Christian Horner cannot hide the fact that Sebastian Vettel is top dog at Red Bull

 

Shanghai

Beleaguered Red Bull team principal Christian Horner did little yesterday to dispel the widely held belief that Sebastian Vettel's actions in stealing the Malaysian Grand Prix from team-mate Mark Webber, and his subsequent fanning of the flames of controversy here, have emasculated Horner's authority.

Vettel apologised to the staff at Red Bull's factory in Milton Keynes in the immediate aftermath of the race in which he disobeyed Horner's order not to overtake Webber.

Just as things were beginning to die down, on arrival in Shanghai he made it clear he would probably do the same thing again and, directly contradicting what he had described as a "mistake", and an action that had "not been deliberate", he launched an attack against Webber in which he said his actions were payback for Webber's "refusal to help the team in the past".

As Horner lamely harked back to Vettel's contrition and spoke of the team putting the incident behind them and moving on, the world remained sceptical that he has the strength of character to manage his duelling drivers. He was not helped by the comments made in a recent interview given by team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's right-hand man Dr Helmut Marko, which outlined the real team management structure.

Marko denied that he is the real power behind Red Bull, a puppetmaster who pulls Horner's strings.

"That's not true," he said. "We are a team. Christian has his part and I have my part and Adrian [Newey] has his part, and we are working very well as a team. None could do it on his own to make this passion and to make this cooperation between Austria and England which is working very well."

But the pecking order became clear when he said: "I'm director of Red Bull Racing together with Christian and Mateschitz. Everything from the team comes to me and I filter it and if necessary bring it to the boss, so I make the final decisions."

Horner countered: "First of all, the drivers need the team. They're an essential part of the team and one element of 500 or 600 people. Has my authority been undermined? In that race he didn't do what I asked. Was I happy about it? Of course I wasn't. Did we discuss it? Yes, we did. Did he apologise? Yes. Has he learned from it? I'm sure he has. Would he do it again? I think he'd think twice but there is an awful lot of history between those drivers. It's something that's been there between the two of them for the past four or five years."

The best point he was able to make was unarguable. "Let's not forget they are one of the most successful pairings the sport has ever seen. They have won three successive constructors' world championships for the team and Sebastian has become the youngest-ever triple world champion."

But he added: "Is my leadership undermined? I don't think so. I've led the team from the time that Red Bull entered the sport to 35 victories, to those world championships. There have been bumps along the way, incidents between the two drivers. But we retain them because they are fiercely competitive individuals. They drive each other forward and they bring the best out of each other and at some points it's uncomfortable for the team. But I think it's a healthy rivalry, even though they took things into their own hands [in Malaysia].

"What's happened has happened. We can't go back so it's a question of looking forward."

Which barely answered the real question: whether he has lost control of his star driver. So has success made Vettel believe he trumps the team?

"I don't think Sebastian for one moment thinks he runs the team," Horner responded. "He knows what we employ him to do. He recognises, more than anybody, the value that the team has behind the success he's achieved in the car, and he knows that he can't operate without the team.

"He's made a decision in a race as a hungry driver and based that decision on all kinds of emotions. I think that he's made his position clear, he's apologised to the team, he's apologised to myself. It's happened and we move on but it doesn't change anything." Indeed it doesn't.

Yesterday, Vettel was only 10th fastest in the second practice session as Ferrari's Felipe Massa set the pace.

What's crystal clear is that Vettel has zero respect for Webber. And the feeling still persists, in the absence of any suggestion of sanctions being taken against him, that he will continue to act as he pleases in any given situation. And that not just Horner, but the faithful Marko too, can do nothing about it.

Sport
Australia vs New Zealand live
cricket Follow over-by-over coverage as rivals New Zealand and Australia face off
News
Zayn has become the first member to leave One Direction. 'I have to do what feels right in my heart,' he said
peopleWe wince at anguish of fans, but his 1D departure shows the perils of fame in the social media age
Life and Style
Researchers found that just 10 one-minute swill-and-spit sessions are enough to soften tooth enamel and make teeth vulnerable to erosion
health
News
i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Regent Street Cinema’s projection room in the 1920s
film
News
Leah Devine is only the ninth female to have made the Young Magician of the Year final since the contest began more than 50 years
peopleMeet the 16-year-old who has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year
News
Jonathan Anderson was born in Northern Ireland but now based between London, where he presents a line named JW Anderson
peopleBritish designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
News
Andy Davidhazy at the beginning (left) and end (right) of his hike
video
News
Taylor Swift is applying to trademark song lyrics from 1989
people
Voices
The popularity of TV shows such as The Liver Birds encouraged Liverpudlians to exaggerate their Scouse accent
voicesWe exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing