Did Vettel really misunderstand Red Bull team orders in Malaysia?

Sebastian Vettel celebrates on the podium after the Malaysian GP

Sebastian Vettel celebrates on the podium after the Malaysian GP

It has emerged that there could be truth in Sebastian Vettel’s claim that he didn’t deliberately ignore team orders in Malaysia last Sunday.

Indeed, after happily celebrating the Sepang win initially, the German’s face only turned to thunder once Mark Webber angrily repeated the order-code ‘Multi-21′ as they prepared to go onto the podium.

“I talked to him (Webber) and he came straight to the point. That was when it struck me like lightning,” Vettel told Formula 1’s official website.

Germany’s Sport Bild claims Vettel might really have overlooked, misunderstood or minimised the significance of the Multi-21 order — which may have been sent to the drivers by way of a digital display message on the steering wheel.

Helmut Marko with Sebastian Vettel at Sepang before the race

Helmut Marko with Sebastian Vettel at Sepang before the race

Helmut Marko said on Austrian Servus TV: “We have this certain code – the 21 – which was told by the race engineer on two occasions. There was no response.”

Elsewhere, the team orders scandal triggered by Sunday’s events rolls on.

Bernie Ecclestone has chimed in, saying that if he was a reigning triple world champion like Vettel, he also would have ignored the order.

“I’d probably do exactly the same as Kimi Raikkonen did when he came back and they gave him some instructions. I’d say ‘I know what I’m doing’,” said the Formula 1 chief executive.

Peter Mucke, a former mentor of the once rising Formula BMW driver Vettel, agrees: “A driver who wants to win the world championship must be uncompromising.

“Racers are selfish and will be so even in a team sport,” he told Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Mark Webber

Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel at the post race press conference in Malaysia

The saga has even spilled into an argument between Christian Horner and Flavio Briatore, after the controversial former Renault boss accused Horner of losing control of Red Bull and being “weak”.

Briatore had told Italian radio RAI: “Christian didn’t even have the strength to get on the podium because they’re terrified with a driver in charge instead of the team manager.”

Red Bull hit back in a statement: “A weak team principal would be unable to steer a team to three consecutive world championships and oversee and manage the extensive teamwork that goes into this achievement — while managing two talented racers.”

At the same time, Briatore backed away from the controversy, insisting his comments were misinterpreted because he has “a lot of respect” for Horner.

“As a team principal, I think Chris has done an excellent job not only for Red Bull, but for Formula 1 in general, and he is still undoubtedly doing so,” he said.

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