Analysis: Why did Vettel ignore team orders and pass Webber?
Scuderia Ferrari
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Mar 2013   |  12:32 pm GMT  |  1,195 comments

It is clear that the Malaysian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel’s 103rd F1 race, will prove a turning point in his career.

Vettel admitted on Sunday night in the post race press conference that he will be looked upon as the “black sheep” after he ignored team orders and passed Mark Webber in the closing stages of Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix, when the Australian thought the race had been called off by the Red Bull team.

Interestingly, had they finished with Webber ahead, they would now be level on 33 points in the drivers’ table. And the way Red Bull works, the driver with the highest championship position takes priority in certain situations. By virtue of having a win, Webber would be placed above Vettel in the table.

Also central to Vettel’s motive was the fact that the man he considers his main title rival, Fernando Alonso, did not score any points in Sepang and to leave the extra seven points on the table for finishing second rather than winning, was not something Vettel could contemplate, even if his team could.

Some have praised Vettel for being a “real racer” others have castigated him for violating sporting ethics. To be clear: He did not pass Webber in a racing situation, because Webber was acting on the belief that the racing was over. The situation was reversed in Silverstone two years ago when Webber was told not to pass Vettel in the closing stages, but had a go, eventually backing off. So he is not blameless in this story either.

Interestingly, yesterday the FOM TV director broadcast Mercedes’ team order instructions but not the Red Bull coded instructions. So it is not clear what was said to Vettel and when.

Normal practice in those situations is to inform the pursuing driver first, so that the situation is controlled immediately and then to inform the leading driver that he will not be attacked by his team mate.

What makes yesterday’s situation more intriguing is that Vettel was on a different tyre strategy from Webber; having made an error by pitting too early for slicks which cost him the lead to Webber, Vettel was attempting to get the win back by running a strategy which would see him on the faster (medium) tyre in the closing stages. Webber was on the hard compound which was around 0.6s per lap slower.

So Vettel was anticipating a late race challenge on Webber using faster tyres and DRS and clearly so was the Red Bull strategy team, because they oversee both cars.

But team boss Christian Horner has confirmed that once the final stops were completed, Vettel was told to follow Webber home and he disobeyed that instruction.

Webber and Horner in talks after the race (Taken at 9-30pm Malay time Sunday)

Although he is being compared with drivers like Senna and Schumacher from the past, who pushed things to the limit and beyond at times in pursuit of glory, neither driver to my knowledge disobeyed a team order. Senna and Prost fell out over violations of agreements between themselves, but not of rules imposed by the team.

So will Red Bull do anything to redress the situation?

Webber will have every reason to feel that he cannot trust the team or his team-mate. There have been previous incidents which have gone against him and made him feel like Vettel is “protected” by the management, as Webber suggested on Sunday’s podium.

However, the fact that they were willing to let Webber win Sunday’s race is interesting, given the way Webber is consistently undermined by Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko.

Equally, Bernie Ecclestone’s comments yesterday that Webber himself is protected by the loyalty of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, highlights the unique situation Webber finds himself in within the team.

If Red Bull does nothing, Webber’s trust will have been lost for good and that could prove toxic for this campaign, especially if this is to be his his last season in F1.

As for Vettel’s reputation among fans of the sport; this will be harder to repair. His apology after the race was the right thing to do, but still rang somewhat hollow as he already had the 25 points in the bag.

It is a watershed moment, a turning point in a career of glittering success and a crease in his public image. He has shown his colours, showed a ruthlessness and determination to win, which goes way beyond what most people imagined. On one level this makes him a more interesting character; as Ron Dennis observed admiringly of Alonso, ‘Competitive animals know no limits’.

But in calling for Webber to be moved aside midway through the race he also showed a sense of entitlement, which is not attractive.

In conclusion: we now know that Vettel has the ‘bit of the devil’, which several legendary champions have had in this sport; but he will regret the way he conducted himself in this race and it will, to some extent, taint his legacy.

Featured Video
Behind the Scenes at the track
Behind the Scenes at the track
Featured News in ferrari
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

I’ve see Silverstone 2011 & Webber’s disregard for orders get mentioned everywhere but I think they are very different situations.

Firstly, James Allen do you know if RBR had pre-race agreements(leader after last pit wins)before or at Silverstone 2011?

As for that race (Silverstone 2011), before Webber is told to ‘maintain the gap’, Vettel is on the radio telling the team ‘to be wise’ he gets a reply ‘We know what you mean & are controlling the situation’ then the order to Webber goes out to maintain the gap (repeatedly) & in a very different tone to Malaysia 2013.

I think this greatly re-enforces what JA was saying about Vettel’s ‘sense of entitlement’.

It would appear that in Silverstone 2011 the team order only existed when Vettel asked for it & that is why Webber chose to ignore it?

