Webber doubts he would have passed Vettel

2013 Japanese Grand Prix

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Mark Webber, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2013Mark Webber does not think he would have been able to pass Sebastian Vettel to win the Japanese Grand Prix if he’d overtaken Romain Grosjean sooner at the end of the race.

“No, Seb is… he stops 18 laps to go and the tyres are still in pretty good shape,” Webber told Sky after the race.

“So yeah it’s OK he would have lifted the pace if I had arrived on the back of him for sure. There would have been some advantage on my side, for sure, but not enough to probably deal with him for enough laps to go.”

Webber switched to a three-stop strategy in an attempt to put pressure on the leading Lotus. Asked if his short first stint had led him to pitting three times Webber said: “Probably a little bit.”

The Red Bull driver said he queried his team’s decision to switch strategies.

“After that first stop the guys said we were still on two [stops]. No problem, look after the tyres, get to the target lap, and that was the plan. I was looking to wait, off the back of Romain, and try to squeeze up to the back of him between laps 28 and 31, 32, which was the target lap.

“And then I think on 25 the guys said ‘we’re going three-stop’, which was five laps shorter than the two-stop anyway. I asked the guys ‘are you sure this is right?’ and they said ‘yes, we’re going to give it a go’. And when you give it a go you’ve got to give it 100%, and that was it.”

“I don’t have the whole chess match in front of me, that’s the thing,” Webber added, “I have what’s in front of me here.”

“I thought Romain was strong on the [medium tyre], not as strong on the [hard]. When I decided to pull the pin and go straight on the back of him I could do that quite straightforward.

“But then I went there and I thought ‘OK let’s wait again, we can still sit on the two-stop and wait for him to maybe have a bit of tyre problems at the end’. But they said no, we need to pit now, go for the three.

“They had more information, they always generally do in front of them and that was it.”

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    36 comments on “Webber doubts he would have passed Vettel”

    1. I doubt he’d have been able to pull off the two stop on the basis of his first stint, so really his race didn’t turn out to badly after the start. However, the potential was there for him to replicate Vettel’s Korea win if he had nailed the start.

      Overall it was a really good day for the Red Bull pairing however!

      1. @vettel1, of course he would have been able to make two stops, he was pacing himself in the second stint, and closed up to Grosjean quite easily when they decided to go for three stops. I think, however, that three-stopping was his best chance of getting ahead of Grosjean, as he wouldn’t have been able to execute the long strategy the way Vettel did.

        The only ironic thing is that switching Webber to a 3-stop allowed Vettel to execute his strategy of going long much more effectively. I’m not saying there is any conspiracy here to get Webber out of the way, but it must have been on the minds of the Red Bull strategists that by keeping Mark on a two-stopper, he would have continued to be stuck behind Grosjean, and Vettel would have been stuck behind Webber in turn, finishing 2 and 3 instead of 1 and 2.

        The only strange thing was Horner emphasizing that Webber’s strategy switch was due to his early first stop. Perhaps by this statement he attempted to pre-empt any conspiracy theories, but in my mind he was only fueling them.

        1. @adrianmorse Great post ! You hit the nail on the head from a team principal’s perspective .
          They needed a 1-2 and badly needed Grosjean out of the way more than anything else .

        2. I actually can’t believe more people are not seeing it. Reb Bull deployed the same tactics from a couple of years ago that helped Vettel clinched the title in the final round. Change Webber’s strategy and force the others to watch him while Vettel does his thing. It was always going to be tough for R. Grosjean to watch and defend from two guys on two different strategies. So Red Bull tells Vettel to keep it cool and give himself space, to save tires of course, then calls Mark in and later Grosjean follows. Now Vettel with life still left in his tires is doing laps in free air, and that was very important for his lap times. And on the second stop, same story, Grosjean goes in and Vettel manages to stay within reach but still saving his tires. That enabled him to stay longer and have fresher rubber for the final stint when he overtook Grosjean. Horner claims that the whole race strategy was dictated by the first stint. Well then, why didn’t he call Vettel to put him on 3rd since he was behind Webber? And why change Webber when he hasn’t fallen that much behind? After all, remember Vettel was one place further back.

          1. I actually can’t believe more people are not seeing it. Reb Bull deployed the same tactics from a couple of years ago that helped Vettel clinched the title in the final round. Change Webber’s strategy and force the others to watch him while Vettel does his thing.

            No they didn’t and what you are saying is a carefully calculated mislead. Listen to the BBC highlights of the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand prix available even today. It was Webber himself who requested to come in on the 11th lap because his tyres were going off and there is a clear radio transmission to that effect. After that change Webber drove very well for 4 laps and would have leapfrogged ahead of Alonso had Ferrari not panicked and brought the Spaniard in on lap 15 even though his options were holding-up. They succeeded in getting Alonso back ahead of Webber once again but they both got stuck behind Petrov for rest of the race.

