Vettel defies team orders to seize victory

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix review

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013The two Red Bull RB9s, identical except for the two men holding the steering wheels, danced around the sinuous curves of the Sepang International Circuit as if they were choreographed.

But Sebastian Vettel’s audacious bid for the lead on lap 46 of the Malaysian Grand Prix was anything but stage-managed. On the Red Bull pitwall lips were bitten, heads in hands, breaths held.

Between Mark Webber and the pitwall there had been a space a few centimetres wider than an RB9. Vettel did not hesitate to seize it – and claim the inside line for the next corner.

He walked Webber to the outside of the corner but stopped short of shoving him off – this was his team mate, after all – allowing Webber to reclaim the inside line for the next corner, and the lead.

Approaching turn four Webber had Vettel on his outside and they swung into the corner together. This time it was Webber’s turn to stay his hand, declining to give Vettel the push onto the kerbs any other driver would surely have received.

That proved decisive. Vettel was on his way to victory number 27. Webber raised his middle finger at his disappearing team mate, and Red Bull’s troubles were just beginning.

Alonso out early

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013When Vettel took his place at the front of the grid an hour and a half earlier the two Ferraris directly behind him seemed a more pressing threat than Webber. On top of that, a late rain shower had doused the circuit, leading everyone to start on intermediate tyres.

But within minutes of the start Fernando Alonso removed himself from contention with two very un-Alonso-like mistakes. Caught out by Vettel’s caution in the second corner, the Ferrari driver nudged the back of the Red Bull, damaging his front wing which now hung from the nose of his F138 by a single pylon.

With the track drying quickly he and Ferrari gambled on staying out until they could make a pit stop for slicks while replacing the damaged wing. But he never got that far. Webber – who had made an atypically excellent start from fifth – was slipstreaming past him on the pit straight when the second pylon gave way. The wing folded under Alonso’s front wheels and he skated helplessly into a gravel trap.

Alonso had battled valiantly to keep Webber behind him on the first lap but it served only to hand Vettel a useful three-and-a-half second lead as they began lap two. However Vettel’s hasty switch to slick tyres a few laps later squandered that advantage.

Webber takes the lead

Vettel’s stop on lap six was timed well enough for him to emerge from the pits ahead of Sergio Perez, Adrian Sutil and Romain Grosjean. But the first sector was where the track was wettest, and Vettel slipped behind all three. In the dry middle sector he quickly re-passed Grosjean and Sutil, but the damage was done.

On the next lap Vettel set the fastest middle sector time and that was Webber’s cue. He appeared in the pits, selected the hard tyres in contrast to his team mate’s mediums, and had Vettel in his mirrors after he returned to the track.

Nico Rosberg briefly held the lead before pitting, and resumed in fourth behind his team mate and the Red Bulls. Behind them Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg were demonstrating their usual flair for damp conditions.

In seventh place was Felipe Massa, who started second but was held up by his team mate’s wounded car in the opening corners. He then lost more time by pitting for slicks on the same lap as Vettel.

Perez was eighth but came under pressure from the two Lotuses. First Grosjean, then Kimi Raikkonen picked off the McLaren, the latter having fallen behind his team mate when he went off at turn 12.

“Mark is too slow”

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Sepang, 2013Having run the opening phase of the race on wet weather tyres the drivers now essentially faced a truncated Malaysian Grand Prix in dry conditions.

But severe tyre degradation remained a major factor, especially for the Red Bulls. “Sebastian also looking after his tyres,” Simon Rennie told Webber shortly after his first pit stop. “We need to look after our tyres as well.”

Webber spent five laps less on the hard tyres than Vettel could manage on the mediums. After their second pit stops Vettel quickly arrived on Webber’s tail, hotly pursued by Hamilton.

“Mark is too slow, get him out of the way, he’s too slow,” Vettel urged on the radio. But Red Bull were not issuing orders – for now. “Be patient, only half race yet,” replied engineer Guillaume Rocquelin.

Mercedes spied an opportunity and brought Hamilton in for his third stop on lap 31. Red Bull had to respond and leader Webber had to be protected first. He and Vettel pitted on consecutive laps and while Webber retained the lead Vettel slipped to third behind Hamilton.

But Vettel’s irritation at this development proved short-lived. Hamilton had switched to the hard tyres and found them not to his liking, losing up to a second per lap to Webber. He was also short of fuel – Mercedes had begun telling him to “lift and coast” before lap 20.

On lap 39 Vettel pressed his DRS button and restored himself to second place. The stage was set for a dramatic and controversial conclusion.

