victory by Webber turn into defeat for the team', the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quotes Horner as saying "We won the damned grand prix", while further down the publication states 'seldom was victory so sour'.
Webber's lonely mission can, concludes the patriotic FAZ, 'only make Vettel's task (of winning the title) more difficult'.
Sebastian Vettel runs wide at Copse © Sutton
Auto Motor und Sport's website refers to 'Supertalent Vettel and his faithful adjutant Webber'. Their 'animosity and psycho-war' could conceivably, says the website, cost RBR the title, drawing parallels between hostilities between Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams in 1987. What the site, though, fails to mention is that Williams and Piquet scored both titles, the former by a substantial margin from McLaren, and the latter from his team-mate...
The feature does, though, stress that, pre-season, RBR was rated the (top) team with the lowest potential for conflict, whereas with just nine 2010 races remaining the team faces a major challenge in patching up massive rifts in what had previously been considered a perfect driver combination.
Therein lies Red Bull Racing's inconvenient truth: regardless of how the German media portrays the two ahead of the nation's grand prix, the bottom line is that RBR has two number ones, each capable of scoring poles and fastest laps and championships - with or without the other. The conundrum is that either RBR driver winning the (drivers') title - should it come to pass - does not guarantee the team the highest accolade in its sphere: the constructors' title.
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