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. rahul1810 (@rahul1810) said on 25th March 2013, 10:02

    What Vettel did, points to betrayal to the team and to Webber. Why do teams tell the drivers to tone their engines down during closing stages when they see they are 1-2? Its because they don’t see anybody as a potential threat and decide that its best to save the engine. They feel that completing the race is a mere formality now of crunching down laps. And so when Webber trusted his team and turned down the engine, he trusted Vettel to do the same, which obviously Vettel didnt seeing the blistering laps that he had just pulled, including a fastest lap. Webber said he spent the last 15 laps with a lot going on in his head, and that is understandable, cos he had not lost but had been betrayed.

    I would be surprised if Webber helped Vettel even a little bit in his championship battle.

    Vettel says he regrets the incident. I hope that if he does end up winning the championship, difference between him and Webber is less than the 16 points (8 that he stole from Webber, and the 8 that Webber had stolen from him). If I were interviewing him then, I would ask him to express his regret then. Would be surprised of he was man enough like Hamilton to say that Webber should br the one holding the championship and not me.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 25th March 2013, 10:12

      @rahul1810 not gonna happen. Webber suffers from a massive case of Barrichello syndrome. He thinks he’s equally gifted like his teammate because he has occasionally the upper hand.
      Webber with the exception of 2010 came never even close to be a runner up in what was definitely one of the strongest cars on the grid for the past 4 years.

      • rahul1810 (@rahul1810) said on 25th March 2013, 10:18

        I just hope this incident fires him up.

        • TMF (@tmf42) said on 25th March 2013, 10:33

          @rahul1810 I hope so too, and that in return we see some great racing. But over the years I’ve given up on him. 2010 South Korea is probably still hunting him and you could see it this weekend that somewhere along the way he gave up being a racer.

          • Roberto (@roberto) said on 26th March 2013, 4:31

            There were heaps of other incidents which should’ve done this, such as the wing affair. The fact is that he’s just not good enough. He had a massive chance in 2010 and blew it. Massa accepted being a number two at Ferrari and so should Webber, but I don’t see that happening.

            RBR should just figure out what they want. If they want equality in drivers, get someone like Hamilton to be Vettels teammate. Otherwise have a clear Number 1 and Number 2 driver.. a number 2 driver that accepts their position! Simple as that..

  2. Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 25th March 2013, 10:27

    Aside from the Webber and Vettel action I thought Nico Rosberg drove a really good race. He could “go” with Lewis Hamilton. They were both posting very quick lap times in the middle stint of the grand prix, going punch by punch if you like. Really encouraging for Mercedes that both their drivers were quick yesterday, especially Nico to keep proving himself.

  3. Afterwards his team mate spoke ominously …

  4. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 25th March 2013, 10:59

    A interesting new article from the BBC sport page “Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel should be suspended – John Watson”:

    • Oletros (@oletros) said on 25th March 2013, 11:08

      Did Red Bull suspended Webber after Silverstone?

    • Cosmas (@cosmas) said on 25th March 2013, 11:33

      watson says :”I know that if other drivers in other teams disobeyed a team order they would be suspended or even fired.”
      like which drivers….. Hamilton or Alonso?(didn’t they do similar things in the past?)
      If redbull wants to throw away two titles then Watsons sugguestion is the most guarantied way. I’m not supporting Vettels decision, but this wouldn’t make things better in RB.

    • TMF (@tmf42) said on 25th March 2013, 11:39

      I like Berger’s comment it shows how smart that guy is. After all he was Senna’s teammate and still managed to maintain a friendship with him.

      • Palle (@palle) said on 25th March 2013, 23:41

        Red Bull should suspend Christian Horner one race for causing the problem with an untimely team order to safeguard the double victory. Previously Seb has notoriously defied team orders just to get a fastest lap at the end of a race and Webber has not been good at listening to team orders in the past either.
        When Horner says to Vettel on the radio “This is silly!”, then he is absolutely right – the team order was silly. If anything they should have issued a team order to Webber to yield – that would have made more sense, considering the probability of how close the WDC battle will be this year and who of their 2 drivers has the best shot at it in the end.

  5. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 25th March 2013, 11:01

    and I totally agree :-)

    go Alonso and Hamilton !

  6. Cosmas (@cosmas) said on 25th March 2013, 11:05

    In my view it was a wrong decision for both redbull and mercedes not to let the quicker drivers overtake their team mates. Specially when they trailing them half the race distance. That’s why both complained in the radio multiple times. Vettel was since lap 25 half a second behind Webber not trying at this stage only because his engineer Rocky told him to stay back since it was too early and he would have a chance later – implying a different strategy that would give him the lead back. Since this didn’t happen until the last pit he was taken things to his hand.
    If this was right or wrong its another mater, but the result was a fair fight between him and Webber who tried to stay ahead giving everything he had.
    The pass Vettel managed in corner 4 was something that Webber didn’t expected since its a very unusual place to overtake. I think, Webber hit the brakes there too hard and lost his momentum and then tried to keep a wider line approaching turn 5 for preventing Vettel taking the inside line into turn 6 ( as he tried to do the lap before).
    Another incident that was very crucial was when Webber exited the pits and came side by side with Vettel into turn 1. He was too quick with cold tyres and lost the rear for a fraction forcing him to open his line. Vettel luckily for the RedBull team quickly reacted and opened also his line leaving Webber take the lead at that point. If they collided at that point i think nobody would talk now about Vettel disobeying team orders but for Webber making a mistake and taking his team mate out of the race.
    In mercedes i really don’t understand why they don’t let Rosberg pass since he was clearly much quicker. With the two bulls fighting each other in the front maybe he was able to close the gap and why not fighting also for the win. This was really unfair for him, since he is the guy (together with shumi) who’s responsible for the development of this car. He had a lot of patience these 3 year with sumi, who he clearly didn’t want to give a hard time specially the last year.

