Skip to main content

Vettel apologizes after controversial F1 win in Malaysia

updated 2:48 PM EDT, Sun March 24, 2013
An unhappy Mark Webber, left, with Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel at the postrace press conference in Malaysia. An unhappy Mark Webber, left, with Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel at the postrace press conference in Malaysia.
Vettel defies team orders
Vettel defies team orders
Vettel defies team orders
Unlucky 200 for Alonso
McLaren's mistake
  • Sebastian Vettel wins Malaysia Grand Prix from Red Bull teammate Mark Webber
  • Webber is unhappy after Vettel defies team orders to pass and claim first win of 2013
  • German later apologizes to Webber, having been rebuked by team boss during race
  • Lewis Hamilton takes third after his Mercedes teammate is told not to overtake

(CNN) -- World champion Sebastian Vettel apologized to Red Bull teammate Mark Webber after defying orders to snatch a "risky" victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday and go to the top of the driver standings.

Webber had been poised for the 10th victory of his career and first since July as he led comfortably after the team's final pit stops, and was told to hold back to maintain his car until the finish at the Sepang circuit.

Vettel, however, took the opportunity to edge past the veteran Australian and claim his 27th race win, having started from pole position for the second time in two events this season.

"I want to say sorry to Mark," the German told reporters, having been rebuked by his team boss Christian Horner on the radio as they dueled on the track. "This is silly Seb, come on," Horner warned.

Read: Vettel vows to win after claiming pole

Formula One season off to a racing start
Engines on, Formula 1 returns!
Who is the greatest F1 driver ever?

"He was trying to save the car and tires, but I took a lot of risk in passing him when he was trying," the 25-year-old Vettel added.

"I didn't ignore that, but I shouldn't have done it."

He later said on the Red Bull website: " I put myself above a team decision, which was wrong. I didn't mean to and I apologize. 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, who has often complained that triple world champion Vettel has favored status within the Austrian-owned team, made his displeasure known at the postrace press conference.

"The first part of GP went very well," the 36-year-old said. "In the end we got the right strategy, and it was about controlling the race, getting everything in the race right, but the team told me to turn the engine down.

"But I want to race as well. Seb made his own decisions and he will have protection as usual and that's the way it goes."

See: Sepang interactive and latest standings

He also added a statement on the team website.

"There's a bit of history to this as well; my mind in the last 15 laps was thinking about a lot of things," Webber said.

"Of course I'm not satisfied with the result. This puts heat on a few people and unfortunately there's no rewind button. I know people want raw emotion from us after these situations and it's there, but we need to remain cool. There's three weeks until the next race, so time for us to work on things."

Horner said the incident was "frustrating."

"Formula One is both a team and an individual sport and sometimes there is a conflict between a driver's desire and a team's interest," he said. "What happened today is something that shouldn't have happened.

Red Bull Show Run
F1 champ Sebastian Vettel talks to CNN
Take a ride with F1 champ Vettel

"Our position after that final pit stop was all about managing the race until the end and conserving our tires, getting the cars to the finish and achieving maximum points."

Team orders have long been a controversial part of F1, and were banned in 2002. However, that rule was dropped in 2011 after it became apparent that teams were finding ways around it.

On Sunday, Lewis Hamilton benefited from team orders as he claimed his first podium finish for Mercedes after colleague Nico Rosberg was told not to attack him as both drivers were seeking to maintain their cars.

Team boss Ross Brawn said on the radio: "Negative Nico, negative. Lewis' pace is what we are asking him to do. He can go a lot faster as well, so please be in control as well."

"If I'm honest he should be standing here, he's a great teammate and did a fantastic job," Hamilton said of Rosberg, who outperformed seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher at Mercedes the past three seasons.

"We brought the car home and I'm glad to get a result for them, but it's not the best feeling being up here."

The 2008 world champion almost made an embarrassing error when he tried to pit in the garage of his former team McLaren -- bringing back memories of when Jenson Button did similar soon after his move to the British marque.

