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Examining the breakdown of trust at Red Bull racing

chequered flagIf you watched the Formula 1 Grand Prix this weekend in Malaysia you will have seen the last stages of the complete breakdown of the working relationship between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

We look at some of the moments which has led to the current state of affairs and see if and how the working relationship can be repaired. Trust is a vital cog in any well-oiled team whether that is a Formula 1 racing team such as Red bull or an office based team. Every member of the team needs to know they can trust the others in the team.

The breakdown in the working relationship has been on the cards for a while and team principle Christian Horner has to take a lot of the blame. There have been several incidents where Vettel has been favoured over his teammate which worked to Webbers detriment. Vettel has been allowed to be the number one driver in the team even if he isn’t officially regarded as so and it’s understandable that he thought he would just get away with this too. One thing Vettel didn’t bank on was the anger and annoyance from Webber and the rest of his team. There have been a number of points which have led to this breakdown but I want to just go in to three.

Going back to the British grand prix in 2010 Red Bull had brought a new front wing for both cars to the grand prix which was expected to increase their race pace. During one of the practices Vettel damaged his new front wing and the team made Webber give up his new front wing and use an old one. This was despite at the time the championship still being wide open. Webber won the race that day and responded over the open team radio “Not bad for a number two driver”. The quote was said almost in jest but it was plain to see that he was annoyed.

In Turkey in the same year as Silverstone Vettel overtaking and fighting to pass Webber at an inopportune moment cost the team 28 points in the constructor’s championship by crashing into Webber. Vettel escaped with a slight ticking off and it was clear to all outsiders that he was seen as the golden boy within the team.

Towards the end of last season both Webber and Vettel were challenging for the drivers’ championship and although Vettel was in the stronger position the Red Bull team said no favouritism would be given however when Vettel needed to make up a place later on Webber was brought in at the wrong time for a pit-stop to let Vettel through which ended Webbers championship chances.

So looking back over the last few years it’s easy to see why when both drivers were told to turn their car down to save them for later in the season. Vettel thought he could push his luck and get away with it once again. There is a famous quote from Ayrton Senna who in my opinion is the most talented driver ever to drive in Formula 1 which states. “If you are a racing driver and see a gap and then don’t go for that gap you are no longer a racing driver.” I also don’t like team orders and think they spoil the races but I also see no glory or sense of achievement in overtaking a team mate who has turned his engine down.

Can the Red Bull working relationship be saved? Yes it can if all of the parties want it to work. Trust has to be built over time and invested in and can be broken in minutes.  Even now Sebastian Vettel is still making excuses saying he didn’t hear the team order. Trust within a team requires honesty from both parties and both parties need to understand why Trust is needed. Taking the team on a course of Team building activities can help but beyond this those involved are going to have to work closely together for a long time to regain any real level of trust. This isn’t just the trust between the drivers there has to be trust between the team management and the drivers that they will follow their leadership. Perhaps this was the reason why Red Bull seems to have finally taken a stand as their leadership has been called in to question and blatantly ignored.

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