Team orders. They have been allowed in F1 for a few years now. They aren't used as much anymore, but that doesn't mean they don't still exist. In the case of Red Bull Racing, they're in place, but it seems like three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel doesn't really care. At all.
Motor racing is a team sport. You win as a team and you lose as a team. After the final pit stop Mark Webber was leading his teammate Sebastian Vettel, and there is a standing order in this situation: We conserve the cars and positions are not swapped. (UPDATE: Team orders aren't explicitly outlawed in the sporting regs anymore, but they are also used much less to influence the outcome of a result, or at least less obviously, than they were in the past. Ahem, Ferrari.)
Seems Vettel must have decided that doesn't count when he's not the leading car. Vettel launched an aggressive attack on Webber, with both cars close to touching multiple times. It was incredibly exciting racing, but it was also totally against the team. Vettel eventually got by and went on to win.
But you could tell just how upset Webber was after the race... just look at that face. Barely a word was spoken between them after the race, Webber stared at Vettel on the podium in a way that could have burned holes in the back of Vettel's head, and Webber addressed it on the podium.
It. Was. Awkward. Vettel has now apologized, but that doesn't really give the win to Webber, does it?
The same sort of thing happened at the Mercedes team, with Nico Rosberg ordered to stay behind Lewis Hamilton to conserve fuel. Rosberg complained, a lot, but ended up listening and stayed behind. He wasn't happy about it and reportedly said "Remember this one" after the race.
So what about the rest of the race? At the start, weather was the issue. On a drying track, everyone started off on the intermediate tire since there was a good bit of standing water on the track. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso got the jump on his teammate to shoot into second behind Vettel at the start.
That didn't really last.
In turn two, Alonso nudged leader Vettel which broke his front wing. Alonso stayed in second for the whole lap, and we all expected him to pit for repairs. He didn't pit, and then he paid the price. Alonso's wing folded under at the end of the front straight, sending him off the track and out of the race. Ferrari's mechanics were reportedly in pit lane for Alonso to come in, so it sounds like this was Alonso's decision. Good one. (UPDATE: TV here in the US said it was Alonso's decision not to pit, but Ferrari are now saying it was their decision. Weird.)
It's too bad, because he was in a great position to take a risk and be the first man to switch onto dry tires. Instead, that honor went to Vettel, who nearly crashed a few times on a drying track as he got used to them.
The rest of the first round pit stops were a bit of a comedy act. Caterham and Toro Rosso had a bit of a coming together after an unsafe release. Lewis Hamilton forgot that he doesn't drive for McLaren anymore and drove into their pit box. Unfortunately, McLaren didn't use this opportunity to screw around with the Mercedes at all, like adjust a wing or throw on a set of full wet tires...
Other than that faux pas, Hamilton looked great for a lot of the race, with a possible shot at catching the Red Bulls, but it was never meant to be, as he had to conserve his fuel and tires.
Tires were another big issue. There just weren't enough of them. Teams had to run the undesirable hard tires, apparently because they were out of the medium compound rubber.
Jenson Button, my pick for a good finish in these changeable conditions, led for a bit as he was able to conserve his tires. But then a pit stop error on the right front tire really delayed him. He ended up retiring.
Last week's winner Kimi Raikkonen was out in the wilderness and never really a factor on his way to a seventh place finish. In a very out of character moment, Raikkonen had an outburst on the radio about being blocked by Hulkenberg. He showed emotions. Actual human emotions. I hope he's ok.
Ferrari's Felipe Massa had an up and down race, falling down the order initially and then he suddenly realized he was in a motor race and drove like a mad man. He ended up fifth.
So in the end, we had Red Bull teammates Vettel and Webber ahead of Mercedes teammates Hamilton and Rosberg. Webber is pissed at Vettel, Rosberg is pissed at his team. I don't love team orders, but it's a part of racing. Vettel should have listened to them, Rosberg shouldn't be mad about them.
We'll see how it impacts the teams in three week's time at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Full results via F1.com:
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