Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 June, 2010, 12:00am

I've looked it up. Not online, but properly, in an old-fashioned, big book. A dictionary - remember them? - and I quote, 'Teammate [noun] a fellow member of a team'.

No great surprise there then, but it might be worth showing it to the Red Bull team as they head to Montreal for this weekend's grand prix.

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are keen to let the world know that they have put the unfortunate events of the last grand prix behind them. There isn't a much more unfortunate event than crashing with your teammate when you are first and second in a race. It's worse when you had an increasingly iron grip on the season. Lewis Hamilton must have been laughing all the way to the chequered flag.

Pit garages and the nearby motor homes can be tense places at the best of times on race days, but I'd like to have been an anonymous witness to the post-race goings on at Red Bull. I imagine it must have been an agony to wait for Webber to come off the podium and for the inquest to begin. You can only imagine the sparks that flew in some dark corner of the paddock.

Webber is known for his straight talking and Vettel is no shrinking violet. With opinion split as to who was to blame, you can be sure that no one was backing down.

The most important thing is how it develops from here. Has the air really been cleared? The history of the sport is littered with fabulously intense feuds between drivers sitting in the same pit garage. Most recently it was Hamilton and Alonso; most famously it was Senna and Prost. Christian Horner, the Red Bull team boss, will have his work cut out ensuring the pair don't fall out again while keeping their fierce competitive edge.

Perhaps he wishes for the days when clear-cut team orders weren't frowned upon. At the moment he's content to let his two drivers race freely and the team seem pretty comfortable the situation isn't going to spiral out of control. This week Webber extended his Red Bull contract into next year. His teammate then as now will be Vettel. Perhaps the Red Bull spin is true and the two have decided to move on and worry about Canada.

It's good to see the Canadian Grand Prix back on the calendar after a year's hiatus. It's even better news that the United States is set to host a race in Texas from 2012. It seems somehow wrong that a world championship doesn't have a race in the States. Of course it's all part of Bernie Ecclestone's plan to expand the F1 calendar to as many as 24 races. Good news for the fans of course, but it does throw up concerns for the teams and their ability to cope with such a hectic schedule.

Williams are the latest team to make public their disquiet. Their chief executive, Adam Parr, has called for the grand prix weekend to be cut to two days. Losing Friday practice, he argues, would make logistical and financial sense if the number of grands prix rise. The Friday, it's suggested, could become more of a fan day, with pro-am races and the like to keep people entertained.

In some ways it makes a lot of sense. This column has long argued for more consideration to be given to the ordinary fan. Letting them into the pit lane at certain times and getting better access to drivers would certainly enliven the race experience. But I imagine that many fans, even on a Friday, would like to see and hear a F1 car in its pomp. With the lack of testing in season, many teams cherish their Friday running, and that is a concern that needs to be addressed before we see an 'F1 fun day Friday'.

Parr made his comments as he unveiled Williams' financial results for last year. They made a profit of GBP4.5 million (H$50.68 million). He pointed out that the financial health of F1 as a whole is measured by the health of Williams, 'and we're in good shape'.

In these challenging times that is good new for all F1 fans.