DECEMBER 6, 2004
Webber and Pizzonia - an interesting situation
We tend to avoid writing stories about drivers attacking one another verbally but it is worth mentioning an apparent spat that has been going on in recent days between Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia, the man who is tipped to join him at BMW Williams in 2005.
Webber was quoted in an Italian newspaper saying that Pizzonia's version of what happened when they were team mates at Jaguar Racing in 2003 was rather different to his version of reality. Whether the words which have been bandied around were actually said and whether things have been "spun" in the translation and re-translation is one issue but there is a second much more important issue which must also be considered. Whatever Webber said, it was clearly not complimentary and although he may have been rebuked by Williams for saying it, the thought is still out there. Webber would rather have someone else as his team mate. Pizzonia's fans see this as an indication that the Australian is frightened that Antonio is quicker than he is but this does not really explain the situation because when Jenson Button was announced as his team mate Webber was very happy and said that he wanted to go up against the best because a racing driver is judged by the people he beats and Webber clearly believes that he can beat Button. He seems to feel that having beaten Pizzonia at Jaguar Racing, he does not have to prove the point again.
The Brazilian camp has always said that Pizzonia did not get a fair crack of the whip at Jaguar Racing, although mention that to one of the Jaguar management and the response is explosive. The different interpretations of what happened at Jaguar Racing in 2003 cannot be reconciled with one another. One must either accept one side or the other or simply ignore the question.
Unfortunately, by aiming to put Webber and Pizzonia together again, Williams cannot ignore the question. Webber knows that he is not going to be able to dictate his team mate, but he has made the point which now needs to be addressed. He is also the man in the strong position because he has a contract. Pizzonia has been consistently quick in testing. He has learned a great deal since the debacle at Jaguar Racing two years ago but has yet to prove his abilities with good race showings. He has had little chance to do that thus far.
Williams can go ahead with Webber and Pizzonia and hope that the two men learn to respect one another. The danger of that is that the team will be split between them or, worse still, one of the drivers will not feel at home and that would affect his performance.
Williams might avoid conflict by choosing someone other than Pizzonia for the second seat. There are other drivers out there but the team may not wish to be seen to be giving in to a driver.
At the same time they know that the ultimate aim of the team is to perform as well as possible with two cars.
An interesting situation.
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