Lotus gain ground with three-stopper

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Sepang, 2013Despite making his second pit stop before the four-stopping Vettel, Button was aiming to get through the race with just three visits to the pit lane. But the third of those did not go to plan – the front-right wheel was not secured properly and Button had to stop in the pit lane and be pushed back to his box before having replacement tyres fitted.

McLaren later retired his car due to the amount of wear on his front-left tyre. Perez suffered a similar problem and had to make a late pit stop for a fourth set of tyres, suggesting a three-stopper was beyond the MP4-28 on this day.

It was possible for the Lotus pair, but unlike in Australia it was not enough to keep Ferrari behind. Massa easily caught and re-passed both drivers after his last stop, while Raikkonen went off at turn 12 for a second time.

Raikkonen had spent several laps trying to find a way around Hulkenberg. He emerged from the pits right on the tail of the Sauber on lap 35 and soon after complained about his rival’s defensive driving: “Did you see what he’s been doing? He pushes me off and now he hits me.” He eventually found a way around the Sauber, who in turn demoted the hobbling Perez later in the race for eighth.

War breaks out at Red Bull

On lap 43 Vettel dived for the pits. His in- and out-laps were blistering: despite a pit stop that was just a hundredth of a second faster than Webber’s he went from being four seconds behind his team mate to attacking him on the outside of turn one as Webber emerged from the pits.

Webber went fully defensive, repeatedly forcing Vettel to the outside and doggedly protecting his lead. Vettel received a message warning him to be “careful” – Red Bull instruct their drivers not to race each other for position after the final pit stop. Instead of Rocquelin it was Christian Horner who reminded Vettel of that on the radio: “This is silly, Seb, come on.”

Vettel wasn’t listening. Perhaps, as Horner suggested afterwards, he was thinking of how Webber could have been more co-operative when there was a world championship on the line at Interlagos last year. “Unfortunately the history goes back to Brazil and beyond that,” said Horner. “These guys race each other hard.”

Or perhaps he’d cast his mind back to Silverstone the year before, when Webber had been given a similar order to hold position and paid no heed to it. Now Vettel returned the favour, but where Webber had been unsuccessful in his attempt to pass Vettel on that occasion, it was not the case this time. Two laps later, Webber was waving goodbye to his team mate with one raised finger.

Rosberg acquiesces

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Sepang, 2013Ten seconds behind them much the same situation was being played out at Mercedes. Both drivers had been told to save fuel but Hamilton’s instructions were more frequent and more urgent.

Fortunately for Hamilton, his team mate plays by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules. Rosberg confined his attempts to pass him to repeated entreaties to Ross Brawn on the radio. A firm “negative” was the response.

“He can go a lot faster as well,” said Brawn, referring to Hamilton and seemingly contradicting the need to save fuel. Hamilton said afterwards he was “fuel saving for a long, long time” and was “unable to keep the pace of the guys in front”.

“So let’s go get the Red Bulls,” urged Rosberg, to no avail. “Understood,” replied Brawn, “but hold position.”

No smiles on the podium

Podium, Sepang, 2013As Vettel crossed the line to clinch victory Webber roared up behind him and chopped across his team mate’s bows.

There were three glum faces on the podium. Vettel deflected questions about what had happened. Webber had challenged him about the team’s ‘multi 21′ code before they took to the rostrum. Hamilton said Rosberg should have been in his place and looked like he meant every word.

Vettel’s win propelled him into the lead of the drivers’ championship but it may carry a price for his team. Afterwards his team spoke ominously of having “a lot of thoughts going through my mind in the last 15 laps”.

For Webber, this may have been the last straw.

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix

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Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Daimler/Hoch Zwei, Lotus/LAT

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298 comments on Vettel defies team orders to seize victory

  1. randomwally said on 25th March 2013, 5:00

    I didn’t see the 2011 race but I think the principle difference, from what I’ve read, is it was a fair fight between drivers. In this case, Webber had been reassured TWICE that Vettel wouldn’t be challenging the lead, both drivers had apparently agreed not to race each other if they had the 1-2 already won and Webber had tuned down the car on team orders. The tires are also different this year and Vettel knew that they would have been destroyed in a couple of laps of battling, opening up opportunities for other teams to overtake and for RBR to lose the 1-2. That’s if they didn’t collide or run off first. He was relying on Webber to be a good guy, put the team first and accept a second place finish rather than battle for 12 laps or whatever they had left. Pace clearly wasn’t an issue, Webber had already demonstrated he was in control by pulling away at 1/2 second a lap moments after Vettel demanded the team order Webber out of the way for being ‘too slow’.

