Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has insisted that there are 'no team orders' at the energy drinks-backed outfit in Formula 1 – despite Sebastian Vettel having admitted to his 'surprise' at having been told to hold station behind 'faster' team-mate Mark Webber in the closing stages of the Turkish Grand Prix at the weekend.
Having begun from pole position around the technically challenging, physically demanding and undulating Istanbul Park Circuit, an opening lap error saw Vettel concede his advantage to current world championship leader Jenson Button, and despite an aggressive three-stop strategy, he would fail to get back on terms with his British rival for the remainder of the grand prix.
Indeed, whilst pleased with the performance of his car, the young German later revealed that he had been 'surprised' at the decision not to switch him across from a three-stopper to two once he had lost the lead – as he claimed had been agreed prior to the race. Leaving him on three stops put the 21-year-old under pressure to overtake Button on the circuit – something he was unable to do – and ultimately saw him lose track position to Webber, who he was told not to attempt to pass in the closing stages...to his evident frustration and incredulity.
Button too confessed that he had been 'very surprised that they went for a three-stopper', suggesting that 'maybe they thought that we were going to do the same...but we filled the car up after we saw what they had done and it worked very well'.
“I'm not happy,” Vettel acknowledged afterwards. “If you start from pole you want to win – and we didn't. I made a mistake in turns nine and ten on the first lap – the wind changed for race day and that made it very slippery there all race and difficult to get the entry right. I think it was the most critical corner. There was a tailwind under braking, compared to other days when I think we had a head wind, which made it quite tricky too. There is a kind of a dip there that you go through and I lost the rear and went wide at turn ten over the Astroturf and nearly lost the car and a lot of speed also for the straight.
“I went more-or-less straight and lost a position to Jenson, but I think we weren't quick enough anyway to hold him for the whole race – I think it would not have made a big difference as Jenson was just too quick. I was quite surprised by his pace in the first stint – it wasn't nice to see. When I saw him flying away the first thing I thought was 'sh*t', because obviously we wanted to win and we were not quick enough. I think we have to accept that they (Brawn GP) were on a different planet. We thought we had a fair chance to beat Jenson and the Brawns, [but] it turned out not to be.
“After that I was quite surprised that we stuck to our three-stop strategy, as I thought from what we had discussed before the race, if it turned out that we were second, it wouldn't make sense to go for a three-stop. Jenson was not behind us and we were not opening a gap to him – it was the opposite – so I thought we were switching to two stops. As you saw in the race, I then caught Jenson massively because I was much lighter and much quicker.
“I nearly passed him – there was one chance in the last corner, but it was quite tricky and it would have been too risky. After that you kind of feel your tyres going off and then there is not much you can do. Obviously in the tow I was on the limiter for part of the straight, and it was not possible to catch up anymore and basically that's where I lost the race. I got stuck behind him and lost about a second a lap for three or four laps. Those were the seconds that put me behind Mark in the final stint, because he emerged ahead of me by quite a bit and then I wasn't even second anymore – I was third.
“Obviously you know what you are going to do in certain scenarios. You discuss strategy a long time before the start of the race, and it was clear that in the case that we were leading and had a certain gap to the car behind, because we were quite a bit shorter we would go for a three-stop. I don't understand why we were still on a three-stop, as from there onwards it did not make much sense; I think a two-stop would have secured second position. All-in-all we probably didn't do the best job there – it turned out that the three-stop possibly was not as quick as two stops here.