Result- Sebastian Vettel leads a Red Bull 1-2 ahead of teammate Mark Webber
Team Order-Gate in F1 reared its ugly head once again to put the fading sport into jeopardy. Many will question the point of racing, pit stops, DRS wings, strategies and overtaking when, at the end, the final positions are down to the team management ranks. While many diehard Schumacher fans will argue that this is what a Champion makes, the issue itself is very debatable. What happened at Sepang in Malaysia over the weekend will have a lasting effect over the rest of the season- viewership and results wise.
Let The Right One In
Vettel disobeyed ‘team orders’ and performed a risky overtake maneuver to overtake leading teammate Mark Webber- despite chief Christian Horner’s advice to hold position till the end of the race. Webber was disgusted enough to not even look at his teammate during the podium celebrations- and even Vettel seemed a bit sheepish after realizing the impact of what he had done.
Vettel is not 3-time World Champion for no reason. While many can argue that races should be won and lost by the drivers and that team managements should let them battle it out on potential and skill- it is easier said than done. But then, Schumacher along with Jean Todt, over the years, had made a mockery of these team orders- with Rubens Barrichello always at the receiving end of these custom-made finishing positions. In the heat of the moment, Vettel made a statement- one that says he is the better driver and can overtake at will, but one that also says that he is bigger than his team.
Let The Wrong One In
Whatever went down, he came back with 25 points at Malaysia, and a teammate that refused to speak to him. Despite his apology at the post-race conference, Vettel will have a lot of explaining to do in the garage. Winning is a dangerous habit for most Germans, as history has shown. An identical situation played out behind the Red Bulls- with the two Mercedes cars battling it out for the final podium spot. This time, it was the anti-Vettel that happened- from a driver you’d expect to see more ruthlessness from, being a German and all. But such is the story of Nico Rosberg’s career. Malaysia encapsulated his career into the final few laps- where he was running much faster than teammate Hamilton ahead of him, but was told by chief Martin Whitmarsh to ‘hold position and not try anything’. A disappointed Rosberg bundled up behind his teammate, obeying team orders to the T- even making Hamilton look embarrassingly slow by the end of it. Lewis finished at 3, and Rosberg was left to lick his wounds- when he could have easily staked a claim to be their no. 1 driver for the 2013 F1 season.
Perhaps, the question that should be asked is this: In which garage will the atmosphere be frostier right now? The Red Bull (where team orders were disobeyed) or the Mercedes garage (where team orders were obeyed)? Your guess is as good as mine. Morale, therefore, is a highly subjective term in the world of F1.
This is the pits!
In the end, none of the 3 drivers on the podium were entirely happy to be where they were. The team chiefs and management will have a lot to think about too, and Alonso could have faced a similar situation with 5th-spot Massa had he still been in the race and not been suicidal in the first lap.
Up Next- The Chinese Grand Prix (Shanghai) on April 14th. Vettel leads the standings- something he hadn’t done for a while in the 2012 season.