Controversial Vettel victory leaves him in hot water

Sebastian Vettel wins the Malaysian Grand Prix
Sebastian Vettel wins the Malaysian Grand Prix

Things appeared to be going according to plan for Red Bull Racing as Mark Webber emerged from the pits in the lead 12 laps from the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix, with team-mate Sebastian Vettel just behind.

But another controversial incident between the Red Bull Racing pair left the Australian licking his wounds, and the three-time world champion German leaving Kuala Lumpur with his tail between his legs.

It should have been one of the many simple 1-2 finishes for the Tilbrook squad at the Sepang International Circuit. Vettel’s victory, however, will go down in history as one which saw him defy his team and overtake his team-mate with 10 laps to go.

While not many would have predicted the fireworks that would take place on Sunday, the writing looked on the wall for a Red Bull white-wash from the first free practice session.

Mark Webber lead the way, with Vettel in third less than two tenths of a second behind his team-mate, sandwiching Australian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus.

The Finn would top the timing sheets in the rain-interrupted second session but by less than a tenth to Vettel, with Webber fifth.

During their longer race runs, the Red Bulls looked more than comfortable at keeping a high pace, and many expected it to be a hard task to get the jump on them come race day.

More Malaysian rain threatened to cause a mixed up grid during qualifying, but the usual suspects made it through to a soaking final session. Vettel proved he was the class of the field by posting the fastest time on a drying circuit, while Webber was disappointed with his fifth place start.

And there was drama from the very start as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso got the jump on his team-mate Felipe Massa into second place behind Vettel. But the Spanish racer clipped the back of the RB9, breaking his front wing. Opting not to come into the pits and change it, Webber took advantage down the long pit-straight at the end of the first lap, moving into second place after a lightning start of his own. The Australian was lucky not to be taken out at the first turn though, as Alonso’s wing gave way as he speared into the gravel trap.

Vettel was the first of the pack to change from intermediate tyres onto full drys, and he paid the price as Webber left it another lap, leap-frogging his team-mate.

As the pair fought off the challenge of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes cars, it looked like a solid 1-2 finish was on the cards.

From the outside, it looked as though the pair were racing amicably, with Vettel not dropping too far behind, keeping his team-mate honest.

However, the team radio relayed a different race all together. Vettel was beginning to get flustered.

In a message to the pitwall, he said: “Mark is too slow, get him out of the way,” as Hamilton began to edge closer. Webber’s lack of pace was down to an order to look after the car, lowering engine revs to prolong the performance.

An order was given over the radio though to maintain position until the end of the race. This means Webber would lead home Vettel - a scenario which would see Red Bull lead the constructors’ championship, and Vettel lead the driver’s standings. It would also be Webber’s first win since the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in 2012.

So it came as a surprise to just about everyone at Red Bull when Webber emerged from the pits ahead of Vettel, only for the reigning champion to take the battle to his team-mate. Racing hard around the first sector, it appeared Webber had the edge over Vettel with his newer tyres. But the German was having none of it.

Two laps later, in the DRS zone down the pit straight, Vettel made his move, making it stick around the outside of turn four - a move which stuck until the end.

The result lead to a hostile podium ceremony, with Vettel looking as sheepish as Webber was defiant.