More than two weeks after the controversial finish in Malaysia and the fallout can still be felt at Red Bull Racing as Sebastian Vettel has added even more distance between him and teammate Mark Webber before this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix.
Formula One: Sebastian Vettel adds fuel to the fire with Red Bull teammate Mark Webber
Sebastian Vettel intensified the bad feelings between himself and Red Bull Racing teammate Mark Webber on Thursday, claiming the Australian hurt the team in the past and thus did not deserve consideration in the Malaysian Grand Prix team orders affair.
Vettel claimed that his decision to ignore team orders and pass Webber in the closing stages of the Malaysian race was "indirectly" related to past incidents when he felt Webber went against the best interests of their Formula One 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 to remain behind Webber, Vettel replied: "Indirectly so."
The world champion maintained that 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 with the team for a long time.
Despite his claims of a mistake, Vettel said he likely would have ignored any further order from the team 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," he said.
Vettel's candid comments revealed the divisive depths 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]. I have a lot of support from the team and the team is supporting us both the same way."
The German apologised to the team staff for breaking team rules, but laughed when asked if he had been punished in any way: "There are lots of marks on my back," he said. "What do you expect to happen? Make a suggestion."
The relationship between Vettel and Webber appeared fractured beyond repair and continues to raise speculation that Webber will not stay with the team after this season when his deal expires. He has been with Red Bull since 2007.
Webber said yesterday that initial reports claiming that he considered quitting in Malaysia were wrong, but said the accumulation of incidents of perceived favouritism 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, as it demonstrated Vettel could ignore instructions with impunity, with Horner himself acknowledging that he had not requested Vettel cede position back to Webber, as he did not believe his driver would have listened to him.
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 potentially may replace Webber at Red Bull next season.
"The season is only two races old, so I'll try to do this year well and we will see what happens," the 2007 world champion 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."
This weekend is the fourth anniversary of Red Bull's first victory in F1, which came in Shanghai in 2009 as Vettel beat Webber for a one-two finish in wet conditions.
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