The Malaysian Grand Prix produced without doubt the most awkward podium in Formula One history. Third placed driver Lewis Hamilton looked embarrassed that he was stood on the podium instead of teammate Nico Rosberg, who was ordered to stay behind Hamilton. Mark Webber was absolutely livid with teammate Sebastian Vettel for ignoring team orders and overtaking him, threatening the race status of both Red Bull cars. Vettel himself stood on the top step looking like a naughty schoolboy who knew he had done wrong and was preparing for a blast from his elders.
It was a Grand Prix dominated by team strategy. The early laps were done on intermediate tyres and the move to dry tyres was a key consideration for the teams. Webber got the edge on his team mate Vettel at this stage and took the lead of the Grand Prix. The two Mercedes drivers were third and fourth with Hamilton ahead of Rosberg and both cars were quicker than the Red Bull pair. This stayed the case through the next couple of pit stops until with 13 laps to go, the trouble started for team bosses Christian Horner of Red Bull and Ross Brawn of Mercedes.
Sebastian Vettel took it on himself to go against team orders and attack teammate Webber, leading to a fierce battle which the German World Champion ultimately won. Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg was insisting over the team radio that he be allowed to pass Lewis Hamilton. Ross Brawn refused, maintaining that both cars should stay in order and just get to the end of the Grand Prix. Rosberg, the quicker driver, therefore finished fourth when really he had the speed to finish third. Rosberg did a job for the team and followed the instructions he was given. As would become clear at the end of the race, Sebastian Vettel didn’t follow team instructions and acted solely for himself and not the interests of the team.
Early in the race Vettel had got on the team radio to ask the team to move Mark Webber aside, disdainfully stating that Webber was “too slow” and ordering the team to “get him out of the way.” This was the first act of the spoilt child throwing his toys out the pram that we saw in this race.
As the two Red Bull drivers met after the race, Mark Webber was clearly disgusted with his teammate, telling the world that Vettel had gone against the orders of the team to stay in formation and save tyres in order to secure the win for himself. On the podium Webber said that Vettel had taken it upon himself to ignore instructions and attack Webber who had switched down the engine to save tyres. Webber claimed that “Sebastian will always get protection.” It is this notion that has led Sebastian Vettel to act the way he does.
Vettel has won three World Drivers Championships in a row but does not seem to have the respect of other drivers or Formula One fans. It is thought that he is something of a lucky driver, a thought that is hard to argue with given the number of things that seem to go in his favour. He is without question the teachers pet at Red Bull, with Webber time and time again sidelined in favour of his younger teammate. Vettel is a man who has had everything in his lap in Formula One. From the start at Red Bull he has been gifted with the fastest car on the grid, often so superior that he could not fail to win. When actually challenged while his car is not so superior, Vettel is nothing special. But throughout it all the sun seems to shine on Sebastian. Perhaps all this success and good fortune has led the young man to think he has the right to win every time and to do whatever he likes in order to get his own personal success.
To ignore team orders and jeopardise the status in the race of the whole team purely for his own selfish gains is unacceptable. Red Bull should throw the book at Vettel but in all probability they won’t. After all they can’t upset poor Sebastian, the golden boy of the team. Red Bull could have a serious issue if Webber understandably questions why he should follow team instructions if Vettel gets away with not doing so.
Vettel may be a quick driver but his conduct in Formula One is becoming increasingly distasteful. It would appear that there is an arrogance about the German which seems to override all sense of dignity and loyalty towards his team. Vettel needs to learn his place. He is a good driver who is nothing without the brilliance of the team around him. Legacy is a key issue in sport. Formula One is full of great champions who are remembered favourably by the legacy of fans throughout the decades. If Vettel does not get in line and act as a team member who respects those around him and acts with the humility that is needed of a champion, he will not be remembered as favourably as some of the sports other greats. There is no I in team Sebastian.