If Red Bull’s Mark Webber has been suffering from less-favored-son syndrome this season, the team’s decision to replace Webber’s recently wrecked chassis #4 with team mate Sebastian Vettel’s old chassis #3 won’t help matters much. Chassis #3, it will be remembered, was spurned by Vettel after Monaco, and duly replaced by chassis #2. Vettel has been a happy German camper ever since.
Said Vettel at the time, “I was complaining for the last couple of races that something was not feeling right, and it was good on Sunday night [in Monaco] when we decided to change the chassis anyway just to make a change and find something. I think it explains a lot. On top of that, we also found other things that weren’t in proper shape.”
While chassis #4, which Webber trashed in a spectacular flip in Valencia a week ago, isn’t a total loss, the team has decided against putting it back into race trim in time for next week’s race at Silverstone. Instead, Webber will be given Vettel’s old flawed chassis #3. Meanwhile, chassis #4 will be rehabilitated for use as a backup tub.
But what of the inherent flaws that the team’s golden boy, Vettel, had been complaining of? Ostensibly, the flaws weren’t embedded in the tub’s manufacture, but were the result of acquired damage. The team claims to have fully analyzed chassis #3 and made all the necessary repairs.
Lessons learned? First of all, the well worn adage about a squeaky wheel getting the lubricant comes to mind. Vettel complained that chassis #3 “was not feeling right,” which was another way of saying that his recent drop in performance was the car’s fault, not his. The team was willing to accept this analysis, and voila, a new chassis was produced. In the end, of course, it seemed that the switch was justified. Vettel returned to his old form, and the team did discover problems with the tub.
The second lesson, of course, must be that if a driver wrecks his car he must be prepared to be given his team mate’s hand-me-downs.