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Motorsport | Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel © Gallo Images

Vettel-Webber spat just the latest

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber may have grabbed the headlines after Vettel defied Red Bull orders to win in Malaysia, but they are not the first teammates to spectacularly and publicly fall out.

Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna became sworn enemies at McLaren in the 1980s, while Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell were bitter rivals even before they found themselves in the same garage at Williams during the same era.

And then there was Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi at Ferrari, also in the 1980s, whose relationship turned decidedly sour after an infamous incident that Vettel and Webber were to replicate more than 30 years later.

It was the 1982 season, the San Marino Grand Prix. Pironi overtook Villeneuve, who believed that broke a team order. Villeneuve then did likewise to take back the lead on the penultimate lap.

But on the final lap Pironi passed his fellow Ferrari again, swerving dangerously in front of Villeneuve to snatch the win. Villeneuve believed the Frenchman had defied team orders, and was furious.

Villeneuve was killed weeks afterwards after he crashed during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix. It is widely accepted that Villeneuve died in pushing himself to the maximum to better the time of his nominal teammate.

"Ignoring (orders) is just plain wrong. The best example is my father and Didier Pironi. Just look at the problems that caused," son Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, told Auto Bild after the Vettel-Webber controversy.

"His (Vettel's) behaviour was just stupid. Such negative energy does not help the team... and also, if he now needs help from Mark, he cannot be sure he will get it."

After that Ferrari dumped its policy of equality between its drivers.

Vettel, the reigning three-time world champion, apologised after defying Red Bull team principal Christian Horner last month in Malaysia to snatch Webber's lead and win in the most controversial of circumstances.

But he appeared to make an about-turn on Thursday in Shanghai, ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, saying that he would do the same all over again if it meant winning. Besides, he argued, Webber didn't deserve to win the race.

Speaking on Saturday in Shanghai, Niki Lauda, a three-time world champion, said that Vettel and Webber "never liked each other anyway".

"If they had said it in the first place nobody would have argued for three weeks (since Malaysia). Vettel wants to win another world championship, so what is the target for a driver? To win a world championship.

"I don't care about anyone else. He's made it clear now. Vettel made his point, which I understand and I accept, because he's the world champion and that's the way to be a world champion.

"I said from day one I believe that we have the strongest pair of drivers because they are both young, they are both quick, very quick, so they push each other."

Horner was subjected to a barrage of questions on Friday as to how he hoped to foster a truce between a pair of individuals whose relationship, while never being too good, has now reached a new low.

"Sebastian hasn't achieved the success that he has in his career by being submissive," said Horner, describing the Vettel-Webber rivalry as "healthy".

"He saw an opportunity, he took it into his own hands, he'd saved a set of tyres from the previous day and he wanted that victory more than anything else. "I think he justified to himself that previous events that had taken place (between the two drivers) was part of his judgment on what he chose to do that day."


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