  7. soundscape (@soundscape) said on 25th March 2013, 11:05

    @keithcollantine Looks like Webber’s rethinking his seat, at least according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

  8. Traverse (@) said on 25th March 2013, 11:30

    With all of this judgmental, pot calling kettle black belittling of Seb. it has completely slipped my mind (and all of my fellow true racing fans) to congratulate the Vet on matching the great Sir Jackie Stewart’s 27 race wins. We are witnessing a true legend in the making, a driver that future generation will eulogise about and seek to emulate.

    Vet, I salute you. *Standing butt naked in my back garden saluting*

  9. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 25th March 2013, 12:20


  10. Having been given one-year contracts only for the last three years. Can we (reasonably) assume that Webber is in his final year at Red Bull? If so. Just picture the scenario when we get to Brazil and Vettel needs points to keep the title chase open and stop Alonso grabbing his crown. Would Webbo obey any radio orders and let him past? No way.
    The antics of Sepang could come back and bite Red Bull hard on the a##e later this season.

    • Oletros (@oletros) said on 25th March 2013, 12:43

      Just picture the scenario when we get to Brazil and Vettel needs points to keep the title chase open and stop Alonso grabbing his crown.

      Like Brazil 2012?

    • The Limit said on 25th March 2013, 15:46

      @Steven Smith.

      That is a very good point. Sebastien Vettel made a calculated decision at Sepang to pass Mark Webber despite being told not to by his team. Last year’s championship was decided by three points, so the extra seven Vettel hauled in will certainly be helpfull. Vettel is already thinking about the championship, despite the season only being two grands prix old.
      Fernando Alonso would, in my opinion, have been a serious threat at Sepang had he not retired on lap two. As Felipe Massa has proved also, the Ferrari has good pace and plenty of straight line speed. With Alonso being the biggest threat last year in a poor Ferrari, you can safely bet that this year he will be an even bigger threat to Red Bull and Vettel. Then there is Mercedes not too far behind.
      However, by behaving in such a ruthless manner, Vettel has left himself somewhat vunerable. He has proven to his own team in no uncertain terms that he believes he has the right to do what he chooses. He has proven that he has not got any problems when it concerns angering his team mate, Mark Webber, a man who can very much factor this year in the championship.
      The biggest fear at Milton Keynes is that this acidic atmosphere between the drivers may fester, and if allowed to go unchecked, may bring down Red Bull’s season with it. This is exactly what happened between Alonso and Hamilton at McLaren when they had a fast car, and due to bad management and decision making, contributed towards almost a complete meltdown within the team.
      Red Bull need to sort this out before China. Its no good letting Webber go off to Australia to stew all by himself. That isn’t going to solve anything. John Watson had a point in that if Red Bull are seriously as upset as they claim, then Vettel should be benched for the Chinese Grands Prix. He should be made to realize that nobody is bigger than the team. I can’t see this happening, but it would certainly put down a marker to any other driver thinking about breaking team orders.
      The reality is, in my opinion, is that Red Bull won’t do anything! Horner, who has been made to look stupid and powerless in all of this, will do exactly what he is told. Vettel will go unpunished, and Webber will be expected just to carry on regardless.
      I wonder though that, if by Brazil, Webber knows his time at Red Bull is done, how he would react to a pass from Vettel? If the German is fighting for the championship and has everything on the line, how tempting would it be for Mark just to stuff him in the wall? I can imagine the response from Helmut Marko, but a Shakespeare said, ‘revenge is a dish best served cold’.

    • Just picture the scenario when we get to Brazil and Vettel needs points to keep the title chase open and stop Alonso grabbing his crown. Would Webbo obey any radio orders and let him past?

      He didn’t last year, dd he?

      Reading some of the comments on F1 fan sites leaves me wondering how many F1 fans ever actually watch the races. The quality of the written commentary on the races is often appalling (present company excepted) so people who get their news and views on F1 from reading say, the BBC can be excused for having a very skewed notion of what goes on.

      • Roberto (@roberto) said on 26th March 2013, 4:51

        Jon has a good way of stealing words out of my mouth. I have read countless comments on (mostly English sites) screaming how Vettel better watch himself now, that Webber has every excuse to just ignore him when he needs him the most come years end. LOL.. when has Webber EVER actually done that.. Brazil 2012, when Vettel needed him most he pushed him to the side and took the lead.. instead of covering his teammates back and keeping a barrier between him and the rest of the pack. And he even admitted it!! Now picture Massa doing that to Alonso. Webber is a horrible teammate.. and a huge hypocrite..

