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Motorsport | Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel © Reuters

Vettel faces reputation repair job

World champion Sebastian Vettel will find out over the next weeks and months just how much his reputation has been ruined by his controversial victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday.

The future will also determine just where the line is for drivers to compete for themselves or for their team.

An exciting race became a footnote when Vettel ignored Red Bull team orders and passed Mark Webber for victory with 10 laps left. Behind them, Lewis Hamilton placed third because Mercedes partner Nico Rosberg stayed behind, as as ordered by their team.

Vettel eventually apologised for his move as Red Bull officials were clearly furious with the German because they had told their drivers to hold their positions after the final pit stop to conserve the cars and get maximum points.

After all, Vettel ruined an all but assured one-two three years ago in Turkey with a risky passing manoeuvre, and team officials did not want to take any risks knowing there is not much love lost between their drivers.

That will be even less the case now, and Vettel's move only seemed to confirm that the intelligent and down-to-earth man becomes ruthless and reckless when it comes to winning in an F1 car.

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"Sebastian Vettel must now live with the image of being a reckless egotist who only remembers the team when it is to his advantage," Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) said Monday.

With 17 of 19 races still left in the season, Red Bull can not be happy and can't afford an even further deteriorating relationship between their drivers.

"Red Bull rivals descend into civil war," said British paper The Guardian Monday, and Germany's Bild said that "he now has the biggest enemy in his own team."

Red Bull motorsport chief Helmut Marko said the situation was "out of control" and team principal Christian Horner said that Vettel will have to explain himself before the next race April 14 in China.

The rivalry could now be as explosive as that between Didier Pironi and Gilles Villeneuve or Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

But team orders were just as much on the agenda, and whether Sunday's orders would still fit the category of real racing.

Drivers are signed and paid by teams, and there is always a conflict of interest because F1 has a drivers' championship and a constructors' championship. The former carries more prestige, the latter determines income generated by the various rights in the sport.

The SZ spoke of a sport "which requires team work but also teaches its protagonists biggest possible egotism," and some pundits, while not happy with the incident itself, pointed out that such manoeuvres were a reason why Vettel has three world titles.

Red Bull and Mercedes have no team order who is their No 1, but they still had an interest in bringing both cars home safely instead of letting their drivers loose against each other in races.

"I'm a huge sports fan and I think we want to see people give their best to the end. It's extremely unusual to have both cars at the end of a race together ... It's part of Formula One," Webber said.

"I think that when you have 500 employees and it was nip and tuck for Sebastian and I to be in the fence in turn one, (the fan is) happy, but is the factory happy, are we happy?"

While Australian online bookmakers sportsbet.com.au refunded all bets on Webber to win the race, the racer suggested that as much aspurity is an essence of every sport, it was a "naive" approach because "it is impossible for everybody to understand everything" in a sport.

Vettel remained a little more vague on the issue and it remains to be seen whether would allow Webber in a future race to pass him for victory to make up for Sunday.

"You have a certain responsibility for the team as well and a lot of people in the factory working all year and obviously you have two cars and I think you have to take that into account as well," he said.

What's your take on Sebastian Vettel's controversial Malaysian Grand Prix win when he defied team orders by over-taking Red Bull teammate Mark Webber to snatch victory?
He didn't do anything wrong. It's a race afterall!
Unsportsmanlike conduct from the German!
Not sure, but it certainly will spice things up between the two Red Bull drivers! Can't wait for the next race!


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