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GP Week : Issue 124
Webber is ready to walk GPWEEK OPINION >> the ideal. It is not only to be different that Ducati pivots its rear suspension from the gearbox casing. It also saves a precious few centimetres in a quest to overcome an intrinsic design limitation. The talking point this year has been Rossi’s problems with their pioneering chassis-less design. Where the thoroughly conventional Japanese rivals imitate one another with variations on the twin-spar theme, Ducati have eliminated this element altogether. The engine is the main chassis, joined to the steering head by a carbon-fibre airbox that does double duty as front sub- frame. The rear suspension (as mentioned) hangs off the back of the engine casing. Economical and elegant: an exercise in advanced engineering. The trouble with employing advanced engineering in racing, however, is that you are up against conventional engineering that has been developed and polished to a very high degree. While you are casting about for the right solution to problems nobody else has yet faced, they are winning races. The questions hanging over Ducati is not whether they can make their mini-frame flex and feel the way it should, but how long will it take them? And how long have they got? In the way of these things, the answer to how long it will take depends on how much Ducati is prepared to spend. It’s a little company compared with Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki; and Rossi’s crew have already commented that the speed of supply of upgrades or new designs also lags noticeably by comparison. How long have they got? I’m sure Rossi is man enough to overcome difficulties far greater than he faces now. I’m less sure that he will be able to find the enthusiasm for long enough. His contract is until the end of next year. They’d better get it right well before then. closer, and so some friction was to be expected. This year, Vettel is running away with it and, you could argue, it’s correct, even at this mid-point in the season, that Horner should put all his chips on the favourite. Seb’s odds are that good. Therefore the team principal will be angry that Webber didn’t adhere to the direct order, because it could have compromised the result. He may even be thinking that it’s time to dispense of Mark’s services, due to this discipline issue. I was thrilled to hear that Mark raced to the finish. Good on him. That’s what you want from a racing driver. But does he really think ‘to hell with the consequences’? Maybe. To walk away from the best car is a decision not many drivers take. Can this be wise? Fernando Alonso did so at the end of 2007, and Alonso is in many ways a hero, as well as a friend, to Mark. If the Australian leaves Red Bull, there is persistent speculation that he will join his chum at Ferrari, and to arrange this Felipe Massa will be bought out of his contract. Ferrari will only do this, though, if they have a protégé lined up in the wings. Mark Webber’s shelf life is two or three more years. By then, Sergio Perez should be ready. But, at Ferrari, Mark would have ‘number two’ embossed on his business cards. And he’s not going to like that. Ducati and the Law of Diminishing Returns 21