It could also be possibly that is the reason RBR brought in the Team orders pre-race?

Danilo Schoeneberg

The whole “analysis” is ridiculous. You don’t become world champion by gifting 7 points to your vastly inferior team mate in the second race of the season, especially if your biggest rival doesn’t score and said team mate has a history of ignoring team orders himself (and bragging to the media about it – July 2011)

I don’t know if Mark is sniffing glue, but his actions suggest it. Di he seriously believe that the three times WDC in his team would gift him those extra 7 points??


What is ridiculous is one driver thinking he’s bigger than the whole team which is what Vettel is doing.


Vettel has to address two quite separate issues.

First the issue of team orders, the need for the team to come first, and the need to respect that his is one of the contributions to his success – and that he relies on the support of ‘hundreds’ behind him. This is where he needs (a) to understand the depth of significance of team orders and (b) to make a full apology and explanation to the team and team members which he appears now to have done.

Second is his relationship with Webber. I doubt a Niagara of words of apology from Vettel would solve the rift, of restore any credibility. Webber knows full well Vettel’s instinctive desire to win and that will not change, and Webber would not want it to change. Most importantly, Webber wants no free gifts, simply a level playing field. He wants to win fair and square and beat the best in the business, including Vettel on top of his form. That is the culture he was brought up in. That is why he fought his way up in F1 and has stayed with Red Bull. But will he be as willing let Vettel pass in future as he has done in the past? Doubtful. I think the passing space has got a lot tighter …………….


Ok….this topic interests me. I watch a little bit of F1 but despite reading the articles I am confused as to what the actual dispute was about. Could someone just put it in clearer terms for me? I obviously don’t know the rules and regulations of racing so please be kind 😉


There was an instruction/agreement between all concerned at Red Bull that after the last pit stop the drivers would drive to conserve car/engine/tyres essentially driving at less than 100% of their potential, Vettel ignored this agreement so he could gain an advantage over Webber who was driving at a more conservative level.

Put simply Vettel took an unsporting advantage over his team mate.


James just a question has thjs subject had the most contributions to date on your site ?


No, the “Fernando is faster than you” Germany report 2010 had 1,200!


Fights between team mates are the most interesting part of a race. Don’t mess with them for no reason at all…


I’ve been following F1 for about twenty years, and it has consistently been the case that the great majority of F1 fans detest team orders with a passion. So when I see all these people suddenly proclaiming their belief in the inviolable holy sanctity of team orders NOW, I smell a rat.

If Kimi had done what Seb did, everyone would be cheering him for it.


“To be clear: He did not pass Webber in a racing situation, because Webber was acting on the belief that the racing was over.”

That’s absurd. The two men spent several laps locked in one of the most intense struggles you will see all season – but supposedly Webber was unaware that there was a race on?


You’re missing the point, Vettel began his move with full engine power/DRS when Webber had his engine turned down and no DRS available. This wasn’t a racing overtake, it was an unsporting act by a driver who knew the other was driving at a reduced level (Multi 21) and took advantage of him. Webber was not expecting the overtake and would have been more able to keep his position if he had been.


JA, how long would it take to turn up the engine again, having turned it down? Surely this is not some minute-long procedure.


Those who defend Vettel conveniently forget one very important point. F1 is a TEAM sport, not an individual one. It is the TEAM that provides the driver with the equipment, and pays them. Vettel would be a nobody if he wasn’t driving for a team that provides him with a competitive car. So it is quite simple. Vettel should have stayed where he was – behind Webber.


Right, wrong? Fair, unfair? Just, unjust? Who really knows?

What most people seem to agree with tho, is that Seb took maters into his own hands. By doing so he put himself above the team. And that’s the real problem in this affair. No driver is more important than the team. Not ever. Period. End of story.

I say if he wants to behave like that. Let him set his car up by himself. Let him plan his own strategy. Give Rocky the weekend off and let Seb figure out how to get through an entire GP on his own. I doubt he would make it out of Q1.

Thanx for all you do James. Great stuff!


For a moment i thought you were referring to Mark Webber’s behaviour the past 2-3 years.


hello James,

What are Schumacher’s thoughts on this?


No idea!


LOL! Same as the Iceman’s, I’m sure!


Well then, Let’s look back at this spoilt brat’s history in relation to his pedigree.

Turkey 2010

Here has evidence been entered into public arena numerous times. But let’s recount the facts.

Shall we?

One driver with exact equipment manages to pull along-side his teammate, and further manages to pull ahead of his teammate. Then, heading into the corner the one in front suposedly crashes into the other.

However, when someone “puts a nose in” we are led to beleive that this is cause for aquicsence?

Do I not recall the proffesor, from a position, even less hard won, gaining sympathy for a collision no less?