  2. KDesser (@) said on 25th March 2013, 5:37

    I keep wondering if Seb also was on low revs/turned down engine.
    If so he was just still way faster than Webber and I remember he was told to hold back his hunger cause ‘It’s a long race Seb, take it easy’ at the first stints.
    That does justify everything to me. The faster guy feeling held up and just going for it, without risking anything.
    Seb drove off quite nicely after the pass (engine still turned down?!) and had everything in total control.

    For Webber it’s an absolute punch in the face ofcourse, I know that.
    With respectful driving he now is again one step further away from ‘being the no. 1 driver’, he knows it as well as Seb. He can feel the championship already slipping away.

    I think Webber should’ve turned up his engine and defended that place – if that could have saved his place and face.
    He knows by now what a hard time Vettel will give him during the year for the championship – he should have known having Vettel as a teammate is no walk in the park. He should have stood up and take this opportunity with both hands, all the revs in the world and all the rubber on his tires to prevent this sort of loss of face.
    He must feel extremely lost – stabbed in the back by his team, his teammate but most of all, himself.

    When I saw it all happen during the race, I thought to myself “OMG, F1 Fanatic server-overloads!”.
    I just love this drama – at least we have something to talk about during the wait for China :)

    • OKU (@zetaoku) said on 25th March 2013, 7:39

      Could we possibly know that Webber had tuned his engine mapping back to higher performance after being hunted by Vettel or not? (but still they’re already in DRS zone.)
      Or could we possibly know that Vettel knew that Webber would’ve followed the team order to tuned down engine mapping so he could win the position without tuning his own engine?

      Sorry for so many questions I doubt, but I guess we would never know the answers.

      I do love this drama, too. Though I’m sad to see Rosberg had to yield the podium with a chance he could fight for and Brawn saying: ‘He(Hamilton) can go a lot faster as well.’.
      Moreover, it’s Rosberg who won the 1st win for Mercede GP last year…

  3. Bruno (@brunes) said on 25th March 2013, 5:46

    Everyone is being so harsh on Vettel because of his move. And so was I.
    I thought, “how can I driver ignore his own team and risk losing 43 constructor points?”

    But then I though. If Massa had done a similar thing, ignored team orders and passed Alonso, everybody here would be saying that he finally grew some balls, and that’s the Massa we want to see, Ferrari got what they deserved and bla bla bla.

    I think, most people just don’t like the idea that vettel might win a fourth consecutive WDC and so are looking for excuses to hate on him. I understand that, because I also do not want another boring year of Vettel’s domination. However, we should look at the facts and put ourselves, and other drivers in Vettel’s position and consider what we would have done.

    – Senna is now considered an F1 God for standing up and fighting for his own space regardless of the team mate.
    – Barrichello on the other hand, is remembered and the guy who should have stood up for himself and done what he wanted at Ferrari.

    I am not a fan of Vettel, but I think we should look at the facts, look at F1’s history and put ourselves in his position before “killing” him.

    • juergen (@juergen) said on 25th March 2013, 6:01

      It is to short of a time to look at this events in a full perspective. I think you are already looking too far and not realizing that Sebastian Vettel himself admitted he did wrong. He did not stood up to his actions. He apologized too quickly and in my opinion his words were not sincere.

      • Roberto (@roberto) said on 26th March 2013, 3:32

        And this was his only mistake I think. Better say nothing then admit you did wrong. I’m just picturing Alonso in Vettels situation. He would laugh at the whole thing and think to himself (and tell the team) if you don’t get Massa out of the way I will force myself through. But then again Ferrari would just yawn at this situation since they would know exactly what to do. They are masters when it comes to having a clear number one driver. How many WDC does a guy have to win to be considered that at RBR I wonder? I guess three in succession are not enough..

    • Kimi4WDC said on 25th March 2013, 6:10

      No one is killing him, I think it’s pretty natural to expect a man with his amount of experience and Three World Titles to have more insight. On the other side, Michael had to get a break in order to become a better human being.

      Personally my emotions of watching and listening to Vettel after the race were ones of when I watched Cat Woman with Halley Berry.

  4. juergen (@juergen) said on 25th March 2013, 5:47

    I believe Seb will amend this situation somehow in a race. On the other hand I was secretly waiting for some sort of televised confrontation, not for long though, I rather preferred and applaud Mark’s podium statement. Concise, clear and to the point. This podium has to be one with the least smiles I have seen in a while.

  5. Simply, Vettel is not a team player. They were going to be 1, 2 as a team but obviously not good enough if you are in it for yourself only. Besides what he did could have jeapordised not only Webbers car but possibly others. He is a dangerous driver, good but dangerous. Turning off the radio should be a breach of safety rules. In a horse race this is called a ‘protest 2nd vs 1st. Protest upheld.

