Vettel-Webber spat just the latest

Last Updated: Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 13:30

Shanghai: Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber may have grabbed the headlines after Vettel defied Red Bull orders to win in Malaysia, but they are not the first team-mates to spectacularly and publicly fall out.

Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna became sworn enemies at McLaren in the 1980s, while Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell were bitter rivals even before they found themselves in the same garage at Williams during the same era.

And then there was Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi at Ferrari, also in the 1980s, whose relationship turned decidedly sour after an infamous incident that Vettel and Webber were to replicate more than 30 years later.

It was the 1982 season, the San Marino Grand Prix. Pironi overtook Villeneuve, who believed that broke a team order. Villeneuve then did likewise to take back the lead in the penultimate lap.

But on the final lap Pironi passed his fellow Ferrari again, swerving dangerously in front of Villeneuve to snatch the win. Villeneuve believed the Frenchman had defied team orders, and was furious.

Villeneuve was killed weeks afterwards after he crashed during qualifying at the Belgian Grand Prix. It is widely accepted that Villeneuve died in pushing himself to the maximum to better the time of his nominal team-mate.

"Ignoring (orders) is just plain wrong. The best example is my father and Didier Pironi. Just look at the problems that caused," son Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 world champion, told Auto Bild after the Vettel-Webber controversy.

"His (Vettel`s) behaviour was just stupid. Such negative energy does not help the team... And also, if he now needs help from Mark, he cannot be sure he will get it."

After that Ferrari dumped its policy of equality between its drivers.

Vettel, the reigning three-time world champion, apologised after defying Red Bull team principal Christian Horner last month in Malaysia to snatch Webber`s lead and win in the most controversial of circumstances.

But he appeared to make an about-change on Thursday in Shanghai, ahead of the Chinese Grand Prix, saying that he would do the same all over again if it meant winning. Besides, he argued, Webber didn`t deserve to win the race.

Horner was subjected to a barrage of questions on Friday as to how he hoped to foster a truce between a pair of individuals whose relationship, while never being too good, has now reached a new low.

"Sebastian hasn`t achieved the success that he has in his career by being submissive," said Horner, describing the Vettel-Webber rivalry as "healthy".

"He saw an opportunity, he took it into his own hands, he`d saved a set of tyres from the previous day and he wanted that victory more than anything else.

"I think he justified to himself that previous events that had taken place (between the two drivers) was part of his judgement on what he chose to do that day."

Ross Brawn, Horner`s counterpart at Mercedes, also had a delicate situation to deal with between his drivers in the aftermath of Sepang.

New recruit Lewis Hamilton, whose relationship with Jenson Button turned increasingly fraught last season at McLaren, came home third. But only after team-mate Nico Rosberg had been ordered not to overtake the Briton.

Unlike Vettel, Rosberg obeyed. But he struggled to hide his frustration with the decision.

"It`s both a team sport and an individual drivers` sport and the teams will try to find the balance between those two objectives," Brawn said. "And they don`t always marry easily.

"We want our drivers to race. The rule is don`t hit each other and that`s all we ask of them and we want them to race. We have demonstrated many times that we`re happy to let our two drivers race."

AFP



First Published: Saturday, April 13, 2013 - 13:58

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