Today, Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel gave the phrase "winning at all costs" a pathetic meaning. He accomplished this by winning the Malaysian Grand Prix, just the second race in a long 19-leg season. The 25-year-old German is currently the defending three-time champion, so another victory is old hat, right? Well, yes...except that, today, the petulant driver also surpassed his renowned arrogance and legendary self-centeredness. Today, Sebastian Vettel officially became a douche bag.
On Lap 44 (out of 56 laps), Vettel's teammate, Mark Webber of Australia, came out of the pits just barely ahead of him. It certainly looked like the fans would be treated to some fierce intra-team racing. And indeed they were, as Vettel took every chance he got to make an attempt to pass Webber. On that same lap, in fact, the teammates appeared like they would touch and take each other out, prompting the team to tell Vettel over the radio: "Careful, Seb...careful."
Two laps later, Vettel engaged Webber in a nail-biting race through four corners--the kind we used to see between Ayrton Senna and whoever was standing between him and the championship trophy during the last race of the season. But today's race, as we pointed out earlier, was merely the second leg in an already protracted F1 calendar.
But c'est la vie, right? This was racing, after all. Fans paid to see Vettel and Webber duke it out on the track. Er...but there was a story behind all this.
After Vettel had successfully overtaken Webber on Lap 46, team principal Christian Horner could be heard admonishing him over the radio: "This is silly, Seb. Come on." And when Vettel took the checkered flag, he heard these stern words from the pit wall: "There'll be some explaining to do."
Now, why would the team boss call a "brilliant" racing maneuver by his triple champion "silly"? And why would this champion have to explain his actions? Webber revealed why, during the podium interview.
"After the last pit stop, the team told me that the race was over, and that we should turn the engine down to the end," Webber told interviewer Martin Brundle. "I wanted to race as well, but in the end the team made a decision, which we always say before the start of the race is how it's going to be: Look after the tires and get the cars to the end. In the end, Seb made his own decisions and will have protection as usual. And that's the way it goes."
Red Bull wasn't the only outfit that had team-order issues. Mercedes AMG also ordered driver Nico Rosberg, who was in fourth place on the closing laps of the race, to back off and maintain position behind third-placed teammate Lewis Hamilton. Like Vettel, Rosberg protested, claiming to be faster than the guy in the other car. Unlike Vettel, however, Rosberg respected and obeyed the wishes of team boss Ross Brawn. He let Hamilton take the last place on the podium. Begrudgingly, yes, but commendably so nevertheless.
Hardcore Vettel fans will defend him and say he merely did his job as a racing driver. Screw team orders, they will sneer. Well, even we here at TopGear.com.ph detest team orders. We also want to witness intense jostling from green light to finish line. But when you're a multiple champion who has likewise benefited from team orders on your way to your past titles, you owe it to the team (and your loyal teammate) to respect the same orders when the table is turned. You can't like team orders only when they're being issued in your favor.
Today, Sebastian Vettel confirmed he is a big-time jerk who thinks only of himself and absolutely nothing else. Would it have killed him if he had let his teammate win? If he had, he and Webber would each have 33 points and co-lead the standings. It wasn't like he would have fallen far behind in the championship. And--for the nth time and for Bernie Ecclestone's sake--there are still 17 races to go. As it is, Vettel now comfortably sits atop the standings all by himself, with 40 oh-so-precious points versus Kimi Raikkonen's 31 and Webber's 26.
Don't get us wrong. We love ultra-competitive and extremely arrogant F1 drivers (see Senna, Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya). We just hate those who will gladly overtake another driver whose engine has already been shut down. That's like sucker-punching an opponent whose back is turned.
"I did a big mistake today," Vettel was quoted as having admitted after the race. "We should have stayed in the positions we were in. I didn't ignore the order on purpose, but I messed up in that situation. I took quite a lot of risk to pass Mark, and I should have behaved better. It doesn't help his feelings right now, but all I can say is that I didn't do it deliberately."
Even when apologizing, a douche bag will sound like a, well, douche bag.
|MAL||Starting grid||Race results|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Quali||Driver (Team)||Time/Gap|
|1||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:49.674||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1hr 38:56.681s|
|2||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:50.587||M. Webber (Red Bull)||+4.298|
|3||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:50.727||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||+12.181|
|4||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:51.699||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||+12.640|
|5||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:52.244||F. Massa (Ferrari)||+25.648|
|6||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:52.519||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||+35.564|
|7||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:52.970||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||+48.479|
|8||J. Button (McLaren)||1:53.175||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||+53.044|
|9||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:53.439||S. Perez (McLaren)||+1:12.357|
|10||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:54.136||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||+1:27.124|
|11||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:37.636||V. Bottas (Williams)||+1:28.610|
|12||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:38.125||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||+1 lap|
|13||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:38.822||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||+1 lap|
|14||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:39.221||C. Pic (Caterham)||+1 lap|
|15||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:44.509||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||+1 lap|
|16||P. Maldonado (Williams)||No time||M. Chilton (Marussia)||+2 laps|
|17||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:38.157||J. Button (McLaren)||+3 laps|
|18||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:38.207||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||+5 laps|
|19||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:38.434||P. Maldonado (Williams)||retired|
|20||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:39.314||A. Sutil (Force India)||retired|
|21||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:39.672||P. di Resta (Force India)||retired|
|22||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:39.932||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||retired|