F1 boss slams team orders
Bernie Ecclestone has criticised Red Bull for imposing team orders on Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber during Sunday's dramatic Malaysian Grand Prix, arguing that such tactics could not be justified in only the second race of the season.
"At this stage of the championship, I do not believe there should be any team orders. It does not matter who it is," said the Formula 1 commercial rights holder.
As the fallout from the controversy at Sepang continued, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner promising to deal with Vettel behind closed doors this week after the German flagrantly disobeyed his instructions by overtaking team-mate Webber for the victory, Ecclestone warned that the incident could return to haunt the reigning constructors' champions.
"Let's assume that these two guys are in a position to win the championship at the end of the year, then there is no way that Mark is going to help Sebastian," he said.
"So Sebastian has to think about that. Maybe there will be a stage when he would like Mark to help him, but I don't think Mark is going to come up front and do it."
Webber was apoplectic at Vettel's move and returned home to Australia yesterday to consider his immediate future at Red Bull.
But Ecclestone's greater concern was for team orders themselves, and the fact all four of the top places in Malaysia were decided in this manner after Mercedes' refusal to allow Nico Rosberg to pass Lewis Hamilton for third.
"You shouldn't have that, should you?" said the 82-year-old, who stopped short of saying that he would be stressing the same to the teams. "It's no good. The team principals know what is right and wrong."
Ecclestone was also scathing about Mercedes' treatment of Rosberg in Kuala Lumpur, arguing: "I was disappointed that Mercedes didn't let Rosberg go past. I thought that was a stupid decision. I think Rosberg could have chased the two Red Bulls down a little more. That decision wasn't sensible."
Ecclestone has developed a particularly close bond with Vettel since the 25-year-old phenomenon's arrival in the sport in 2006, and did not believe that the German had been guilty of hot-headedness, despite Horner's description of the incident as "silly".
"I suppose, from Christian's point of view, he was concerned that there was going to be an accident, with neither of them finishing," he said.
"Looked at from that angle, you could say both of them were silly. The guy to back off could have been Sebastian. On the other hand, they're racing. Sebastian wants to win the world championship, and so does Mark."
Asked if he felt Vettel's behaviour had been out of character, he responded: "Sebastian is a racer, he doesn't know about losing. He doesn't want to lose. Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser."
Only when the championship was on the line, Ecclestone claimed, was it right to employ team orders. "When you are three-quarters of the way through the year, then it's important. If there's only one guy who could get enough points to win the title, then the other guy should be helping him, for sure."
Recalling a similar problem he encountered while at Brabham, the team he owned for 16 years from 1971, Ecclestone explained: "I had one driver challenging for the world championship – I'm not going to say who it was – and the other guy that weekend happened to be really quick. I said to him, 'Whatever you do, you ought to take it easy and let the other guy pass you.'
"He said, 'I wouldn't do that.' So I replied, 'Well, you can stand up in the seat of the car and wave him past, so the whole world can see this if you want.' But he insisted, 'I'm not going to do it'. So we just made sure he didn't have enough fuel in the car to finish the race."
Ecclestone doubted, though, whether even he in Red Bull's position could have the power to force Webber to co-operate. "Imagine a situation where Sebastian was fighting against Alonso for the championship, and those points made a difference. If I was running the team I would say to Mark, 'Look, this is the position. You can't win the championship but Sebastian can, and it would be nice for the team if we had a world champion again'.
"But the problem is that conversation wouldn't go down too well with Mark. He would say, 'Well, remember what happened'."
Agreeing that Webber, at 36, was a brooding type not disposed to taking the perceived slight from his younger team-mate lightly, Ecclestone said: "He won't. For sure.
"I'm a big, big supporter of Mark's, and we're very good friends. But Sebastian is a three-time world champion so maybe people should have a bit more respect for him, too." (© Daily Telegraph, London)