Sebastian Vettel undid much of the damage limitation work he has being doing so assiduously since stealing victory from Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber in the Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago, with a fierce attack on the Australian that made it clear he still intends to win at all costs.
Having spent much of the interim apologising personally to everyone at Red Bull after the acrimonious race, in which he ignored the team principal Christian Horner's order not to pass the Australian, the triple world champion went on the offensive again in Shanghai.
Asked if he would act differently if the circumstances were repeated, Vettel replied: "In the moment it might be different, but I would probably do the same.
"Had I understood the message, thought about it, reflected on it, thought what the team wanted to do, to leave Mark in first place and me finishing second, I would probably have done the same thing.
"I was faster in the end. That is why I was able to overtake, and overtaking in Formula One is not easy, let's not forget that. I realised at that moment there was quite a conflict. On the one hand, I am the kind of guy who respects team decisions and, on the other hand, probably Mark is not the one who deserved it [to win] at the time. The bottom line is I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won."
Vettel could not resist drawing attention to past spats with Webber – notably when they collided while battling for the lead in Turkey in 2010. Later that season, despite giving up a superior front wing to Vettel, whose own had been damaged, Webber turned the tables by winning the British GP. At the Brazilian GP in 2011 Webber did nothing to help Vettel's quest for the championship either.
"There was more than one occasion in the past when he could have helped the team and he didn't," Vettel said, before admitting that was "indirectly" why he had ignored orders after the final round of pit stops in Malaysia: "Being completely honest, I've never had support from his side."
Vettel admitted that he also would probably have ignored any further order – had one been given by Horner – to hand the lead back to Webber, revealing the true depth of the rift between the two drivers after desperate team attempts to play it down. Vettel had paid lip service to humility and contrition in the days after Malaysia but sources close to Webber say he had no contact from anyone on the team until he drove the simulator at the Milton Keynes factory last Monday.
Despite the latest furore, Webber looked relaxed. The Red Bull energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz must have helped bring that about, becoming the first to offer condolences to the Australian by phone in the immediate aftermath in Sepang. Mateschitz has since told his managers that he does not want to hear about team orders again this season and Horner conceded their emphasis will be reduced.
Horner said: "I had discussions with Dietrich and we agreed that Red Bull is not a fan of team orders. We will not impose orders at the end of a race, but expect the drivers to act on the information they have from the team."
Webber conceded that his history with Vettel had left a bitterness. He said: "If that's what Seb thinks, that's his position on what happened in Malaysia. Second was still good but not the result I would have liked. We know what happened, but Malaysia is not just one event in this scenario. We know we've had many scenarios in the past, so there's a lot of things which then come into your mind – positive, negative, whatever. You've still got to drive the car, that's my job."
Webber scotched fanciful rumours that the events in Malaysia might prompt him to quit on the spot, as other rumours suggest that he might yet conclude a deal for Ferrari for 2014, or spearhead Porsche's imminent return to long-distance racing. And he did not deny that he would be interested in another Red Bull contract.
"I'm definitely keen to finish the season off, race this year and put together a very strong campaign and challenge for more wins – you do enough of that and some more things can happen. So that's the first goal. The next part is, year by year, that's how it's always been for me. Come the summer, I will talk to Dietrich and then go from there. I've never ever made decisions on my career at this point in the season."
Lewis Hamilton under doctor's orders
Lewis Hamilton was ordered to return to his hotel in Shanghai after feeling unwell.
Although he made a number of commercial appearances on Wednesday for Mercedes in the city, the 27-year-old is believed to have fallen ill overnight.
Hamilton showed up at the Shanghai International Circuit to carry out his media commitments ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix but they were soon cancelled. It is understood that Hamilton should recover to compete alongside Nico Rosberg.Reuse content