Red Bull rift intensifies ahead of Chinese GP
SHANGHAI (AP) — Sebastian Vettel intensified his fight with Red Bull teammate Mark Webber, saying Thursday that the Australian driver has hurt the Formula One team in the past.
Speaking ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, Vettel said his decision to ignore team orders at the Malaysian GP and pass Webber in the closing stages of the race was “indirectly” related to past incidents when he felt Webber went against the best interests of the team.
“There was more than one occasion in the past when he could have helped the team and he didn’t,” Vettel said.
Asked if that was why he ignored the team orders, Vettel replied: “Indirectly so.”
The world champion maintained he had not understood the team order to stay behind Webber, even though he acknowledged that the code “Multi-21” — meaning the No. 2 car stays ahead of the No. 1 car — had been in use at the team for a long time.
Despite his claims of a mistake, Vettel said he likely would have ignored any further order to give back the lead.
“I would have thought about it and would probably have done the same thing because Mark doesn’t deserve that,” Vettel said.
Vettel’s candid comments revealed the depths of the division within Red Bull.
Asked whether there was trust between him and Webber, Vettel said, “I would not call it trust to be honest, we have a professional relationship.”
“I never had support from his side (of the garage),” Vettel said. “I have a lot of support from the team and the team is supporting us both the same way.”
The German had apologized to team staff for breaking team rules but laughed when asked if he had been punished in any way.
The relationship between Vettel and Webber appears fractured beyond repair, and it looks unlikely that the Australian will get another contract after his one-year deal expires at the end of the season.
Webber said Thursday that initial reports that he considered quitting immediately in Malaysia were wrong, but said the accumulation of incidents of perceived favoritism toward Vettel led to career options crossing his mind.
“Malaysia is not just one event in this scenario,” Webber said. “There are lots of things that come into your mind. We have to try to keep the emotions down but it’s part of our job.
“Year by year is how it’s always been for me,” he said, when asked about his future with the team. “During the summer I will talk to (Red Bull owner) Dietrich (Mateschitz) and we will go from there. I have never ever made decisions on my career at this point in the season. I don’t see why I should make any decisions at the moment for my future.”
The events in Malaysia also raised speculation about the position of team principal Christian Horner.
Vettel, though, denied he effectively outranked Horner.
“That is not right,” Vettel said. “He is the boss, he is in control of all the employees and is leading the team.”
Vettel’s latest comments in the fallout from Malaysia only heightened speculation about who might replace Webber at Red Bull next season. Mateschitz has said Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen was among the candidates, but the Finn preferred to stay out of it for now.
“The season is only two races old so I’ll try to do this year well and we will see what happens,” Raikkonen said. “I don’t have a contract so I don’t really have a plan, but of course I probably will be (in F1). But you never know. It is a funny place.”