Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Vettel deserves a ban

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)

Former grand prix winner John Watson believes Red Bull should suspend Sebastian Vettel after the German ignored team orders to win Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

Triple world champion Vettel had been told to hold position behind team-mate Mark Webber after the pair had completed their final pit stops at Sepang.

But he overtook the Australian to take the victory, despite team boss Christian Horner telling him over the radio his behaviour was "silly".

Watson, who raced for the likes of Brabham and McLaren during the 1970s and 80s, believes Vettel's actions undermined Horner's authority within the team, and a one-race suspension is needed to put the 25-year-old in his place.

Watson said: "If Christian Horner doesn't reassert his authority in the team – because he has been totally subjugated by Sebastian Vettel yesterday – then his position in the team is not exactly the role it is designed to be.

"The only conclusion I can reach is that Vettel should be suspended for the next grand prix.

"You can't take the points away from him and give them to Mark Webber – that's now history and Sebastian has the benefit of those seven additional points.

"You can't really fine him, it is almost irrelevant to fine him, so the only purposeful way to bring him to book is to say 'you will stand out one race'."

Webber and Vettel's relationship has been particularly fractious since they crashed into each other while disputing the lead of the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix. They also fell out over Vettel being given first call on a new front wing at the British Grand Prix later in the same season.

The tension between the two has lingered ever since, and Watson expects Red Bull to face a real battle getting the pair to work together between now and the end of the season.

"I think once the blood has cooled down and the team get the two drivers together, Webber will see the season out, but it will be a very fractious relationship," he added.

"I don't know what favours Mark Webber can be asked to provide to Sebastian Vettel if that should ever arise in the future."

Meanwhile, another ex-Formula One star, Gerhard Berger says Vettel's blatant disregard for team orders was an indication of the "extremely selfish" streak the very best drivers need.

Berger, who won 10 grands prix during 14 seasons in F1 up until 1997, pointed out what Vettel did was nothing new and feels the 25-year-old German was merely showing the natural instincts that are required to get to the top of the sport and stay there.

The Austrian also believes no one will change Vettel.

"If you remember back in history these things always happen," he said.

"To be a race winner you need to be very, very talented but to be a world champion, or to be world champion three, four, five times, you need to be extremely selfish," said Berger, recalling past tussles including the rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

"What I want to say is these boys have such a big killing instinct. What leads them to three, four, five-times world championships. In these moments they are stressed by the situation, they just cannot follow their brain, they just do what their instincts are telling them," he said.

"So, of course, after the race he is saying he is very sorry about it and that he cannot sleep, (but) I think he sleeps very well because this is his nature.

"But on the other side, this is part of his success. And nobody, no team, no team chief, no team-mate, nobody is going to change it."

Berger concedes Horner has a "hard job" to manage the situation between Vettel and Webber but feels it is not necessarily a bad thing for the team to have two drivers pushing each other on.

"At this stage it's a hard job to manage this, they are never going to be in love with each other, but at the end of the day over the whole season it's not a bad situation to have two drivers pushing each other.

"I think the team is playing a very fair role," added Berger. "These are the normal games you play between drivers and teams, it's part of the success, part of losing.

"I think maybe he's (Vettel) the best guy at the moment in the field. He has all the things what you have to be to be the world champion, world champion again and again world champion."