The controversy continues at Red Bull this week as fans, teams, pundits and dads all weigh in on the Sebastian Vettel pass on Mark Webber in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix. The 3-time champion didn’t ignored team orders and passed his teammate, Webber, for the win.
Vettel has since apologized to the team as well as Mark Webber and Mark Webber’s father, Alan Webber:
“It’s been controversial up there for sure,” said Webber senior.
“The team aren’t altogether happy with Sebastian I’m afraid. Sebastian’s apologised to Mark and he’s even apologised to me, but I just don’t know how Seb can disobey an order, come back and feels he won a race and then make an apology after.
“When you look at him in his eyes he looks quite sincere about it all…but anyway that’s what happened to Seb and he’s apologised but the team I know aren’t happy with him at all.”
It seems even Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has supported Webber in the incident:
“I’ll say this: I read the text that Mr Mateschitz sent Mark and I think Mark’s position is assured,” Alan said.
But the controversy, like all controversies, has spilled over into a dodgy area of inner-team politics with Red Bull interlocutor, Helumt Marko (a clear Vettel supporter) suggesting that the Sunday’s race proves that Red Bull have no clear numer one or number two drivers such as can found at Mercedes AMG Petronas.
That comment raised the ire of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton who also benefitted from team orders as a much faster teammate, Nico Rosberg, was told to hold station behind Hamilton which allowed the British champion to secure 3rd place. Hamilton said:
“That is rubbish,” Hamilton told reporters. “They [Red Bull] have a clear one and two, they always have. And that is why they have the problems they have always had.
“We don’t have a one and two here. I have always said, from the moment I was speaking to the team, that I wanted equality and that I didn’t want to be favoured.
“They didn’t even offer to favour me but I just wanted to make the point that I am not a driver that comes and requests that like a lot of other drivers do.
“You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and say you won fair and square. Just like in Malaysia, I don’t feel like I won my spot fair and square. Although I did drive a decent race, I don’t feel spectacular about it.”
Hamilton made no bones about his podium finish being rightfully one Rosberg should have taken and while some could consider that a sign of Lewis being favored over Rosberg, who was clearly faster, team boss Ross Brawn said the decision was not to favor Lewis but to ensure that both cars came home int eh points with the best possible finish and to allow passing was too risky:
“In my judgement, the lowest risk solution was for the drivers to hold station,” Brawn explained to AUTOSPORT
“Nico may have got past Lewis, but on the fuel management programme that both drivers were running, there was no opportunity to progress further or challenge the front two cars.
“A third and fourth place finish was an excellent result for the team and I was not prepared to risk it.
“When I spoke to the team afterwards, I used the analogy of a man in the desert who had found a cup of water – and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t spill a single drop.”
As the controversy continues, Vettel is finding some support and a lot of derision from fans and F1 pundits alike. Justifying team orders is now on the talking points list for the FIA as some fans question the decision to allow them int he sport while others maintain that Vettel should be punished.
Suffice to say, things will be tense in China in three weeks time and while the Red Bull duo have not been close friends, Vettel’s actions on Sunday will cement the distance between them even more.