x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Criticism of Monaco win a lot of hot air to angered Mark Webber

Suggestions that Red Bull driver won in Monaco with an unfair car riles the normally placid Australian, reports Gary Meenaghan from Montreal.

Mark Webber, considered a free-speaker on the Formula One circuit, turns taciturn at the suggestion his win at Monaco was anything but honestly earned.
Mark Webber, considered a free-speaker on the Formula One circuit, turns taciturn at the suggestion his win at Monaco was anything but honestly earned.

Rarely does Mark Webber let his temper get the better of him. Red Bull Racing's driver usually appears so laid-back he could be deemed horizontal, yet he does not take kindly to slights on his character or ethics.

The 35-year-old Australian is widely viewed within the confines of the Formula One paddock as an anomaly in a bubble of corporate line-toeing.

He speaks out when no one else will, and he always speaks sense.

At times, it does not serve him well as he is asked questions other drivers would no longer even be forced to entertain, but he continues to talk when others bite their tongues.

Last season, when his teammate Sebastian Vettel was dominating the world championship and Webber, in the same car, could not get close, questions were asked of the latter's abilities, and pressure grew. For weeks, he remained a figure of contentment, but eventually, in Singapore, he fired an expletive at an inquisitive French journalist.

Ahead of Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix, suggestions were made that Webber's triumph during the previous race weekend on the streets of Monte Carlo was achieved unfairly.

In the wake of Webber's first victory of the 2012 season, the sport's governing body, the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), ordered the floor design of the Red Bull RB8 altered. When the former Williams driver was asked for his thoughts, his response was angry and his vernacular salty.

"I'm happy to be called lots of things and I'm happy to have criticism about my driving and lots of stuff, but I will not take criticism in that respect," he said of accusations he had won with an illegal car. "It completely [angers] me … to be honest, because the car has passed every single - every single - technical regulation after the race."

The Red Bull RB8's previous floor featured holes in front of the rear wheels in an attempt to aid airflow into the diffuser and thus improve downforce and consequent lap time. Following complaints by Red Bull's rivals after the race, the FIA declared the holes illegal and the team principal Christian Horner confirmed on arrival in Canada that his team is running this weekend with a new, fully compliant floor.

"Mark's comments are understandable: he won Monaco fair and square," Horner said. "The car complied with the rules, it complied with scrutineering. The teams have a right to protest if they felt it contravened in any way and no team chose to do that.

"Since then there's been a bit of debate about what's a hole and what's a boundaried surface and so on and then there has been a clarification, as expected."

The effect, however, has been played down by Horner, Webber and Vettel, with last month's winning driver saying the floor was set to be changed for the next race in Valencia even before the FIA clarification.

"We're very optimistic that the change won't make much difference at all," Webber said. "You won't believe us, but we had some changes for Valencia, anyway, which included no hole, irrespective of the rule change, so that's what we were doing."

Horner explained the floor debate as "like a lot of areas on a lot of cars, regulations are open to interpretation".

Understanding the quick-wearing Pirelli tyres is of more importance than holes in his car's floor, said Vettel, who also lamented the way in which the rules tend to change mid-season.

The technical side of Formula One is as complicated as it is revolutionary and the more the governing body tries to clarify the regulations, the more designers such as Red Bull's Adrian Newey or Rory Byrne of Ferrari attempt to exploit loopholes.

"It's a shame it goes one way and the other, one way and the other," Vettel said. "It's really difficult to understand what is going on.

He said he doubts the floor change will have a significant impact on the car's performance.

"I didn't think there was anything wrong with the car we had at Monaco, or before that but, nevertheless, I don't think it will make a big difference. It is more important to get the tyre pressures right."

The early signs were positive for the team based out of Milton Keynes, England.

During Friday's first practice session at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Vettel finished second fastest while Webber was fifth, securing Red Bull their best result from a first practice session this season.

Their previous best performance on a weekend-opening session was second and sixth in Malaysia.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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