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Horner insists 'healthy driver rivalry' no problem

12 April 2013

Christian Horner has faced a new round of questions about Red Bull's use of team orders at Malaysia three weeks ago - and about how Sebastian Vettel ignored those orders from the pit wall in order to clinch victory over his fuming team mate Mark Webber.

"I think it's a healthy rivalry, even though they took things into their own hands," the Red Bull team principal said on Friday in the regular post-practice press conference for team representatives.

"They gave each other just enough room and whilst it was uncomfortable for us on the pit wall to watch, it was spectacular driving, just giving each other room to work with, as they've done on numerous occasions," he added.

But Horner admitted that he hadn't been happy about the situation immediately after the race and that there had been some tense moments behind the scenes.

"Has my authority been undermined? In that race he didn't do what I asked. Was I happy about it? Of course I wasn't," he said. "Did we discuss it? Yes, we did. Did he apologise? Yes. Has he learned from it? I'm sure he has.

"I think, as far as team orders goes, what's happened, happened," Horner continued. "Sebastian's explained himself, he's explained himself to me. He's apologised to myself and every individual in the factory and the issues been dealt with. We move on and focus on the challenges of this weekend.

But Vettel has since made it clear that he'd probably do exactly the same thing again if the situation arose in the future (see separate story), something that Horner admitted he could do very little about in reality.

"Sebastian hasn't achieved the success that he has in his career by being submissive. He saw an opportunity, he took it into his own hands, he'd saved a set of tyres from the previous day and he wanted that victory more than anything else," Horner said. "Would he do it again? I think he'd think twice but I think as he explained yesterday there is an awful of history between those drivers. It's something that isn't new."

But given that this at-times fractious pairing had between them won 35 Grand Prix victories, 2000 points and three successive constructors' world championships for the team, Horner said that he was finding it hard to see the downside as far as Red bull was concerned.

"Of course there have been lumps and bumps along the way, there have been incidents between the two drivers. But we retain them because they are both fiercely competitive individuals, they drive each other forward and they bring the best out of each other," he insisted.

"What's happened has happened," Horner continued. "We can't change it, we can't go back and it's a question of looking forward and focusing on this event and obviously the next 16 events after this.

"As a team we're working as closely as we've ever done, as in both drivers to work closely together, to continue to improve, to continue to give their feedback to the team to keep moving forward because our competitors aren't far away," he added. "The drivers need the team - they're an essential part of the team and one element of 500 or 600 people."

But where did this leave the team in the future - could they expect their drivers to listen to team directives in a race, given that Vettel has already shown he'll ignore them if he feels its in his best interests and Webber now likely to same the attitude? Horner said he's discussed the situation with the owner of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz.

"Dietrich is a purist, he's a fan of the sport," said Horner. "Red Bull is clear in its intent that it wants to support competition and Red Bull athletes across all different categories of sport. Of course in Red Bull Racing we also have a team, so there exists that conflict of what the drivers want and what the team wants.

"The purist obviously wants to see the drivers race and race wheel to wheel and in fact as the drivers have done on many, many occasions," he continued. "Sometimes you get instances that you have to deal with. Our primary concern in Malaysia wasn't the two drivers racing each other, it was the fact we were concerned about tyre degradation from all the information that we'd seen [previously] during that weekend in terms of managing the race to the end of the race with the least risk possible.

"The call that we made at that point in time didn't suit what Sebastian's intent was and therefore you end up in this conflict between driver desire and the team's position and it's something we've discussed," Horner said. "It's something we're clear on going forward where of course we will trust the drivers.

"We will allow them to continue to race each other, they will have the information, they will know what they need to do with that information," he summed up.

But what they will actually decide to do with that information once it was out there remained a question hanging in the air over Red Bull heading into the 2013 Chinese GP at Shanghai International Circuit this weekend.

"I don't think Sebastian for one moment thinks he runs the team," stated Horner. "He knows what his job is, he knows what we employ him to do, he knows why we employ him to do it and he's been with Red Bull for a long time now, as a junior driver and as a F1 driver and now as a multiple World Champion.

"He recognises, more than anybody, the value that the team has behind the success that he's achieved in the car, and he knows that he can't operate without the team," Horner said. "He doesn't put himself above the team or think that he's running the team for one moment.

"It's happened, and we move on - but it doesn't change anything."


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