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Motorsport | Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel (R) Mark Webber © Gallo Images

Red Bull rivalry boils over



The post-race team photo was scrapped and the pundits dug out comparisons to the infamous relationship between teammates Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna to describe Sunday's incidents at Red Bull.

Ideally, the world championship team would have celebrated a one-two from three-time reigning champion Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Instead, there will be a lot of soul-searching and behind-the-scenes talks because Vettel ignored team strategy when he passed Webber in a bold move for first place with 10 laps left.

The subdued Vettel had to issue a post-race apology amid furious words from Webber and clearly unhappy comments from team principal Christian Horner.

The German champion and the veteran Australian had a much-publicised collision at the 2009 Turkish Grand Prix while battling for the lead and Webber has often complained about his status as de facto No 2 although Red Bull maintain the view that they treat their drivers equal.

That also appeared to be the case Sunday when Webber and Horner revealed that the team strategy had been to race for first place until after the final pit stop and then to keep that order until the finish to conserve the cars instead of doing silly things.

Webber returned to the track from his last stop just ahead of Vettel and said he then went into engine-conservation mode, as instructed. To his surprise, Vettel attacked two laps later, denying Webber a 10th career victory and chalking up a 27th for himself.

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"I turned the engine down and was reassured twice that we would not use the cars against each other," Webber said. "Unfortunately there is no rewind button.

"We have had a lot of history, I respect Seb. It is still very raw at the moment because we had a plan before the race."

Webber said he will cool his temper over the next three weeks before the next race in China by going surfing at home in Australia.

Vettel will likely be summoned to explain himself to his leaders and be told that team interests still come first.

"Sebastian chose to take things into his own hands. His desire to win was greater than protecting the 43 points for the team," Horner said, naming the situation "uncomfortable."

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung said on its website that "Vettel is not hearing the allegations for the first time that he is an egomaniac on the track."

Vettel said he was not aware of his wrongdoing until after the race and could finally only apologise, conceding that "I fucked up."

"I would love to come up with a nice excuse or a nice story but I can't. That's the truth. I can completely understand Mark's frustration and the team not being happy," he said.

Webber was sceptical whether Vettel will really feel any heat from the team because he will "have protection as usual" from the team. Red Bull are long suggested to favour the German because of his younger age and because he has delivered three world titles.

Vettel's determination was already felt when he told the team via radio in mid-race that "Mark is too slow, get him out of the way."

But Webber stood his ground at the time and Vettel was rebuffed by Horner immediately after his passing move when the team boss told him "this is silly."

How it could have worked was meanwhile demonstrated by Mercedes where Nico Rosberg obeyed an order to stay in fourth behind Lewis Hamilton although he had the faster car and was clearly frustrated afterwards.

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