Istanbul: Red Bull need to read the riot act to their simmering Formula One drivers even as they lick self-inflicted wounds from a Turkish Grand Prix nightmare.
If they let a feud fester between Australian Mark Webber and German Sebastian Vettel, it will play straight into the hands of rivals McLaren -- who know a thing or two about bad blood between team mates but are currently basking in unity.
Three years ago, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were barely on speaking terms at McLaren and, after shooting themselves in the foot in Hungary, ended up losing both championships to Ferrari.
Sunday’s needless collision between the two Red Bull drivers cost the team the constructors’ championship lead, a second successive one-two finish and Webber his third victory in a row.
World champion Jenson Button, now Hamilton’s team mate at new leaders McLaren, said the fallout could be even more destructive if not nipped in the bud.
“We are all competitive and sometimes you find it difficult to back down in certain situations but when you look at the data and look at the footage, someone’s always in the wrong,” the Briton told reporters.
“So it’s about owning up and moving forward.
“And if they can’t do that, it does play into our hands because we go to Canada having finished first and second, those two crashed and when you’re not getting on I’m sure you don’t share information as much.”
Resentment clouds judgement in a sport requiring split-second decisions and total focus. There is a risk of drivers getting hung up about beating certain individuals, losing sight of the bigger picture.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner will have to bang some heads together since neither championship leader Webber nor Vettel, the biggest loser on the day after scoring no points, showed any signs of forgiveness on Sunday night.
“Sebastian was as pissed off as Mark sounded in the press conference,” he told reporters.
“He was frustrated, Mark was frustrated, so we’ve got to sit down with both drivers and go through it because we’ve got to bounce back.”
Before the start of the season, the focus was more on McLaren than Red Bull when commentators tried to size up potential flashpoints.
Having two champions in one line-up, at a team seemingly built around Hamilton, appeared to indicate trouble ahead. Instead, there have been few ripples.
They fought each other on track on Sunday but gave each other space and plenty of respect.
At Red Bull, where there have always been suspicions that Vettel is the favoured one, Webber was seen more as an effective number two and team player.
By raising his game, with three poles in a row and two successive victories going into Istanbul, the Australian has changed the dynamic and Vettel appears to be feeling the strain.
Horner, whose drivers have been supreme in qualifying but have failed to make the most of that advantage in races, avoided giving a direct answer when asked whether the relationship between the two had soured.
“It’s one that we’ll have to manage,” he said. “They are both grown ups and they need to both look at it objectively. We need to move on from here.
“We will sit down with both drivers, go through what has happened. Both drivers drive for the team, no individual is bigger than the team.”
Horner stressed after the race that both had received equal treatment but Webber appeared far from convinced.
Leading a one-two, he was told to turn down the power of his engine to save fuel before Vettel made his fateful attempt to overtake. The Australian wanted people to know that afterwards, and to find out why.
His team boss explained that Vettel had one more lap of full power left and had tried to get past because he was under pressure from Hamilton.
The threat was perhaps exaggerated. Both McLarens were already in fuel-saving mode.
“I am sure that they (Red Bull) knew we were trying to conserve fuel, everything gets broadcast these days and I’m sure they are listening to it,” McLaren chief engineer Tim Goss said.
Button confirmed that: “I was saving fuel from lap 20, which made it interesting,” he said. “Lift and coast, lift and coast and short shift.”