Why Vettel’s petulance in Sepang could prove costly

There is no excuse for what Sebastian Vettel did in Malaysia on Sunday. You can try and defend him in any way you can, but in making the decision to overtake Mark Webber in the final stint in Sepang, he flouted a clear instruction from his team to hold position, and in doing so showed the bad side of his character in the most public way possible.

Whether Red Bull were right to order their drivers to hold position or not is irrelevant. The order by Christian Horner was there, and no matter what Vettel thought of it, he had no right to challenge Webber in the final stint of the race. He’d had four stints to get ahead of his teammate on the track, and Webber had beaten him fair and square.

While for the casual fan it may have been a move of brilliance, the fact remains that Formula One is a team sport. As a driver, you do the best you can to score the maximum amount of points, but you do so whilst racing for a team. Without the support of your team you don’t have a chance of succeeding, so when they ask you to carry out a perfectly reasonable task, in this case holding position behind your teammate, no matter what you think of it, you comply.

Vettel’s actions weren’t dissimilar to a footballer refusing to go off the pitch when substituted because he wanted to score another goal. If Wayne Rooney did that whilst turning out for Manchester United, the media and 99% of football fans would crucify him (not to mention Rooney being given a one-way ticket out of Old Trafford with a Sir Alex Ferguson-shaped boot imprinted on his backside). That is how serious Vettel’s disobedience was. He went against the direct orders of his team principal, and he’s lucky that he’s so indispensable to Red Bull that the most he’ll get from his indiscretion is a slap on the wrist.

Red Bull wants to win the constructors’ championship as much as Vettel wants to win the drivers’ title, and as a team they made the sensible decision to have their cars hold position. They know as well as any other team after the events of Istanbul in 2010 the consequences of having your drivers race to the very end, and with 43 points representing a marginally better reward from a weekend than none, it was a totally understandable and legitimate call to make.

There is no doubt that Vettel is a supremely talented racing driver, you don’t win three championships if you’re not, but Sunday’s act of sheer selfishness showed that there is an intrinsically darker side to his character. The proper way to handle that situation was played out less than 500 metres behind him, when Nico Rosberg, despite pleading to Ross Brawn to allow him to race Lewis Hamilton, respected his team principal’s decision for the two Mercedes to hold station and duly followed his teammate home with no hard feelings.

Sebastian Vettel is an extremely clever person. When out of the car and when he is winning he portrays himself as a very likeable character, one who likes to have a bit of a laugh with you and just an all-round nice guy. It is a work of PR genius.

Whilst I don’t doubt that Vettel is, all things considered, a good person, underneath that exterior is someone who has shown himself to be extremely petulant and bitter when things don’t go his way. His one-man tirade against his team and the FIA in Hungary three years ago was an extreme example, and his behaviour at Malaysia and Hockenheim last year followed in the same pattern. Even earlier in Sunday’s race he demanded to Red Bull that Webber be moved out of the way because ‘he was too slow’, at a time when the Australian was pulling away from him.

Now I’m not saying that Vettel isn’t the only driver to moan when he’s in the wrong. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton have also both done it when things have not gone their way, but it’s clear that Seb has a bigger problem than most when it comes to his refusal to accept blame for incidents.

True champions have an immense ruthless streak about them, and it’s something that when used properly is an extremely admirable quality, but part of having that trait is learning when not to be ruthless and when to have the humility to accept that you are in wrong. It’s something that Vettel needs to learn fast, and it’s something that will hopefully come as he gains more experience and maturity.

As it is, Vettel’s ‘need’ to win in Malaysia could yet cost him later on in the year. With the sport set for yet another close title battle this year, it could so happen that he has to rely on the support of the man who’s trust he betrayed in Sepang. Mark Webber.

Jump into your virual tardis, and travel eight months into the future to Brazil. Vettel has to win to take a fourth straight title. Webber is leading the race with his teammate second, and the call comes over the radio for the Aussie to move over and give Vettel the place he needs to take that title. The fate of the world championship is in Webber’s hands, and it’s he who has to make the decision as to who wins it.

Would you blame Webber if he told Vettel where to go? I certainly wouldn’t.

