Vettel defies team orders to seize victory

2013 Malaysian Grand Prix reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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

298 comments on “Vettel defies team orders to seize victory”

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  1. Formula One has lost its way. I do not believe it is possible for anyone to sincerely say they believed they have watched true racing of late. The Malaysian Grand Prix was yet another classic example of why we need to re-introduce the team orders ban. I thought it was a mistake to get rid of the rule and I thought it was a disingenuous and erroneous and straw man argument by critic who said you could not police the rule anyway.

    With the Alonso/Massa debacle, Formula One should have gone further and limited radio messages and issued a heavy fine and race ban to the infringing Ferrari team. But because it was Ferrari, and they threw their toys out the cot, everyone trembles in their boots and refuses to be critical because they want access. The media and critics bow and courtesy to much to Ferrari. Ferrari have become to big for their boots with their veto and hissy fits and it is time Bernie teaches them a lesson. We have seen plenty good racing from non factory teams who seem able to compete just as well e.g. Red Bull, McLaren just to name only two. And don’t start with the money argument as we need to bring down costs anyway. Had it been another team who ignored the rules as Ferrari did, we would have seen something rather different. Think back to the massive McLaren fine for example.

    Frankly I appreciate Webber’s anger and frustration but I also think Vettel was correct to do what he did. We the fans and viewers want to see genuine racing and not manufactured faux racing as is all too often the case.

    The Rosberg/Hamilton “hold your position” nonsense train was also disgusting. I feel deeply for Nico. Even Lewis was embarrassed and said Nico deserved the position. Formula One needs to grow a pair and stand up for the fans…

  2. I like how everyone is going about how vettel needed the 7 points as it might make the difference by brazil

    What might be the difference is when webber is battling vettel for the lead and takes the lead in brazil a track he has won twice and goes well in and in the last race of the season and his career and with alonso trailing a lap down in third and then alonso wins championship by 6 points

    I’m sure the difference then will be how vettel dogged his team mate in Malaysia 2013

    Now that would be real funny

  3. We will probably never know the full details and what was discussed in Red Bull as a team before and during the race. But what we do know is that we’ve never seen this blow up so big before, even with all the other skirmishes between Mark and Seb in the past. Just listen to the radio messages and the post-race interviews with Marko and Horner, and Newey’s expression in the pre-podium drivers’ room. This is something we have not seen before. It really feels like the TEAM thinks that Seb screwed the entire team over by doing his own thing, and hence noone is happy about it afterwards. Horner should be severely ****** with Seb for totally undermining his authority, and I imagine he is ******. He is usually a fairly restrained guy who measures his words well, but even that didn’t stop him from telling Seb how “silly” it was over open radio (probably stopped himself from saying “grow the **** up, kid”). That is the message that people should understand here, not whether Seb should do this or that, whether it was fair or not, whether it was payback or not…..

  4. You’re right

    Triple world champions run into other cars twice in a season webber turkey and button belgium 2010

    Miss the safety car 10 spaces between drivers Hungary 2010 and hit foam boards off the track whilst behind Ricciardo and safety car abu dhabi 2012

    Not to mention running up the back of webber Japan 2007

    I should make a YouTube video of vettels finest moments

  5. The fact of the matter is this:
    Had Webber overtaken Vettel and disobeyed a team order, everyone would have been praising him at being a true racer, etc… but because it’s Vettel, people are moaning about it, and lest we not forget what webber did at Silverstone in 2011; he tried to attack Vettel and defied a team order but was unsuccessful at getting past him.
    By that measure, Webber shouldn’t be annoyed at Sebastian; I see it as Webber getting a taste of his own medicine.
    I am a Vettel fan, and therefore slightly biased, but this post is from a mostly cold and calculating perspective, looking at cold, hard facts only.
    By no means am I saying what Vettel did was right, and it is clear he regrets it as well, but in the cold light of day, but it worked.

  6. I am on a number of F1 forums & have been amazedby the rubbish which Seb has had to put up with & the sheer vitriol posted on other sites have incensed me.
    As far as I am concerned the only mistake Seb made was in apologising.

    I used to like Mark & admire him, especially the way he handled his crash Le Mans. His drives in the Minardi’s & Williams, & what I thought was his straight talking attitude but the mind & political games he played on the weekend have put me right off him. He has done it before but I accepted this as one driver trying to get the upper hand on another.
    It’s the 2 faced double standards he uses & the slinking off with his phone turned off to consider his future which I find particularly galling. This is nothing more than a strop to get his own way & make Seb look as bad he can.

    At Silverstone Mark tried his level best but could not pull off What Seb did in Sepang
    Mark is no saint and would have done exactly the same as Seb did and he would be hailed as an anti team order macho man & had this to say.
    “I am not fine with it. No. That’s the answer to that,” the Australian said when asked if he understood the team’s decision.
    “If Fernando retires on the last lap we are battling for the victory so I was fine until the end. Of course I ignored the team as I want to try and get another place. Seb was doing his best and I was doing my best.
    “I don’t want to crash with anyone, but that was it. I tried to do my best with the amount of conversation I had. One-way conversation obviously as I wasn’t talking too much back.
    “There was a lot of traffic coming to me, but I was still trying to do my best to pass the guy in front.”

    The only reason he was close to Seb was that they had a jack problem on his last pitstop which let Nando through.

    The general concensus on the forums at the time was

    ‘Good on you’, ‘Screw Red Bull team orders’ and ‘Go Aussie Grit!’
    It’s pretty hilarious to see how different it is when reversed

    The difference is Seb doesn’t throw a fit when Mark ignores team orders. … rs/2789516 … rs/2789516

    In Brazil where Felipe was doing all he could to help Nando, Mark made absolutely certain that Seb didn’t get by on the first corner but more than that he forced him back into the traffic where he had the incident that almost ruined his championship.
    Worse than that he allowed Felipe shepherd him high on the first corner so Nando could slip by both of them. Even his own manager said he was he was the one giving Nando the most assistance. Admittedly, before the race he said he was going to drive his own race & try to win it but that is not what he did.

    There is no evidence that Seb led his team to believe that he was going to obey the order and then didn’t, thereby surprising Mark with some sort of trap. What has been said is that Seb behaved as though he hadn’t heard the order or had misunderstood it. It has definitely not been said or implied that Seb acknowledged the order for what it was and then ignored it.

    I was discussing the race with my daughter as we watched it & when the team brought Seb in too early for slicks allowing Mark track position & then when Seb was catching him he was told to maintain the 3 second gap my daughter said, I think Mark’s friend Dietrich wants to arrange a title for Mark before he retires.
    This is them man who when asked by Bernie refused to have lewis at the team because he did’t want Mark to lose his seat & who only last week said Seb can leave any time he wants.

    The only mistake Seb made last weekend was apologising but I suppose this forced by the team, he should just have said this.
    I am not fine with it. No. That’s the answer to that,” when asked if he understood the team’s decision.

    As an aside, When Jenson pulled the same thing on Lewis in Turkey the only thing we heard was how great it was that team mates could race without taking each other out.

    I apologise if I have offended anybody, I just don’t like double standards.

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