Who’s in charge? Vettel or Red Bull?

Sebastian Vettel took it upon himself to win the Malaysian Grand Prix regardless of what the team or Mark Webber had planned. With 10 laps to go in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Vettel ignored team orders to take the lead of the race away from teammate Mark Webber. Webber had been told to preserve the car, turn the wick down and cruise to victory. Vettel had been told the same.

For reason only known to Vettel, he chose to ignore those directives and take the lead from his teammate. Vettel has since apologized to Webber for his actions but the BBC’s Andrew Benson put the question to team boss Christian Horner:

“He’s obviously chosen to hear what he wants to hear,” Horner said. “He’s a race driver, he’s competitive, he’s hungry. He hasn’t achieved the championships he has by not pushing the limits and he has pushed that today with his team-mate and the team.”

Why not ask Sebastian to concede the position back to Mark?

“Do you honestly think if we had told him to slow down and give the place back he’d have given it back?” he said.

The BBC wanted to know if Horner had asked him to concede:

“There’s no point,” Horner responded. “He’d made it quite clear what his intention was by making the move. He knew what the communication was. He chose to ignore it.”

For Vettel’s part, he offered a confusing array of reasons for his actions:

“We talked about this many times before the race. It very rarely happens. Today it did and I should have translated the call into action.

“I just didn’t get the message. I got it. I heard it. But obviously no action followed because I misunderstood.”

Just behind the Red Bull duo, a similar situation was playing out at Mercedes with Nico Rosberg, clearly quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton, breathing down the neck of the sister car while team boss Ross Brawn demanded that the young German hold station.

Rosberg obeyed and Lewis Hamilton said he felt odd being on the podium as Rosberg rightfully deserved to be in 3rd place instead of himself. The team thanked Rosberg for his obedience but one wonders why they were asking for it in the first place? The same question could be asked of Red Bull.

Wait… isn’t Ferrari the biggest offender of team orders?

Brawn, as well as Horner, were asking their drivers to orchestrate the finish of the race. To hold station and not pass. The team most slated for their orchestration of races (team orders) has always been Ferrari and that team was was completely innocent today. In fact, Red Bull have been the most outspoken and offensive to Ferrari’s team orders in the past and yet today, they managed to orchestrate a complete cock up.

Vettel did not obey the team while Rosberg did and in the end, the seven points Vettel gained from the disobedience could secure a championship away from his main rival, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Alonso had a DNF as his damaged front wing came off, lodged under his car and sent the Spaniard into the gravel on the second lap. Clearly Vettel believed in making hay while the sun shone in Malaysia.

And then there’s Marko

Mark Webber was not shy in his answer during the podium interview. While Vettel was weaving around the controversy, Webber took it straight to the world saying:

“After the last stop the team told me the race was over,” Webber said. “We turned the engines down and we go to the end.

“I want to race as well but the team made a decision, which we always say before the race is how it’s going to be. Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection and that’s the way it goes.”

Clearly Webber is speaking of the internal support Vettel has from Dr. Helmut Marko. Webber doesn’t feel Vettel will be in trouble for his actions as he has all the support within the team.

In the past, Christian Horner has been very vocal about his disdain for team orders and yet today, he is very miffed about his driver ignoring them. Perhaps Vettel didn’t get the memo on team orders and actually believed his team boss when he slated Ferrari for similar actions.

The most cogent argument to the status quo of both Webber and Hamilton (leading their teammates) came from Mercedes boss Ross Brawn when he told Nico Rosberg that Hamilton could go much faster too but that Ross had told Lewis to slow down and he expected Rosberg to do the same. Chances are, Webber was in exactly the same situation.

Fans will draw their own conclusions but suffice to say, Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel may have just created the first chink in the armor of their long-term relationship. Once a trust is compromised, things can go down hill very quickly. Don’t be surprised to see Vettel at Ferrari after 2014.

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