Sebastian Vettel has been cornered at the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend to add commentary to his actions three weeks ago at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel ignored team orders and passed his artificially slower teammate for the win. While Vettel apologized to his team and to his teammate, Mark Webber, he also said earlier this week that he won’t apologize for winning… that is what he is paid to do.
Vettel added more salt to the festering relationship between he and Webber by telling the press:
“Mark didn’t deserve that. The bottom line is I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won.”
“I never had support from his side. In terms of my relationship with Mark, I respect him a lot as a racing driver but I think there was more than one occasion in the past when he could have helped the team but didn’t,”
While some may view this as a draconian approach to the issue, others may see his scenario much the same as Mercedes drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, in which the former was clearly faster than the latter but held station to hand the podium finish to his teammate… who later said, on the podium interview, that Rosberg deserved third and he didn’t.
The reality of the situation could be nested in the final race for the 2012 season in which Webber challenged Vettel during a critical race that was already wrought with incident for the young German and he had to desperately finish 7th or higher to win the title. When asked if Malaysia was payback, Vettel said:
“Probably you could indirectly say so.”
That’s not the first payback Formula One has ever seen. Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso had a tussle when teammates at McLaren that saw paybacks of publicly exposed embarrassment for the team when the latter sat idle in a pit stop to prevent his teammate from making a final run during qualifying.
How history will judge each action is up to the history books but the backlash Vettel has experienced from some F1 fans has been fierce. Admittedly the vitriol doesn’t sound as if it is coming from Vettel fans who now are violently angry rather Vettel detractors who see the Malaysian scandal as an opportunity to tell the rest of the world how right they were to dislike the German champion.
Will history recall the sacrifice Rosberg made in holding station as admirable and beyond reproach? Most likely it will but will it, in the end, propel his career further or increase his shelf life in Formula One? That is debatable. Championships and victories are the stuff that long, glorious careers are made of, not necessarily obedient compliance for finishing second best. I recall Rubens Barrichello or even Felipe Massa and how orchestrated obedience meant finishing second best.
Rubens left for what he felt would be greener pastures instead of enduring more oppressive obedience at Ferrari. While that gambit didn’t work out at Williams F1, Rubens felt that perhaps trying to be number one at a mid-field team was better than being number two at the top team… that surely is the conundrum Mark Webber is facing as we speak and in the end, I am not sure it is. perhaps Felipe Massa could prove that theory wrong by being re-signed at Ferrari for 2013.