            That was another example of poor driving by Webber….after lap 15. Knowing that to have any chance of the title he had to pass Alonso first, he never tried it, not even when the Spaniard went off the track while frantically trying to pass Petrov. Webber just sat behind Alonso for rest of the race without making a single attacking move worth mentioning. For that alone he did not deserve the title.

          2. @Sam Sam

            I actually can’t believe more people are not seeing it. Reb Bull deployed the same tactics from a couple of years ago that helped Vettel clinched the title in the final round.

            You seem oblivious to the fact that Webber needed to change strategy, otherwise he was going to sit in 5th place and fail to win the title anyway. The strategy he went on to was the same one he deployed in Singapore that year, which gained him a few spots.

      2. I agree, Vettel was simply better than Webber that’s why he won.
        In Singapore the same strategy (3stops) was applied to Vettel and he still won even with the SC closing the gap from the following cars.
        Webber should have pushed more to open the gap before his last pit-stop.
        Beside which strategy proved at the end better , as a hole team decision to split the strategies was the wisest think to do , providing alternatives in unexpected scenarios like a SC for example.

    2. Lets say RBR gifted Seb the win, what the problem ?
      I know Seb is way way ahead in the standings but nothing is guaranteed in F1, He is the one fighting for the championship and every point counts, who knows, maybe he will go on a retirement streak for the next 4 races.
      Everyone wants Mark to get another win before he retires but that is not reason enough to say Seb can afford to let 7-10 points go.
      To make things clear, I don’t think RBR did anything to make sure Seb wins instead of Mark

      1. For all the flak Massa receives he has 11 wins during the 2006-2008 stint. Webber has 9 wins from 2009 till date – 5 year stint for nothing.

        1. Massa before the accident was superb, he was able to fight (and often beat) the likes of Raikkonen and Hamilton, in very similar cars. I believe that in 2008 he was superior to Hamilton.

          1. I agree completely. That accident and 4 years of playing second fiddle to Alonso has taken something out of Massa. But I’d like him to get a good seat and win a few more races before he retires.

      2. To make things clear, I don’t think RBR did anything to make sure Seb wins instead of Mark

        If Webber passed Grosjean more rapidly, he could have challenged Vettel. His fate was in his own hands.

        1. Exactly, Also Seb passed Romain on primes, while Mark couldn’t do it on options, that were even fresher realtive to Sebs’. Mark lost the race today, not Red Bull

          1. Seb also passed Romain without DRS (Brundle said it was activated during the pass).

          2. And Romain’s tires were also fresher when Seb passed him, so even more credit to Vettel.

        2. That’s the point. Grosjean did not block either of them but simply tried fair defensive driving. Vettel planned his pass early, got into the Frenchman’s slipstream soon after they got onto that long straight and used DRS to pass. That gave him time to continue fast on the straight before he had to break for the turn. Webber on the other hand, repeatedly left it too far down the straight before trying the pass, giving Grosjean the opportunity to fight him off.

    3. How many safety cars did we have last year in Suzuka? I’m not entirely convinced that Webber could have done this in a 2 stopper.

      1. Webber would definitely not have done it ona 2-stopper and would have fallen behind Grosjean had he tried.

      2. One SC right at the beginning of the race.

    4. Also let’s be honest here. Had it been the other way around, VET to three stops and WEB to two, without taking into account WEB’s tyre degradation after and before the first stint, the result would have been the same.

      VET wouldn’t have had a problem passing both GRO and WEB on fresher, faster tyres.

      1. And we would still be saying it was a conspiracy.

    5. The problem was his first stint – Vettel managed to gain 5 laps in tire life while Mark matched Grosjean’s strategy. If he hadn’t switched to a 3 stop then it would have been a VET-GRO-WEB.

    6. Putting them on different strategies was the best option to get both in front of Grosjean and still let them have an honest try at the win. Can’t undercut both at the same time if all three are on 2 stop. This was the best option.

      1. Yep, they managed to make it a 1-2 so RBR did a great job today

    7. Good job from RBR for giving Webber a fair chance . Webber lacked the aggression in the end . Even the first stints were a bit bad for Webber , so I think even if he had stayed for a two stopper , they had to choose the one to get an undercut and would have gone for either vettel or webber . But still , even if Webber had passed Grosjean , It would have been WEB – GRO -VET or VET-GRO-WEB instead of a 1-2 . obviously , they went for a 1-2 possibility knowing well that mark would attack in the end . If he had been able to pass GRosjean the first time around , who knows , would it have been close in the end ? perhaps . perhaps not . we cannot tell . Good thinking from RBR to maximize their already dominant position . They may not have the class or aura of the other teams but they sure do have the brains !

    8. I was kind of fuming after the race thinking that Webber had been had. But really he had three gaffes that meant it was well enough for him to finish 2nd: 1. poor start (always a procedure/computer failure?), failure to pass RG after stint 1, failure to pass RG on the fly in the last stint. Vettel had a poor start but had two less of these issues. So, yeah, all hail him.