Here in Sepang, we had none, not even a rub, although I do not know how, oh yes, they are formula one drivers, and as such, two men racing for position in manner that we all have craved for so long but now we scorn.

What is happening to this formula?


Where is Bernie and the FIA on the matter, this all seems to make team orders acceptable? Is this racing or just entertainment like certain other sport events, not to name names.


Supporters of other teams should accept that Seb is extremely talented and ruthless driver who is likely to dominate WDC years to come. He does not give a shit what persons outside of the RBR think about him as racing driver.


1115 comments. Wow !!!!


I like Flavio Briatore’s perspective on the issue: if Christian Horner had balls he would have asked Vettel to let Webber through after passing him. Well said Flavio!


Does anyone listen to Flavio considering his take on ethics?


Flav is a billionaire, I think you will find a great many people listen to him 🙂


You could argue that NPJ troubles really began when he stopped listening to Flav. If he wasn’t so intent on revenge when he was dropped by Renault, and had kept his mouth shut, he might have found another drive. As it is, he will never drive in F1 again. Flav, on the other hand, still has the money and the connections. Pat Symonds is already back. It wouldn’t suprise me, at all, to see Flav back in the pitlane at some point.


Certainly Nelson Piquet Jnr did, and look where that got him.


One thing is for sure, the ratings will be great in China.

Berni must love this.


Team orders are just destroying the sport.For all I care, Horner, Brawn, Dominicalli and the others can get fired, and their teams would do well and we’ll see real racing going on. What Vettel did was racing. Why should he be vilified for it? Besides on Lap 45 the difference between Vettel’s and Webber’s laptime was just 2tenths – not the exact laptime you get when one’s engine is turned down and the other is roaring past in 18000 revs.


how can team orders destroy the sport? i am under the impression that the teams make the sport. without the teams there’s no f1.


Nah, he doesn’t need to pull a dog act to get respect. It’s been abundantly clear for some time he is a “defacto No2”.- he either accepts it or walks- plain and simple.


Hi James..

Why does Bernie Ecclestone always jumps in when Vettel is in trouble…why he did not defended Mark Webber at Silverstone 2011 when redbull ask Mark not to overtake Vettel…


i was replying to Anup, not sure why the post came out under aveli’s post…


No need to, cos the media were hailing Mark.

Incidentally, Vettel was running on a car damaged earlier (by Alonso), but Webber still couldn’t pass him.

The difference between Webber and Vettel is, when asked by media, Vettel said it was fun,so not to make Horner look incapable (of controlling his driver) while Mark boasted to the world he is the boss not Horner. Whereas now, Mark, who was hoping for a gifted 1st by the team,whined to the world like a teacher’s pet — Seb did not obey the teacher, the teacher said he can’t race me because i came out barely ahead of him so i am still 1st and entitled to keep that position.

They way the media are so blatantly bias will play to Seb advantage in the long run. History is no longer just what the media puts out in our interactive world.


because ecclestone is trying his best to turn vettel into the f1 superstar. he doesn’t want the true superstar to shine. he will defend vettel at all cost and make up stories in the press to suppress the true superstar of the sport.


The 2 cases are quite different, if I am not wrong I believe back in 2011 team order was illegal, but I could be wrong on this one. Sepang is only the 2nd race of the year, so the teams dont have enough data yet on the tyre degradation, and Sepang is considered the hottest weather in the full year calendar, so the tyres will wear out much faster than normal. Silverstone is the 8th or 9th race of the season, so the teams would have enough data on the tyres, they should already know when they are able to push the tyres and by how hard. And UK has much cooler weather than Sepang, it is considered a lot saver to push both the car and tyres in UK than Malay, both tyre knowledge wise and weather wise. That is why Horner had to order to maintain positions in Sepang, there was absolutely no reason to floor the cars to its maximum capability, and risk both the reliability of the cars and the safety of the drivers. If I am the team principal, I would do the very same thing for sure. It was just that Vettel didnt follow team ordes, thats all.

Then when you say Vettel had worn tyres, Webber started challenging Vettel at the very last few laps of the race, any car on the track would have some sort of worn tyres anyway, I am sure Webber had some worn tyres too. Worn tyres would normally apply to every single car on the track, especially in the closing few laps of the race, the only problem is how worn they are, so it came down to how good the driver managed the tyres throughout the whole race. If you say Vettel’s tyres were more worn out than Webber, then it was Vettel’s strategy problem or driving problem of not looking after the tyres better. If that is the case then it is an individual problem from Vettel, and it wasnt a manufactured disadvantage like what Webber had in Sepang by the team. Vettel’s worn tyres can only be considered as his weakness at the time, and not a disadvantage, so Webber decided to challenge that weakness from Vettel in the last 2 laps. But in Sepang, Webber was happy to race but the team repeatedly told him that vettel would not challenge, so he turned down the car, and Vettel unfairly took advantage of that manufactured disadvantage of Mark.