    • Mike Dee (@mike-dee) said on 25th March 2013, 7:22

      I have to disagree with the dangerous thing. VET and WEB have raced each other quite often, and with one exception it always went well. I think a pass on your team mate is less risky than a pass on any other driver.

    • Roberto (@roberto) said on 26th March 2013, 3:38

      If anything it was Webber who was dangerous. He almost ran Vettel into the wall and I actually expected some panalty after that. It was a carbon copy of what Schumacher did on Barichello few years back. Can’t believe Vettel made that one stick as well….

  6. AldoG said on 25th March 2013, 7:24

    I have mixed feelings about what happened, and all in all this race is one I prefer to forget. To me, it showed the worst side of F1, showed how it is moving towards a spectacle, an entertainment show more than a sport, pure racing.
    I don’t blame Vettel for ignoring orders. I still remember the Williams crew showing the sign “JONE REUT”, demanding Carlos Reutemann to hive his leading position to Alan Jones in Jacarepaguá. Reutemann ignored it and went to win the race. The environment was never again the same at Williams, Jones was champion and Reutemann ended his career. I respect a driver that ignores an order to do this, as such orders are deeply against the core, basic principle of racing.
    Rosberg yesterday decided to follow the team order, and I felt bad that he did it. I am sure he would have been able to overtake Hamilton. And after crossing the lane, he said on the radio: “Remember this”. But it was already too late.
    BUT was Vettel did was really, really low, because Webber followed the order to keep pace and reduce the engine map, being assured that Vettel would do the same. But Vettel didn’t, and took advantage of a teammate in inferior conditions. IF the team order was “keep pace” only, I can understand that Mark maybe would be able to defend his position and put some fight (maybe to win, maybe to be overtaken) in equal conditions, but as it happen, it was a fight between two drivers in different strength. It was like punching a drunk. And that was disgusting.
    To complete the scenario, his reaction after the race was just unacceptable. To me, it was a very, very sad day for Formula 1.
    After many years living in France I learned the subtle meanings of the word “panache”. It is very difficult to translate, but panache is what refrains a Formula 1 racer with an engine problem to crash against a competitor to be a champion, or to take advantage of a competitor in inferior conditions, or to let your teammate to crash against the wall so you can win a race. There is no enough money in the world to buy panache. It doesn’t matter how many world titles and pole positions Vettel has or will have, he should feel ashamed.
    Ok, sorry for this, rant over.

  7. TMF (@tmf42) said on 25th March 2013, 7:48

    There is something fundamentally wrong with F1. The headline could also read – “Scandal in F1. Driver wins by overtaking opponent”
    I get why they issue team orders but for me as a fan WDC has priority and WCC is a nice to have. Pirelli makes it already hard for them to race but if teams are ending races with show-runs after half the distance then it would be better to move on and find something else to watch.

  8. raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 25th March 2013, 8:03

    I was thinking. What if Multi 21 wasn’t “hold position?”

    Here’s my reasoning:
    – Vettel is not dumb. He’s quite a smart cookie.
    – The fact that Vettel used “misunderstood” as an excuse means that “Multi 21″ could be something that is misunderstood.

    I wonder if Multi 21, or whatever their pre-agreed plan was before the race, was basically to “tone the engine down and manage the tyres” – as opposed to “holding station.”

    Webber perhaps understood it as, “if both cars are managing tyres and engines, then we won’t race each other.”
    Vettel perhaps understood it as, “tone the engine down, and manage the tyres.”

    I do not believe that Vettel is dumb enough to misunderstand “hold position” – nor do I think he is dumb enough to think that people will accept that he misunderstood “hold position.”

  9. Bruno (@brunes) said on 25th March 2013, 8:22

    The best question from the media came from Brazil imao.

    (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) A question to all drivers. What do you think the fans of Formula One will think when they hear or they read that the winner is saying “I’m sorry to win, the second should be here” and the third says “I’m sorry to be here my team-mate that is fourth should be here”?

    • AldoG said on 25th March 2013, 8:51

      Livio has been covering F1 for decades and is the guy who opened the can of worms with the Piquet Jr. crash affair (I believe -but I can’t prove it- that Piquet Sr. told him; anyway, he got the story first). I can even miss a session or qualy, but never miss reading Livio’s comments and blog.

  10. vuelve kowalsky said on 25th March 2013, 8:25

    Most of the fans seem to forget one important fact. This race was manipulated by the teams, and only got a good fight because vettel didn’t obey team orders. The teams didn’t do anything against the regulations, but the fact that now team orders are allowed, doens’t mean we have to like them.
    Thanks vettel for being a racing driver. I hope you get your 4th title this year, even if i would choose some other driver to go to dinner with.

