When one man breaks a clear agreement between two people you may expect some disagreement or anger. When this becomes magnified under the glare of competitiveness that is Formula One the intensity is multiplied. You can expect Mark Webber to be angry at his egotistical team mate but Vettel’s behaviour has elements of anger about it also.
For those that are not F1 fans this is not just about racing. Those not aware of the situation I will bring you up to date.
On Sunday in the Malaysian Grand Prix Mark Webber was in the lead and with 15 laps to go team orders were clearly issued to Sebastian Vettel to not overtake Webber as he conserved tyres. Despite this Vettel took his chance and overtook Webber leaving a gaping wound in Webber’s back with the knife clearly still there.
Firstly, lets deal with Webber’s behaviour as a result of this incident. In the moment he was clearly angry to the point of retaliation as footage has shown. When Vettel crossed the finish line and slowed down Webber rushed up behind him and cut across him in a dangerous act of anger. So in the moment he was bordering on the aggressive and wanting to grandstand in his car. The subsequent cool down laps (that’s meant for the car not the driver normally) gave him time to reflect and calm and by the time he hit the podium and the press conferences he was down to the level of barely concealed disgust and anger. When asked about the race his response was “The team is happy with the result today” and then proceeded to place his glass of water down firmly enough to spill water on the desk while Vettel was speaking. He’s not angry though.
By the time he was being interviewed post race by reporters away from Vettel he had resorted to the more passive aggressive tools of sarcasm, not mentioning people by name and making veiled threats about there being “a lot things on his mind in the last 15 laps of the grand prix” that need thinking about. If being aggressive won’t get him what he wants then playing the victim might.
Watching him processing his anger in public, being interviewed is painful and I can empathise though. I would not wish to deal with all those feelings in public.
Webber is not the only player in this angry game though. Vettel’s behaviour on the track, deliberately breaking an agreement is angry. He would not have been happy to be told to hang back and let his team mate win. His decision to break the team orders may have consequences he could never have predicted at the time when his anger took over. Now he has to live with it and in the face of the press and Webber’s continued press fuelled anger he is likely to defend his position.
The team Principal Christian Horner was asked by a reporter why he did not just tell Vettel to drop back again after he overtook Webber. His reply? “Do you honestly think if we had told him to slow down and give the place back he’d have given it back?” That says it all. There is a bully in the team. One who suspects he has more power and is not afraid to abuse it. Is Vettel a cynical bully or simply an angry bully? Only he will really know. I suspect the latter although it is often more attractive to story tellers to cast the villain in the former role.
Here will be more to play out in this story over the whole season. We, the public and the press who serve us will not forget it and will keep reminding the key players about it.
For me, this just goes to show how anger gets acted out in unhealthy ways by everyone. Am I going to sit in judgement? No. The stress, the pressure the ego’s that contribute to this situation are intense. In fact, I’m surprised this does not happen more often in this sport.