Horner: What happened shouldn’t have happened
25 March 2013
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has confirmed that Sebastian Vettel disobeyed team orders in the Malaysian Grand Prix, but says there was no point asking him to give the position back to team-mate Mark Webber.
Despite the Australian having led for much of the race, after emerging ahead from the opening round of pit-stops, Vettel surged past in the final stages, even though both drivers had been given the instruction to turn down their engines and hold station in a bid to ensure that their tyres made it to the end.
The atmosphere on the podium and at the ensuing press conference was understandably frosty, with Webber clearly feeling that he had been robbed of a rare race win. Vettel attempted to apologise, claiming that he had misunderstood the instruction from pit-wall, but the Australian wasn't about to accept the olive branch, and Horner admitted that there was clearly much to talk about in the days to come.
“Obviously, there's an awful lot of debate about what happened at the end of the race,” he confirmed, “Our position after that final pit-stop was all about managing the race until the end and conserving our tyres, getting the cars to the finish and achieving maximum points. Unfortunately, drivers' interests can sometimes come into conflict with the teams'.
“Sebastian decided to take things into his own hands and race Mark, thankfully making a clean pass and switching the order to the flag.”
As a former driver, Horner can clearly understand the desire to win, but insists that there are times when that has to take a back seat.
“It's frustrating,” he conceded, “F1 is both a team and an individual sport and sometimes there is a conflict between a driver's desire and a team's interest. What happened today is something that shouldn't have happened. It's something that Sebastian has apologised for and it's something that we will discuss internally as a team.”
Despite acknowledging that the race should have been Webber's to win, the Briton later admitted that there was no point attempting to undo Vettel's decision.
"We employ these guys because they are competitive, because they do push each other, because they are very driven individuals,” he told a Sky Sports interview, “If either was submissive to the other, it's not what we want in a racing driver.
"[Vettel]'s obviously chosen to hear what he wants to hear. He's a race driver, he's competitive, he's hungry. He hasn't achieved the championships that he has by not pushing the limits. He's pushed that today with his team-mate and with the team.
"Do you honestly think that, if we'd told him to slow down and give the place back, he'd given it back? There's no point. He'd made it quite clear what his intention was by making the move. He put his interests beyond what the team's position was. He was focused on that points difference between second and first place - which was wrong.”
Vettel insisted that he had not deliberately ignored the order from pit-wall, and therefore had no reason to question his attack for the lead, or consider giving the place back to Webber in the laps before the chequered flag.
“Obviously, I'm the black sheep right now,” he agreed, “I put myself in that position so all I can say is apologies to Mark. I know that, right now, having just come out of the car, it's probably difficult to explain everything, but the pass was deliberate - obviously I wanted to pass him, you could see that, otherwise you wouldn't even try, but I didn't mean to ignore the strategy or the call. I made a mistake, simply.”
Horner confirmed that, although the matter had already been broached with the three-time champion, there was still a need to sit down and discuss it properly, particularly as Vettel was insisting that he hadn't been clear on the call from pit-wall.
"He felt that he hadn't heard the call and that it was unclear to him what the instruction was,” Horner concluded, “But it's the type of thing we talk about behind closed doors. He and I have had the discussion already [but], taking the emotion out of it and with time to reflect, we'll have [another] discussion."