  11. MNM101 (@mnm101) said on 25th March 2013, 8:37

    it is infuriating how people ignore this, Mark DID THIS before, and with much higher stakes (Brazil 2012 comes to mind), but because he is perceived as RB’s “whipping boy” and/or “underdog”, he gets everyone’s support, an also that he could never reep any benefits from defying team orders (Silverstone 2011).
    I agree that Seb was at fault, but only towards the team for disobeying an order, but as far as Mark is concerned, i think he got a taste of his own medicine and has nothing to complain about.

  12. puneeth Bharath (@puneethvb) said on 25th March 2013, 9:21

    That was an interesting race.. My thoughts on the race..

    1. Why is Mark webber so offended ? Vettel looked the faster of the two for most of the race and he overtook Webber on the track( I know the team had asked him not to).. But I am wondering what if webber was the one behind.. he might probably have done the same thing ( There are ample eveidences from the past that Mark is not someone who obeys team orders)… In any case if he felt cheated why dint he fight back or even agressively pushed vettel off the track when they were fighting for positions? Either he dint have the pace to fight back or dint have the guts to stand up for himself..and in both cases he deserved what he got… I am no Vettel fan , infact I dislike him..but I have to say except the apology he made (he must have been luaghing inside thinking about the 25 points).. I find nothing wrong with what he did…

    2. What is wrong with Massa? Just when we thought he is back to his best… he messes up again( I know he finished 5th but had he not messed up his start and the first stint he would’ve been on the podium behind the bulls) .. Good that Alonso retired .. otherwise People might be complaining there was some sort of conspiracy against massa by Ferrari and Alonso..

    3. It’s pretty evident that who is number 1 at Mercedes, isnt it? ( I’ve no problems though, Hamilton is the faster and better driver IMO) .. And he was candid enough to admit that Nico deserved the podium more than him… I never used to like Lewis.. but since he left Mclaren, I kind of started liking this guy.. and Now I know it was mclaren i disliked not Lewis..

    only disappointing thing was Alonso’s retirement … I think he would’ve been in the mix, if he dint damage his FW… and on top of that Vettel bagged max points which could be crucial come end of the season.. Hope Alonso and ferrari will be strong in China and Bahrain..

  13. RobG said on 25th March 2013, 9:22

    So they’v been telling their number one driver, three time and current world champion, to hold second place with ~15 odd laps to go, expecting an ego driven type A personality to obey and sit still behind the wheel.

    As this seems to be acceptable to the majority of people, I propose a new F1 rule:

    ‘after 80 % of the race, no more overtaking allowed’

    Or even better:

    ‘All races will permanently be shortened by 20%, saving fuel, tires and time’

  14. I believe that unless Red Bull deal with this, then Vettel is proving he is bigger than the team….not a good combination..Even Adrian Newey looked upsert at Vettels behaviour and Newey may decide its time( for one of them) to move on…
    Its not finished yet!!!

  15. Puffy (@puffy) said on 25th March 2013, 9:58

    In my opinion both Mercedes and Red Bull were wrong to order their drivers to hold position, this is racing and the drivers should be free to race for position. If one driver has to turn down their engine because he has used too much fuel or gained an advantage from being under fuelled, then his team mate shouldn’t be penalised. These are world class drivers and should be trusted to battle fairly with each other.

    The difference I think between the way the Red Bull and Mercedes drivers handled the team orders is significant, and boils down to respect. Rosberg was clearly unhappy with the team orders and voiced his dissatisfaction, however he respected his team mate enough to stay behind (a position I don’t think he should have been put in). Vettel on the other hand, while understandably wanting to race and upset by the team orders, showed that he has little respect for Webber.

    • Palle (@palle) said on 25th March 2013, 23:19

      @puffy – it just shows the difference between the psychology of a 3 x WDC and a driver who will probably never become a WDC. If not sooner then at the end of the season Red Bull management will understand what their stupid team-order did and why Vettel was right in disregarding it. If he had been 7 points lower in the standings the last 3 years he would only have been 1 x WDC. More often management should let the experts do their job, without interfering because they are nervous or don’t trust their employees despite a long history of success. Sometimes we have seen team mates battling so hard that we have wondered why the team didn’t issue a team order to end the battle, but this situation perfectly illustrates why it isn’t a good idea. Don’t issue orders which are to hard to obey – You weaken your own authority and the relationship between all involved. And as Rosberg commented “This will be remembered!” he will drive with “unfinished baggage” which can cause problems later because he clearly didn’t agree with the team order.

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