by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
GP Week : Issue 180
8 GPWEEK.com // 8 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: While Red Bull are keen to lay those final laps in Sepang to rest, the search for answers and explanations continues. Red Bull were still the big story in China, thanks in no small part to comments made by Sebastian Vettel when he was asked to reflect on his actions at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Team orders may be a thing of the past in Milton Keynes, but were they still in place Vettel told the media that he would continue to ignore any instruction that kept him from victory. “I am not sure I can give you a proper answer, because in the moment it might be different, but I would probably do the same,” Vettel told the F1 press corps in Shanghai. “Had I understood the message and had I thought about it, reflected on it, thought what the team wanted to do, to leave Mark in first place and me finishing second ... I think I would have thought about it and I would probably have done the same thing.” Being a competitive animal is one thing, and fair enough. Whether or not you agree with Seb’s behaviour in Sepang (and it was certainly unsporting) it is easy to understand how a driver – who has spent his career being trained to view the chequered flag as his prey – will be overcome by the desire to win in the heat of the moment. And as Vettel quite rightly said early last week, Red Bull pay him to win, not to come second. But later comments Vettel made by last week are another matter entirely, and they paint a picture of the driver that is petulant, arrogant, and immature: “After all that's happened in the past few years, Mark didn't deser ve to win. You could say that [the events of Sepang were revenge for Interlagos 2012], indirectly. Being completely honest, I have never had support from his side. I have got the support of the team and I think the team has supported us the same way. In terms of my relationship with Mark, I respect him a lot as a racing driver but I think there has been more than one occasion in the past where he could have helped the team.” An eye for an eye would leave the whole world blind, I think is the phrase. On the one hand, Seb should be celebrated for his honesty. We often complain about the sanitised, personality-free, PR-honed comments so beloved of the F1 grid, and to see a driver being honest is refreshing. But as Lewis Hamilton has previously found to his chagrin, the oft-called for honesty can leave one rather unpopular. And that’s part of Seb’s problem. Vettel has two competing and contradictory goals – to win like no one has done previously, smashing every record F1 has to offer, and to be popular. Since his arrival in the top tier of the grid, Vettel has worked hard to create a fan-friendly persona. He is the Beatle- loving German with a sense of humour, a man who refers to Monty Python while his countrymen still split their sides at Dinner for One. While hero Michael Schumacher smashed both records and rivals with equal fervour, Seb sold himself as different – talented but humble, fast but not furious. On occasion, the façade slipped – remember those ‘he’s crazy’ gestures made after Seb crashed into Mark in Istanbul 2010? – but by and large Vettel was perceived as an easy-going cheeky chappy with talent in spades. Whether or not Seb is able to bounce back – not from Sepang, but from the comments made since – remains to be seen. His standing in the paddock has been affected, and he has been criticised by fans and detractors in equal measure. In the years to come, I think that we will see Sepang 2013 as a watershed moment in Vettel’s career, as the moment when the competitive animal within trumped his desire for popularity. For when all is said and done, what matters more to a racing driver – the number of fans queuing up at autograph sessions, or the number of trophies in his cabinet? If you think it’s the former, then I’m afraid you’re sadly mistaken. AFTER THE WATERSHED OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER Editor