RED Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was forced to apologise yesterday for defying team orders and snatching first place from Mark Webber as relations between the feuding team-mates reached a new low at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
The reigning Formula One champion won in Kuala Lumpur in one hour, 38 minutes and 56 seconds after squeezing past Webber on lap 46 – an incident that saw the Red Bulls come close to colliding. The pair had been instructed to hold positions after their final pit stops yet Vettel ignored the order.
“I messed up. I would love to come up with a very nice excuse or very nice story right now but I can’t – that’s the truth,” Vettel said. “I can completely understand Mark’s frustration and also the team not being happy with what I did. I owe an explanation to him and to the whole team.”
Vettel insisted he “did not ignore it on purpose,” but nonetheless his conduct left Webber furious. The Australian appeared to make a one-fingered gesture at Vettel after being overtaken, before confronting him after the race.
“The team told me the race was over and we turned the engines down to go to the end. The team made their decision. Seb made his own decision and he will have protection as usual,” said Webber, who has previously complained that Red Bull practices favouritism towards their 25-year-old driver.
The team enjoyed an excellent start as Vettel held onto his pole position and Webber negotiated his way up the places, from fifth on the grid. Ferrari suffered a second lap retirement from Fernando Alonso, due to the Spaniard’s front wing falling off.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton steered his way to a third place finish. Adding to the drama, his team-mate Nico Rosberg was also instructed not to overtake Hamilton towards the end of the race, as the Briton’s car was running low on fuel.
“If I’m being honest I really feel Nico should be standing here [on the podium],” Hamilton said, before laughing off a mistake that saw him drive into the pit stop of his former team, McLaren, during the race.
“I just did a Jenson,” he joked, referring to a similar mistake made by Jenson Button two years ago.
Button’s difficult season at McLaren continued as he retired one lap before the end of the race.
■ Turkey, 2010: Sebastian Vettel tries to overtake Mark Webber but the cars make contact and fly off the track
■ Silverstone, 2010: Red Bull give Webber’s spare front wing to Vettel after his breaks in qualifying. Webber jibes: “not bad for a No2 driver” when he goes on to win the race
■ Brazil, 2010: Vettel hits out at Webber’s complaints over Red Bull’s treatment of him: “If Mark needs help then he should take the medical car.”
■ Brazil, 2012: Red Bull chiefs feel that Webber was unhelpful in Vettel’s successful bid to win another title
■ Malaysia, 2013: Webber admitted “there’s a little bit of history” between him and Vettel after their latest clash