        • Drezone said on 26th March 2013, 6:02

          I think you mean vettel is a horrible team mate as webber on numerous occasions has done the right thing by vettel and the team and when the shoes on the other foot vettel cries like a little girl

          Just look at his face on the podium of Hungary 2010 and also blaming webber hitting into him at turkey 2010

          Also you do know vettel was asking the team to make webber move over half way through the race in which webber responded by pulling away from him

          If he was so quick why didn’t he just pass him

          He had no problem later when webber wasn’t expecting it

          Shows what kind of team mate vettel is

          • Roberto (@roberto) said on 26th March 2013, 9:10

            Neither of them is an innocent, but the huge difference is that Vettel is a 3 time world champ and Webber blew his chance in 2010. Vettel never had an opportunity to play the number two driver (because he’s a better racer IMO), but if he did, I bet he would never be as backstabbing as Webber was in Brazil 2012.

  11. Surfinsoljah (@surfinsoljah) said on 25th March 2013, 15:09

    @keithcollantine – great write up. Looks like this season will be another interesting one. Competition is getting fierce already and Alonso with a non-characteristic DNF and another great qualifying effort by Massa.

    I sure hope the “strategies” of the teams will allow for racing to happen but I can’t help but feel that if nothing happens to Vettel for a blatant choice of putting himself above the team that if things go bad it will be reflected bad on himself for such a selfish decision. It will make it or break it if he loses support, although I doubt it will happen, from the team. I don’t know if he was in another car if he could be as dominant. I hope he isn’t getting too full of himself. I just can’t help but start resenting someone so selfish, but yet I’m a Senna fan and I’m sure he did the same sometimes.

    And it’s only the second race of the season!!!! Things are going to be fun and get wild!!!!

  12. jimscreechy (@) said on 25th March 2013, 17:11

    Meh, I think this has really been blown out of proportion. WE have seen this happen many times in the past and no one made such an almighty hoo-hah about it. I remember 2011 Hamilton leading Button. Lewis’ engineer comes over the radio and says “turn your engine down Lewis and bring the car home” to which lewis replies “if I turn my engine down is Jenson going to pass me?” his engineer replies “No, he will not pass you” two seconds later lewis turns down his engine and Jenson pounces and passes him. the only difference is that lewis, having none of that, promptly turns his engine back up and passes Button in the next two corners. I think Mark should have done the same as Lewis then there would have been no comeback if he defened to the last. His mistake was making Seb run away with the win.

    • Roberto (@roberto) said on 26th March 2013, 5:20

      @jimscreechy – I completely forgot about that.. What a great exchange that was.. I’m actually laughing right now thinking what Hamilton must’ve thought when he saw Button passing him.. but like a true WDC he actually faught back.. a quality Webber seems to be sorely missing.

  13. 72defender (@72defender) said on 25th March 2013, 17:13

    Two issues with what happened yesterday:

    The first is the safety issue. What if Sebastian, in his quest to overpass Mark, caused an accident resulting in injury, or worse. What then? If team protocol dictates employee(s) must do a certain thing in a given scenario, then the employee(s) must comply. Not circumvent management policy. What he did was both dangerous and juvenile.
    The second issue is that Sebastian needs to man up. Plain and simple! He would look a lot better today if he were honest. It’s plain for all to see that he did not want to be second in the Championship. And although he would still be in hot water with the team, and to a lesser extent, public opinion, he would have at least not had as severe a backlash as he now faces. The remarks from team principal suggest he is not being truthful.

  14. Makana (@makana) said on 25th March 2013, 21:00

    FINALLY a great article for the race, and something balanced coming from the British Media… thank you Keith for your logical and fair view.

    Personally, I fail to see Seb as the spoiled brat when in 2012, he’s fighting for the WC and Webber (who’s out of the competition) does not stand down as RBR asked and Horner pointed out… Now that Seb fights clean and wins: he’s the child! Hypocritical at best.

    IF RBR have drivers working together for the team, then in the SAME race Webber should have picked up the pace when he was told to by his engineer as not to destroy Seb’s tyres and race and bring more pressure on him with Lewis closing in. He did not pick up the pace, he wanted to win and he used the tactics Coulthard pointed out; fine, wiley ol’ fox that Webbo… but when Seb wants to win back, he’s attacked for it. AMAZING LOGIC. So Webber expects to get away because a race to him (or to anybody) is up to the last stop.

    RBR badly managed this one and I don’t see why Seb apologized except for the team staff to feel that he was sorry for endangering the cars: Webber please accept you’re not as fast as your team-mate, who you never helped, never wanted to help, never acknowledged his talent and it’s eating you alive.

    I believe if RBR don’t come back in support of both their drivers, EQUALLY – Seb should leave next year, then we’ll see how Webber can lead, attack and get 4th places for a whole season.

  15. Dal (@dal) said on 25th March 2013, 21:55

    Not my pic but I found is hilarious – Vettel’s face lol:

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