Stephen D’Albiac

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6 thoughts on “Why Vettel’s petulance in Sepang could prove costly

  1. LOL your a joke, not only should you never watch f1 again because we dont need fans like you who dont know what racing is, but you should never write a article again because you cant even get your facts straight about a race that happened just a day ago, vettel asked them to move webber after closing in on him from 5 seconds, then later after another pitstop he came out beside webber and he got pushed out to the edge of the track, then closed in again from 4 seconds away to blow past webber and put him to shame by over 8 seconds, you have NO CLUE what you are talking about, and your right vettel wont get in trouble BECAUSE HES A LIVING LEGEND, the stuff i remember most is the horrible garbage in f1, massa having the title stolen from him and hamilton being handed the title after glock pulled over (data backed it up) and massa being forced to give away the first win he wouldve had since his life threatining crash, you might think from those that im a massa fan but no those are just two of the worst of a few moments in f1 where big time events were decided in a boardroom or trailer rather then on the racetrack, no race anywhere ever should be decided off track in 10 years people wont remember the name webber while vettel is regarded as the greastest driver of all time (because by then his champ tally will be above 8) but hopefully you wont see it because from your article is painfully obvious that you know literally nothing about f1 and will stop watching…really ask youself this question, if a driver in the highest form of motorsports has to say sorry or feel bad about winning a race isnt there something wrong? its totally different if he tossed him off track or cut his tire, but he raced him clean even though webber pushed him right to the wall at over 180mph, hes a living legend and like it or not thats how history will view him

    • Not clean. Webber had car turned down as both were instructed. Did you watch without sound? I bet your champ Vettel feels like a real champion. Like a Ferrari passing a bus. I win! I win! Team instructions aside, these are the facts buddy.

    • @ Steve D
      I understand you disagree with my article, I respect that, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but launching a personal attack on me is, in my view, not the right way to address things.

      Now, onto some of the things you’ve highlighted in the article:
      – Firstly, after Vettel demanded to his race engineer that Webber be moved out of the way, Mark did begin to pull away from him and did so until he made his third pit stop. Watch the footage again, it happened.

      – After the final round of pitstops, Vettel did not drop four seconds behind Webber. He stayed pretty much glued to his gearbox until he made the pass. You’ve also neglected to mention the fact that Webber had turned his engine down at that point of the race and also, once Seb made the pass, dropped off the pace, probably in annoyance at the fact he’d been shafted.

      – Onto the point you make regarding Glock and Hamilton in Brazil, and I must admit that I’m struggling to keep a straight face replying to this point. On that final lap, Glock lost the amount of time because he was on dry tyres on a waterlogged track. He lost the amount of time you’d expect him to lose in that position. Also, how do you explain the fact that Jarno Trulli in the other Toyota lapped within a tenth of him if Timo decided to drop 10 seconds back to give Lewis the title?

      – As someone who has twice in your comment shown outrage for Massa, I can only assume that your feelings would be the same if it had been the Ferraris in this situation and not the Red Bulls, and that Alonso would have been a disgrace to the sport? It appears you had no issue with Vettel attempting to engineer an identical situation to Alonso at Hockenheim 2010, and as someone who likes to take a balanced view on things, I cannot take your comment seriously.

      The reason I blog is to give a constructive, but firm, opinion on things. I could choose to sit on the fence and not take a stand, but that would be a waste of mine and everyone else who would happen to read my articles’ time, not to mention the fact that I’d then end up in the hospital in order to get the splinters removed from my posterior.

      All that aside, thanks very much for your comment.

  2. steve d: Fans like you are the ones that make me sick. The blindness for your idol is insane. Vettel is not a legend, is just another spoiled brat that have anything he wants from his “Daddy Helmut”. If he were material of legends, he will be respected by other drivers or workers in the paddock but he isn’t. Just wondering… Why?

  3. WHY VETTEL’S PETULANCE IN SEPANG COULD PROVE INVALUABLE

    Because he won WDC last year by a scant three points.

    The group think is that Vettel did wrong. The reality is that Horner’s team orders were daft and Vettel demonstrated sound reasoning ignoring them.

    The only one who’d have profited if Vettel had gifted Webber the win at Sepang is Webber. But Webber stands no chance — zero, zip, zilch, nada — of claiming the WDC. Vettel taking the victory, OTOH, also profits Red Bull Racing as it moves the team 25 points closer to taking _both_ world titles.

    Winning both titles substantially enhances any team’s palmares but particularly a team whose title sponsor is _not_ an automobile company. Potential Ferrari and Mercedes customers might care that their cars were built by a world champion constructor. But Red Bull’s customers are more likely to associate their product with an individual, a personality, like a world champion driver, than with the quality of the beverage’s “construction”.

    If Vettel wins the 2013 WDC by fewer than seven points, the critics will change their tune about this move, that I guarantee you.

    • That’s a valid point. Vettel may well win the title by less than seven points and if that happens you could make the case that he did the right thing.

      On the flip side though, he could just as easily find himself in the situation later in the year when he needs Webber’s help to gain points to win the title. And with Mark looking likely to leave Red Bull at the end of the season, and having been screwed over in his eyes by Seb in earlier races, could you blame him if he decided to take back the points Seb took from him on Sunday and in doing so cost him the championship?

      If Seb loses the title by less than seven points then he may well regret his decision to win in Malaysia.

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