      What I still don’t get is how Lotus lost this race. I did FF through the commercials but how was it that Grosjean was leading with very good pace and then came out 10s-plus behind Vettel after the second round of stops? Did he stop for coffee?

      1. He never came out 10s+ behind Vettel after their final (second round of) stops. Vettel passed Grosjean after both made their final stop. Webber was quite a bit ahead because Grosjean pitted later than Webber (remember: 2 vs. 3 stop).

        1. The only truth is that the lotus had a very bad pace with the hard tyres. If Vettel is only 3 sec behind Grosjean after his second stop it’s because the pace of Grosjean with fresh tyres between lap 29 and lap 37 was bad.
          ” Webber was quite a bit ahead because Grosjean pitted later than Webber”
          I cannot understad this statement. In truth, Webber was quite a bit ahead because he was much faster than Grosjean on hard tyres.

    9. If Webber had done a two stopper, he would have either come in at the same time as Grojean or one lap after. Vettel would then have done the same thing he did, maintain about a 20 sec gap on both RG and MW and when he came out, he would have passed both MW and RG in the first few laps (like he did with only RG).

      Mark missed his opportunity on Grojean with his first attempt. He should have gone down the inside of the pit straight (as he eventually did and as Vettel did to get by RG). Instead of spending the next 6 laps or so behind RG, losing time to Vettel, he would have closed up rather quickly. Race on.

    10. Nick Jarvis (@)
      13th October 2013, 17:59

      Does anyone else think that the Red Bull’s poor start was almost entirely down to the headwind at the start? It makes sense.

    11. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      13th October 2013, 18:47

      This victory doesn’t sit well with me for many reasons. I don’t like to see Webber accepting of that. I understand that there are his last races in F1 and the die was cast in 2010 and he wants to leave on the best terms so that he doesn’t burn bridges and can return in some capacity (FIA related) in the future.

      For me Webber to remain a true racer had to either defy orders as suggested by Steve Matchett and stay out or at least publicly questioned the team’s call. A driver never gives up the win willingly.

      I wouldn’t be surprised that after Malaysia he’s getting paid huge money to hush up and put a big smile on his face.

      1. @freelittlebirds – Oh give up. Webber’s chances to win depended on a) his ability to look after tyres on a 2 stopper, and b) on his ability to pass Grosjean quickly if he wasn’t able to do a 2 stopper. He evidently failed on both counts, so has no-one to blame but himself for losing the race.

    12. It just makes no sense. If Webber never pit, obviously he would have been on older tires. But even if Vettel gained on him at 1s per lap, at 12 laps to go with a 14s gap Webber’s shot at winning would have been alive until the very last lap. Unless Webber’s tires literally became eraser nubs toward the end of the race it would have been better to stay out until the end.

      1. I fear you vastly underestimate the dropoff from destroyed tyres. To give you an idea, here’s a laptime comparison of the time loss of both Mercedes drivers at the last race (note that both were in clear air):

        Lap Difference
        21 +0.108 (The start of the dropoff as Hamilton was faster before)
        22 +0.684
        23 +1.803
        24 +2.230
        25 +2.547
        26 +2.350
        27 +2.739
        28 +5.207 (Compared to Rosbergs last lap as he pitted here)

        So within 3 laps that was 2+s per lap, and it only got worse from there… Webber wouldn’t have been second if he had tried to stay out.

    13. But this carefully calculated comment by Webber is the reason that I don’t like him. Without saying so, he is implying that the team robbed him of a possible win by switching him to the 3-stop strategy. He is saying that “he does not think that he could have caught Vettel even if he had Passed Grosjean at the first attempt”. The hidden suggestion here is that the team knew this too. In other words, Webber is saying that a race win was no longer possible the moment it was decided that he had to make 3 stops. He is wrong.

      Looking at the zotje’s data above and several others in this and other threads, it seems quite clear that Red Bull gave him the best chance by switching him to a 3-stopper. Everyone agreed that Webber’s first and rather early stop was required because his tyres were going off faster than Vettel’s. Even if Red Bull thought at the time that they could get away with a 2-stopper, subsequent degradation of Webber’s second set of tyres must have told them otherwise. At that stage they would not have known how well Vettel’s own second set would last and his long stint with it could not be foreseen. It was Vettel’s driving with those tyres that took him past the window for options before the second stop, but they decided that he could catch Grosjean on primes and he proved them right. When Webber made his third stop, he was given options which would have been grippier, faster and with the number of laps left, tyre wear would not have been too big a worry with a lighter car. Then when Webber caught Grosjean, he was only 6.5 seconds behind Vettel, on fresher and faster tyres and his car was lighter than Vettel’s had been when he passed Grosjean earlier; not only that, Grosjean’s tyres were more worn compared with the first encounter. With all those advantages, Webber still failed to pass Grosjean for 6 more laps and so has no one but himself to blame.

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