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Vettel move stirs up another controversy

Updated: 2013-03-31 07:41
By Agence France-Presse in London ( China Daily)

Vettel move stirs up another controversy

The 2013 Formula One season may be only two races old, but it has already conjured up a new "team orders" controversy that has divided opinion and prompted tragic memories.

Sebastian Vettel's ill-planned decision, taken in the heat of the moment, to ignore his Red Bull team's order to stay second behind Mark Webber in last Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix has stirred up the eternal debate about the sport's true identity - is it racing between teams or individual drivers?

Does it matter that German Vettel, 25, has visited Milton Keynes and apologized to team members after saying sorry to Webber and, reportedly, shaking his hand during the team's traditional debrief following the race at Sepang?

Does it matter that Webber has, allegedly, accepted the apology and moved on, in the process confirming he will stay with Red Bull and race again as Vettel's teammate in the Chinese Grand Prix on April 14?

Does it matter that Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's ancient commercial ring master, ensured that his predictable comments of approval for Vettel's aggression were widely aired?

Ultimately, in each case, no, it does not matter.

The well-used excuses trotted out this week by the Red Bull team chief Christian Horner, referring to the competitive instincts of racing drivers, deserve little time.

It is his job to control his drivers.

In an interview with Sky Sports News broadcast on Thursday, Horner said: "He's (Vettel) said he can't turn back the clock but he's accepted what he did was wrong.

"He's apologized to the team and to every single member of staff for his actions, because he recognizes the team is vitally important and being part of the team is a crucial aspect to being able to challenge for those championships."

There was no mention of disciplinary action and no suggestion, as former F1 driver John Watson had suggested this week, that Vettel should be banned.

In other sports, in other teams, he might have been accused of dragging the sport into disrepute.

In F1, where the paddock's most influential leaders are sensitive to the demands of television, and the need to provide a consistently dramatic show, it is more convenient to draw a line and forget the furore.

"Mark knows there was no conspiracy within the team," Horner told Sky Sports F1. "We gave equality and our intention was to shut the race down and minimise the risk - particularly with the tire degradation we had seen.

"It was the intent of the team for Mark to win the race. It wasn't that we suddenly gave Sebastian the instruction to 'go and pass your teammate'. He is big enough to know there was no malice and no intent to create any situation like that.

"He is in a car capable of winning races and the championships. I have no doubt Mark will see out the contract with us."

(China Daily 03/31/2013 page7)

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