Oh yes, everyone’s favourite little game: conspiracy theories. You may recall one of these going around at the end of 2008 which had something to do with a safety car advantaging a particular driver… Ringing any bells?
This one is quite similar, but the chances of it ever being investigated or actually having any consequences on anyone are virtually nil. It is within the “umm” spirit thus.We of course refer to Helmut Marko’s extraordinary claim that the safety car was deployed to deliberately slash Vettel’s huge lead in Valencia. What sets this case apart from “crashgate“, however, is that the car to have crashed actually significantly disadvantaged Red Bull Racing. The only similarity is that the culprit was part of the team… Well, kind of.
When Jean-Eric Vergne veered his Toro Rosso into Heikki Kovalainen during the race, the Caterham’s left-front wheel disintegrated on the spot, leaving shards of metal strewn across the track. To compound the situation, Jean-Eric’s resulting puncture and damaged suspension left further debris in sector three. It came as no surprise to see the safety car deployed while the marshals set about cleaning up the mess, but a certain someone found it a little fishy.
It is worth noting that this certain someone also believed Mark Webber to be solely responsible for the infamous Red Bull inter-team crash in Istanbul two years ago. Noted? Let’s continue.
First of all, we can rule out any special favours from Red Bull’s satellite team (Toro Rosso) in this case, as it obviously had the opposite effect to that witnessed when Nelson Piquet threw his Renault into the wall in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix. But Helmut Marko — who happens to be a certain someone — was not claiming there was a shady agreement between the teams (why would he?). He was indeed saying the FIA deployed the safety car in order to spice things up a bit as Vettel was getting too far ahead.
Whether you agree with Marko or not, the safety car did improve “the show” dramatically, and Sebastian was forced to retire after his car failed just after the restart. It was eventually put down to an alternator issue believed to have been brought upon by — yep, you guessed it — the safety car.
You cannot blame neither Vettel nor Marko for being very upset with how things panned out, and the safety car — whether it contributed to Sebastian’s retirement or not — all but destroyed his race.
But while Sebastian made it clear afterwards that he had not meant to imply the safety car was deployed to ruin his race, Helmut Marko suggested it was a move similar to what is seen in “American racing”, where the field is deliberately bunched up to improve the racing and prevent runaway victories.
And so, it will come as no surprise to anyone that we have decided to award the mother of all awards you don’t ever want to actually win to this quote:
“Vettel was too far ahead and so the field was brought back together, just as they do in American racing.” — Helmut Marko
This may be his first Umm of the month trophy, but as long as he’s still talking, it may not be his last. A big congratulations to Helmut Marko!