World champion Sebastian Vettel admitted he ‘messed up’ by disobeying Red Bull Racing’s order to stay behind team-mate Mark Webber during the Malaysian Grand Prix.
His move 15 laps from the end went against the order to maintain position, with Webber leading the way as the Red Bull pair looked in total control.
Vettel’s overtaking manoeuvre saw him take his 27th career victory, but lead to a tense conversation in the pre-podium room at the Sepang International Circuit.
After the race, Vettel admitted that he ignored the order to stay behind Webber and apologised.
“I messed up today,” he said. “I would love to come up with a nice excuse as to why I did it, but I can’t.
“I can understand Mark’s frustration and the team not being happy with what I did.
“I owe an explanation to him and the whole team. I will try to explain to them later.
“We talk about this situation happening many times and what we will do if and when it happens and normally it doesn’t, but today it did and I should have translated the call into action. I got the call and I ignored it.
“Mark and I are used to fighting each other when we’re close, but with the tyres how they are now, and not knowing how long they will last, it was an extremely big risk to ignore the call to stay second.
“We could have ended up finishing eighth or ninth after destroying the tyres in those two laps. I put myself above a team decision, which was wrong. I didn’t mean to and I apologise.
“I’m not happy I’ve won, I made a mistake and if I could undo it I would. It’s not easy right now and I owe apologies to Mark and the team.”
Webber though wasn’t interested in hearing his team-mate’s apologies, claiming that the three-time world champion is given preferential treatment in the Tilbrook squad.
“After the last stop obviously the team told me that the race was over, we turned the engines down and we go to the end,” he said. “I want to race as well but in the end the team made the decision which we always say before the start of the race that’s probably how it’s going to be.
“We look after the tyres, get the car to the end. In the end Seb made his own decisions and will have protection as usual and that’s the way it goes.
“It puts a lot of heat on certain people, for sure. Inevitably it does, because unfortunately there’s no rewind button now so the scenario is a bit more challenging for certain people.”
Team boss Christian Horner laid the blame solely at Vettel’s door, saying he was wrong to put his own desire to win above the team’s orders.
“He’d had the communication and knew what it was and he chose to ignore it,” Horner said. “He put his interest beyond what the team’s position was and he was focused on those eight points difference between second and first.
“That was wrong, he has accepted it was wrong, and from a team’s perspective Formula One is a team sport. But there is also a drivers’ championship and that’s where sometimes you end up being in conflict.
Asked if he would be disciplining his driver further, Horner added: “It’s the type of thing we will talk about behind closed doors. He and I have had the discussion already, once we’ve taken the emotion out of it with time to reflect we’ll have another discussion before the next race.”
The Principal said Vettel was unlikely to have given the place back under orders, and said the team-mates haven’t trusted each other since the pair collided when battling for the lead at the Turkish Grand Prix in 2010.
Horner said: “Do you honestly think that if we’d told him to slow down and give the place back, he would have given it back?
“There was no point. He made it quite clear what his intention was by making the move.
“Let’s be honest here, there’s never been much trust between them since Istanbul 2010, but there is a respect between the two of them.”