If you look at it more carefully, then you will be able to tell the differences in the 2 situations. Both drivers know the 2 situations are different, that is why after the Silverstone race Vettel said he was more than happy for the challenge from Mark. And to be honest, Webber didnt lose, he only started the challenge, but he just didnt win it to step up a position, thats all, he didnt actually lose anything, he still kept position and got the points. But in Sepang, Webber actually lost 7 points to be 2nd, and Vettel took 7 points away from Mark, so there is a 14 point difference just in that race alone. If Vettel didn’t take those 7 points from Mark then they both would have the same 33 points, both would be leading the championship, and not Vettel 40 and Webber 26 sitting in 3rd now. And this time Vettel knew he did the wrong thing and said “he f***** up”.


Wrong, team order was already legal in 2011.

Apparently the team wanted to gift Mark the Sepang win as it was his 200 GP.

Both were on fresh tyres when they raced each other. Seb was on a different pre-race tyre strategy, which was to go flat out the last 15 laps on the mediums (probably with racing Alonso in mind).

Racing evidence showed that Mark couldn’t have turned down engine at the time he was racing Seb but lost.


Grow some balls Horner


Ii think this has been posted above already but I couldn’t find the comment in the river of conversation.

Thanks to James and his team for dealing with this influx of comments and managing to moderate a lot of raw emotion from a whole bunch of proud armchair F1 journalists/analysts.

I love that your site constantly delivers us informed reporting and insight of the events in the F1 paddock and beyond without any hint of bias or unbalanced journalism.

It’s a real shame that it is not possible to stream your commentary from BBC 5 in Australia while the races are on, but am thankful we still get to hear you input through One HD and get to read your thoughts.

Keep up the good work, and I hope you all get some days to recover before the build-up to China.



There are ways of hearing it, ask around on the Internet.


I’m from the US and have progressed over the years from NASCAR to F1. It is after all, the pinnacle of motor racing. Or maybe not.

The constructors championship is screwing it up. It prevents drivers from doing what they are paid to do – race! When a 3 time world champion driver gets crucified for challenging a less talented driver (for 15 laps no less), something is wacky. Vettel is a spoiled arrogant brat (as many great drivers are), but this isn’t a personality contest! I don’t like him but I am glad he did it – because that’s what great drivers do! F1 needs this – it’s too sterile.

The Rossberg and Hamilton fiasco was worse.

Rossberg is instructed by Brawn to follow Hamilton even though Hamilton concedes after the race he shouldn’t be on the podium because Rossberg was faster. Brawn said the “telemetry” indicated he wasn’t any faster than Hamilton. Bullocks (not sure what that means but when my Brit coworkers use it, it seems to be similar to BS). At least let him try! Rossberg’s reward is a pat on the ass from Brawn. Keep it up Rossberg and you’ll be the next Reubens! He should have disobeyed like Vettel and at least challenged him. That’s what we want to see. Senna must be rolling over in his grave.

When the most exciting part of a F1 event is qualifying, something is wrong. I hope it changes and drivers get to do what they are paid to do…race!. Bernie got it right this time.


Problem was, it was going to be difficult for Rosberg to pass Hamilton, and both cars might have been put out. That’s old news – all of this is. Hamilton would have resisted strongly, and Brawn and everybody else knows it. So it was a good “team decision”. And whomever on this topic mentioned the team championship was a large part of this problem is correct. F1 is, first and foremost, a manufacturer’s series, it is only secondarily a driver’s series. And Vettel and Hamilton as well as Alonso are the number one drivers on their teams because they are the best their teams could find at the time they were hired. That was well reinforced in Maylasia. There are reasons for them being number ones whether we fans think it’s fair or not. The teams make the choice as it is a manufacturer/team sport. To attain insight into everything in the world, it helps to watch the flow of money – from where, to where, and how much — a river runs through it, and it’s money.


How do you know Rossberg would have trouble passing Hamilton? We will never know…that is the sad part.

Maybe the constructors championship concept needs to be changed.


It’s fairly simple, if I carried on the way Vettel did at work I’d be out on my ear. Look at the facts, he ignored a prearranged instruction which he had previously agreed to so he could benefit at the expense of his team mate, that’s disrespectful to the team and his team mate. It’s hard to have any resect for a man who displays such an attitude, someone who does not know the meaning of ‘sportsmanship’ , he may well win a 4th championship, but it’ll be tainted like those of Schumacher who also found ‘sportsmanship’ an alien concept.

Vettel thinks he is better than the team, and he knows Horner is too weak to control him.


Nailed it.

Top Tags
SEARCH Scuderia Ferrari