World champion Sebastian Vettel apologized to Red Bull teammate Mark Webber after defying orders to snatch a “risky” victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday and go to the top of the driver standings.
Webber had been poised for the 10th victory of his career and first since July as he led comfortably after the team’s final pit stops, and was told to hold back to maintain his car until the finish at the Sepang circuit.
Vettel, however, took the opportunity to edge past the veteran Australian and claim his 27th race win, having started from pole position for the second time in two events this season.
“I want to say sorry to Mark,” the German told reporters, having been rebuked by his team boss Christian Horner on the radio as they dueled on the track. “This is silly Seb, come on,” Horner warned.
“He was trying to save the car and tires, but I took a lot of risk in passing him when he was trying,” the 25-year-old Vettel added.
“I didn’t ignore that, but I shouldn’t have done it.”
He later said on the Red Bull website: ” I put myself above a team decision, which was wrong. I didn’t mean to and I apologize. I’m not happy I’ve won, I made a mistake and if I could undo it I would. It’s not easy right now and I owe apologies to Mark and the team.”
Webber, who has often complained that triple world champion Vettel has favored status within the Austrian-owned team, made his displeasure known at the postrace press conference.
“The first part of GP went very well,” the 36-year-old said. “In the end we got the right strategy, and it was about controlling the race, getting everything in the race right, but the team told me to turn the engine down.
“But I want to race as well. Seb made his own decisions and he will have protection as usual and that’s the way it goes.”
He also added a statement on the team website.
“There’s a bit of history to this as well; my mind in the last 15 laps was thinking about a lot of things,” Webber said.
“Of course I’m not satisfied with the result. This puts heat on a few people and unfortunately there’s no rewind button. I know people want raw emotion from us after these situations and it’s there, but we need to remain cool. There’s three weeks until the next race, so time for us to work on things.”
Horner said the incident was “frustrating.”
“Formula One is both a team and an individual sport and sometimes there is a conflict between a driver’s desire and a team’s interest,” he said. “What happened today is something that shouldn’t have happened.
“Our position after that final pit stop was all about managing the race until the end and conserving our tires, getting the cars to the finish and achieving maximum points.”
Team orders have long been a controversial part of F1, and were banned in 2002. However, that rule was dropped in 2011 after it became apparent that teams were finding ways around it.
On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton benefited from team orders as he claimed his first podium finish for Mercedes after colleague Nico Rosberg was told not to attack him as both drivers were seeking to maintain their cars.
Team boss Ross Brawn said on the radio: “Negative Nico, negative. Lewis’ pace is what we are asking him to do. He can go a lot faster as well, so please be in control as well.”
“If I’m honest he should be standing here, he’s a great teammate and did a fantastic job,” Hamilton said of Rosberg, who outperformed seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at Mercedes the past three seasons.
“We brought the car home and I’m glad to get a result for them, but it’s not the best feeling being up here.”
The 2008 world champion almost made an embarrassing error when he tried to pit in the garage of his former team McLaren — bringing back memories of when Jenson Button did similar soon after his move to the British marque.
“I did a Jenson as he did that a couple of years ago,” the English driver said.
“I’ve had so many years making pit stops with McLaren, but I got it wrong, so a big apology to my teammate.”
Button’s disappointing season continued when he failed to finish in the points after being sent out from his final pit stop with a loose front wheel, having been fifth at one stage.
His new teammate Sergio Perez scored his first points for McLaren as he came home ninth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne.
Felipe Massa claimed fifth place but his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso — the race winner in Sepang last year and overall runnerup — paid for an early mistake that broke his front wing and ended his day.
Romain Grosjean was sixth for Lotus ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who won the opening race in Melbourne last Sunday but this time started from 10th after being given a three-place penalty for blocking Rosberg during Saturday’s qualifying.
The Finn was fastest in Friday’s practice, but downplayed his hopes in the race.
Nico Hulkenberg was eighth to earn Sauber’s first points this season. (CNN)