Formula One has seen little like it since the great clash between McLaren team-mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost in Japan in 1989. In the intervening decades there have been several times when internal team rivalry has threatened to boil over, but until the 40th lap of yesterday's Turkish GP in Istanbul a threat is all it has amounted to.
That changed when Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel pulled alongside his race-leading team-mate Mark Webber going down to Turn 12, and then appeared to pull too quickly to the right to try to claim the line for the corner. As they touched, Vettel spun several times and Webber ran wide and lost the lead to the McLarens.
Having recovered to third place, the normally placid Australian kept himself commendably in check but said afterwards: "I was not responsible in any way, but these things happen when the adrenaline's flowing. If I wasn't there, there wouldn't have been any contact, but I was there and we got together. I wasn't totally happy with the situation, but ... because he was inside, I just stayed tight so he stayed on the dirty side, and after the crest in the road just before the corner he tried harder to come back my way, that's when we touched."
Vettel saw it a different way. "Obviously, I think if you look at the pictures it was clear I had the inside," he said. "I went on the inside, I was ahead and just going down to focus on the braking point and honestly, you can see we touched and he touched my right rear wheel and I went off."
Vettel, however, insisted that there is no internal battle. "There is no fight. This is something that happens. We do not need it but there is nothing we can do now. Obviously I am not very happy, I was inside focusing on the braking point, we touched and that was it."
He also denied that he was clearly quicker than Webber at that point, but was confident he could have completed the move. "I think at that stage, Mark, myself and Lewis [Hamilton] were pretty much the same. I was a bit quicker than Mark, I was getting closer and I knew I could maybe get him on the back straight. It was close, I passed him on the left and that was the story."
Webber, however, was concerned that his team-mate was suddenly able to drag up to him, and there were suggestions that while the Australian had obeyed team orders to turn his Renault engine down a little to conserve fuel, Vettel may have disregarded a similar order or even turned his engine up momentarily. If that was indeed the case Webber would have every right to feel distinctly aggrieved, not just at being duped but also to have lost a likely third win on the trot as a direct result.
"You guys need to dig more somewhere else," he said, loyally refusing to reveal any intra-team intrigue. But when he was asked if he had got the exit to Turn Eight wrong and had given Vettel the chance to do what he had been unable to up to that point, he simply responded: "I wasn't too slow, no. Seb had a top-speed advantage down the inside and it looks like he turned pretty quick when he was alongside and we made contact. It wasn't an ideal day."
The Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, said: "They had the same engine settings... as far as I know."
"It was great to watch, like an action movie in 3D," said the winner Hamilton, who had a front-row seat for the drama. "No, it's the last thing you really want to see. I saw Sebastian go to the inside, where there's not much room, and there didn't seem to be any reason for him to try to move to the right."
The more he was probed about the situation, the more Webber may have been thinking of just what the events in Turkey could mean to his position within an Austrian-owned team that clearly adores his German team-mate and sees in him a future world champion. Finally, he summarised perhaps not just the race but also the internal battle that now appears to have been revealed within Red Bull, when he said with a sigh: "It's a fucking disaster."
For their own sake, Red Bull need to take steps to ensure the current world championship leader can have complete faith that the support within the team is spread evenly.Reuse content