Red Bull Racing top dog Dietrich Mateschitz recently stated in an interview that he has told current Red Bull driver Mark Webber that he will be a candidate for a race seat in 2014, adding that Webber will be “always welcome” at RBR. That should have been all Mateschitz said regarding Red Bull’s possible 2014 line-up, but unfortunately he didn’t stop there.
Mateschitz went on to say that other drivers, including both current wheel men at Toro Rosso, were also candidates. Either Jean-Eric Vergne or Daniel Ricciardo moving up to RBR makes some degree of sense if Webber doesn’t return. Last season was the first full year in Formula 1 for either driver, and Toro Rosso’s decision to bring both drivers back for 2013 speaks volumes about their future potential, despite Vergne and Ricciardo finishing 17th and 18th respectively in the driver’s points in 2012. This season Vergne has scored 12th and 10th place finishes, while Ricciardo has only two exhaust-related DNFs to show for his efforts.
Yet the Toro Rosso drivers being toyed with as possibily filling a Red Bull seat in 2014 was not the comment from Mateschitz that concerns me, it was his next response. When asked if the team had interest in Kimi Raikkonen, who is currently driving for Lotus F1 Team and second in the driver’s championship, the Red Bull boss said, “Kimi is cool and fast and always a candidate.”
He can’t be serious, can he? I love Raikkonen and know that adding him would be the dream move for Red Bull, and that the Iceman drove for Red Bull’s World Rally Championship team during his time in that sport, but given RBR’s recent driver drama it just isn’t feasible.
Simply put, Kimi is Kimi. He is a fiery competitor and, despite the F1 taboo of acknowledging that there are number one and number two drivers, Raikkonen is a number one guy. Kimi and Sebastian Vettel would not be able to co-exist at Red Bull. RBR needs to learn that keeping two roosters in the hen house isn’t wise.
I mean no disrespect to Webber because he is an excellent driver and the fact that he didn’t knock Vettel out cold following the Malaysia Grand Prix speaks enormously towards his character. That being said, Raikkonen is a better driver and has a far lower tolerance for B.S. than it appears Aussie Grit does.
Raikkonen and Vettel would constantly be in situations where their personal success in a Grand Prix might be at odds with the team’s goal of having both of their drivers cooperate and not waste the cars battling each other. It would be a volatile mixture that could lead to complete dominance of the sport, or more likely, the team being ripped apart by the competitiveness of their drivers. It would not work.
As for Webber, I personally don’t think he will be back with Red Bull in 2014. I see two possible scenarios for the Aussie if he doesn’t go back to RBR: either he joins up with a team where he can be paired with a younger driver that would help him win his own World Championship, or he retires from Formula One.
Mateschitz admitted that his comments leave the future of Red Bull’s driver line-up a bit fuzzy, and I think that was exactly what he intended to do. I believe he meant to send a message which says that while RBR would welcome Webber back in 2014, they certainly aren’t limited on options. Doing things this way, Mateschitz is able to feed the media frenzy surrounding Red Bull while also essentially telling Webber that his “welcome” at the team depends on whether or not he is willing to continue playing second fiddle to Vettel.
This game of double talk could come back to bite Red Bull. If Webber leaves and joins up with another team he could cause a lot of trouble on the track for RBR and particularly for Vettel. Not to mention that swapping a driver like Aussie Grit for a younger, tamer driver could hurt Red Bull in the constructor’s points in future seasons. As I’ve already covered the negatives to signing Kimi that leaves Red Bull with a lot of options that are mostly bad.
If RBR doesn’t find a way to do right by Webber and get him back for the 2014 season, they could fall off at a time when teams like Lotus, Ferrari, and Mercedes are poised to dethrone them.
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