Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Sebastian Vettel personable off the track but on it he is as ruthless as they come

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme after winning the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates in parc ferme after winning the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium after winning the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Race winner Sebastian Vettel (R) of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing and second placed Mark Webber (L) of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing react in the drivers press conference following the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Race winner Sebastian Vettel (L) of Germany and third placed Lewis Hamilton (R) of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrate on the podium following the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Paul di Resta of Great Britain and Force India attends the drivers parade before the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Tom Shine, manager of Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP and Hamiltons girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls are seen following the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Lewis Hamiltons girlfriend, Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls, is seen following the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Lotus attends the drivers parade before the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Max Chilton of Great Britain and Marussia attends the drivers parade before the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Paul di Resta (L) of Great Britain and Force India and team mate Adrian Sutil (R) of Germany and Force India drive during the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari crashes into the gravel trap at turn one after sustaining front wing damage during the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - MARCH 24: Mark Webber (L) of Australia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing celebrates finishing second alongside race winner Sebastian Vettel (R) of Germany and Infiniti Red Bull Racing on the podium following the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix at the Sepang Circuit on March 24, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel is one of the most intelligent and personable drivers in Formula One, and most of the time is obliging and informative. But on the track he grows horns.

He does not indulge in the sort of dangerous manoeuvres that sullied countryman Michael Schumacher’s career, but the relentless will to win is similar.

We saw in Turkey in 2010, when he cut too sharply across Mark Webber’s bows while they were fighting for the lead and spun into retirement, that he is not such a nice boy when things go against him. That’s when a churlishness emerges that is less than engaging. 

This time the situation was crystal clear. Team boss Christian Horner wanted his drivers to hold station by the 45th lap, so they could preserve their fragile Pirelli tyres and ease the load on their Renault engines. Red Bull had had a bruising start to the season in Australia, where they dominated qualifying but were beaten on race pace by Lotus and Ferrari. Now they stood to gain a whopping 43 world championship points. Both Horner, and genius designer Adrian Newey, hid their heads in their hands as Vettel continued to push and pressure Webber.

In the end, the ruthless racer in Vettel could not be contained, and he pushed through to steal the win, and to hell with what Horner advised. He only seems to answer to energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz’s right-hand man, Dr Helmut Marko.

Immediately afterwards, he explained that it was not until he and Webber were in parc ferme prior to the podium celebrations that he realised he had committed a cardinal sin. But that’s where his post-race damage limitation strategy was revealed as duplicitous subterfuge.

An apology was the right and humble thing to do. But the truth was that we were already well aware even before he passed Webber that he was going against the orders of his team, because Horner was telling him to stop being silly and to back off. And once the deed was done, Horner warned him that he had plenty of explaining to do. So he knew full well what he had done, and the suggestion that he hadn’t acted deliberately but had “made a mistake,” was risible.

His conduct was unbecoming, the petulant act of a man who simply wants to win at all costs.

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