LONDON: Formula One’s pre-season mind games kicked off on Tuesday with Fernando Alonso having a dig at Red Bull after one of Sebastian Vettel’s main mentors accused the Ferrari driver of playing politics last year.
Helmut Marko, a close advisor to Red Bull’s billionaire owner Dietrich Mateschitz, contrasted triple world champion Vettel’s attitude to Alonso’s in an interview with the company’s in-house Red Bulletin magazine. The Austrian said the 25-year-old German, who beat Alonso to the title last year, was a phenomenon who “shuts himself off from the rest of the world, so that he can still call on reserves that other drivers might not have”.
Alonso, by contrast, was “busy with politics and funny comments”.
“I believe we saw the stress he (Alonso) was under towards the end of the season. Saying things like, ‘I’m competing against (Lewis) Hamilton, not Vettel,’ and ‘I’m up against (Red Bull designer Adrian) Newey’,” added Marko.
“These psychological skirmishes - we said: ‘Just ignore him.”
Alonso had a 42-point advantage over Vettel at the mid-season break last year but ended up losing out to the Red Bull driver by three points.
As the battle heated up, so too did the psychological warfare and even as he celebrated the title Vettel spoke out about what he saw as ‘dirty tricks’ and attempts to unsettle him and the team.