• 1980 winner Alan Jones says Vettel ‘can’t be trusted’
• Australian believes his compatriot can still win the title
Alan Jones, the last Australian to win the Formula One world championship, has advised his compatriot Mark Webber to treat his Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel as an enemy for the rest of the season. Jones, who took the title in 1980, believes Webber can still overtake the leader to win his first championship this year.
As Formula One comes to Europe after its mini-break, Jones, who will be the FIA’s driver steward for the fifth race of the season in Barcelona on Sunday 12 May, said: “Seb has proved he can’t be trusted, so from now on Mark must view him as just another enemy.”
At the Malaysian Grand Prix in March, Vettel ignored team orders and passed Webber, who was leading, to steal the race and worsen an already difficult relationship between the two drivers. Jones said: “If Seb didn’t like what was going on he shouldn’t have signed his agreement with Red Bull in the first place. I had a similar experience with Carlos Reutemann in 1981.”
Then, in Brazil, Reutemann flouted pit signals from the Williams team to let Jones, the reigning champion and senior driver, win the race, and went on to take the chequered flag himself. When the Argentinian later offered “to bury the hatchet”, the Australian replied: “Yeah, in your back.”
Webber is in fifth place in the championship, 45 points behind Vettel, but Jones said: “While I don’t think we are going to have as many different winners this year as we had in 2012, there are clearly a number of drivers capable of winning a race. In that situation, the title will be won by the most consistent performer. We know that Mark is good enough, and has a good enough car, to perform consistently.”
Meanwhile, Anthony Davidson believes the team-orders controversy will not go away. “What happened in Malaysia is still a pretty hot debate,” said the Sky Sports expert analyst. Davidson, a former F1 driver who still races cars, added: “From the fans’ point of view, they want to watch a motor race and that means watching the fastest drivers battle it out, team-mates or not. As a driver myself, I wish that was always the case, but things are never as simple as that.
“From a teams’ point of view, a driver is an employee and, when the time comes, team orders are to be obeyed. Unless Red Bull take some discipline with Seb, they are in danger of creating a monster. A true leader tells his troops how to behave.
“Christian Horner [the team principal] has done a phenomenal job, winning six world championships in three years. But he and the decision makers have to take control. Seb must realise there are 600-700 people working incredibly hard for him in the factory. And they lose their bonuses unless the team delivers as a team. If it happens again and the team doesn’t react, it will look farcical, and management within the team will be seen to have less power than their driver.”
Davidson also makes an important point when he says: “For F1 fans, the most important thing is the drivers’ championship. But maybe they don’t realise that, for the teams, the most important thing is the constructors’ title. A considerable chunk of a driver’s salary comes from the revenue a team makes through where they end up in the championship.”
Formula One is going into its European leg with its usual collection of upgrades. This is the time when the early season under-performers – McLaren, Williams and Sauber – must stop the rot if they are to have any hope of glory later in the year. But the noises coming from McLaren, who are sixth in the constructors’ championship, behind Force India, are hardly gung-ho.
Jenson Button, 10th in the championship and already 64 points behind Vettel, said: “There’s been a lot of talk about the importance of next weekend’s upgrades but, as with every upgrade, they’re simply part of the series of continuous improvements that are made across the season. So I’m pragmatic about what we’ll discover. Of course, I’m hopeful it’ll move us a step closer towards the destination.”
Red Bull and Ferrari look likely to dominate the rest of the season. Kimi Raikkonen’s remarkable consistency should keep him in contention, but Lotus, like Mercedes, may struggle to keep up with the pace of development through the summer.