Last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix was one of the best ever in terms of excitement and on-track action. Traditionally, the event has always been unpredictable with the heavens always having a say in the results, this weekend being no exception. However, the unpredictability offered by the rains was overshadowed by the fact that Sebastian Vettel endangered the dynamics within his team to place his interests over that of the team to wrest victory from the hands of Mark Webber. And this happened despite the fact that the team along with the drivers had an agreement before the start of the race that after the final round of pit stops, they wouldn’t race to the finish line. From lap 44, when Webber exited the pits after his final stop, Vettel showed absolutely no indication that they were not to race, and blatantly overtook the Australian to lead – and eventually win – the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Vettel till now, had been seen as an extremely talented, humorous, incredibly quick driver who could do amazingly fast laps when the circumstances asked for it and could be depended upon to produce the best results. He has now shown his true colors and that brings him closer to his idol, Michael Schumacher in terms of utter ruthlessness, a quality possessed and demonstrated by the veteran German during his 2o-odd years in the sport. Sebastian Vettel placed his own ambitions on top of what the team required of him and in doing so, he displayed both a disregard for others (including his own team mate) and also, a killer instinct to win at all costs – a trait that could bring him more success in the sport and has also led to disappointment among his fans and admirers.
Though he apologized to Webber almost immediately, and to his team later on last week, I don’t think that given the same circumstances in the future, he would hold himself back like he claimed he would. What we witnessed on Sunday was a cold calculated move by Sebastian Vettel: He knew that his chief rival, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was out of the running and felt that leaving 7 points on the table in order to preserve a team agreement was no longer relevant. Though Red Bull states that they treat both drivers equally, Vettel, having won three WDCs to Webber’s zero felt that he deserved preference over the Australian. The way Vettel challenged and badgered Webber did not look like he had any respect for his teammate and it was as though he expected him to move over and let him have first place. In the end, his speech about not doing it deliberately was a laughable excuse when the action was done in such a forced manner.
For Webber, this is the latest of a series of incidents harking back to Turkey 2010, from when the team has favored Vettel over him. Even during the winter, Red Bull’s Helmut Marko who has always been on Vettel’s side publicly spoke ill of Webber in the team’s inhouse publication. Webber has had a competitive car for the past 3 years and watched his team mate walk away with the world championship all three years. This year, had he won, he would have been equal on standings with Vettel and would be favoured owing to his win. His team mate snatched the win from him in a blatant manner which resulted in his quote that Vettel would have “protection as usual”. All Webber wants is a fair title fight and he is unhappy that that is not going to happen for him. Ironically, the main reason he did not move out of Red Bull to Ferrari last year was that he did not want to play second fiddle to Alonso.
All things said and done, Vettel has clearly revealed his ruthless side to the world. He has demonstrated that he will do anything and everything that needs to be done to win. He risked the bonhomie within his team and his professional relationship with his team mate to suit his interests and one wonders how that will pan out over the course of this season.