"I did a Jenson as he did that a couple of years ago," the English driver said.

"I've had so many years making pit stops with McLaren, but I got it wrong, so a big apology to my teammate."

Button's disappointing season continued when he failed to finish in the points after being sent out from his final pit stop with a loose front wheel, having been fifth at one stage.

His new teammate Sergio Perez scored his first points for McLaren as he came home ninth ahead of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne.

Felipe Massa claimed fifth place but his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso -- the race winner in Sepang last year and overall runnerup -- paid for an early mistake that broke his front wing and ended his 200th career grand prix as he stayed out on the track too long without getting it repaired.

"Today we had a good car, and I don't think we were too far from the Red Bull pace, especially in the race," the Spaniard said.

"Looking now after the incident for sure it is the wrong decision (to stay on the track). If this unlucky combination had not happened, and in lap three we stop, we change the tire and the nose and we win the race here, the team are heroes."

Romain Grosjean was sixth for Lotus ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who won the opening race in Melbourne last Sunday but this time started from 10th after being given a three-place penalty for blocking Rosberg during Saturday's qualifying.

The Finn was fastest in Friday's practice, but downplayed his hopes in the race.

Nico Hulkenberg was eighth to earn Sauber's first points this season.

Part of complete coverage on
Track the buzz of the 2014 Formula One season, race by race, with all the latest social reaction from motorsport experts.
updated 7:13 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Too weak. Can't handle the pressure. Susie Wolff has heard it all -- but she is determined to become the first female F1 driver in 20 years.
CNN's Amanda Davies visits the headquarters of Mercedes, the dominant team in Formula One this season.
updated 9:08 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
The big winners of this Formula One season could be road drivers rather than F1 racers, according to one former world champion.
updated 1:30 PM EDT, Fri March 14, 2014
The Williams team welcomes the biggest rule changes to Formula One cars for a generation.
updated 3:16 PM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton sums up the dawn of a new Formula One era in three juicy words -- weird, mind-blowing and challenging.
updated 8:16 AM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
Formula One is taking another step in its techno evolution this season, which could be more unpredictable than it has been for a long time.
updated 12:36 PM EST, Mon February 24, 2014
Jann Mardenborough on the similarities and differences between driving a race on a video game and driving a real F1 car.
updated 7:26 AM EST, Sat February 22, 2014
Russia's President Vladimir Putin watches the men's cross-country 4 x 10km relay event at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on February 16, 2014. AFP PHOTO/ RIA-NOVOSTI/ POOL/ MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV (Photo credit should read MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images)
How Russian president Vladimir Putin helped turn a muddy hole in the ground into a $400 million futuristic grand prix track in Sochi.
updated 7:13 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (R) and Formula One racing director Bernie Ecclestone talk during a ceremony of signing of an agreement to bring Formula One racing to Sochi for a Grand Prix Russia to be held in 2014, the same year the Black Sea resort hosts the Winter Olympics in Sochi on October 14, 2010. Putin, whose backing was crucial in Sochi winning the right to host the Games, is due in the city on Thursday to sign an agreement for work to begin on the construction of a new 200 million dollar circuit. AFP PHOTO/ ALEXANDER NEMENOV (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Vilified by the the international community for his government's attitude on gay rights, Russian president Vladimir Putin has found an ally.
updated 12:13 PM EDT, Thu March 13, 2014
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel is bidding for a fifth consecutive drivers' championship in 2014.
He is Formula One's undisputed No. 1, and next season Sebastian Vettel will have proof of that fact emblazoned on his Red Bull.
updated 11:33 AM EST, Wed December 4, 2013
A new era of F1 looms large on the horizon in 2014, but what do the new rules mean for how we watch the sport? Get up to speed here.
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Thu October 17, 2013
Explore our interactive of one of F1's most important and complicated pieces of kit.