Red Bull has hit back at claims the team lied about a technical problem in Malaysia in order to gain a tactical advantage for the forthcoming races.
Near the end of the Sepang race, Sebastian Vettel’s engineer repeatedly instructed the back-to-back world champion to retire his RB8 car. Team boss Christian Horner said the brake temperatures had risen to a dangerous level, but Vettel nonetheless raced to the chequered flag and finished eleventh, one position out of the points. Horner explained Vettel did not hear the radio calls due to a “lightening strike”, but photos prove that the German driver was also repeatedly shown pit boards with the same messages.
And the 24-year-old revealed after the race: “Of course you can save the car, but I wanted to see the chequered flag. I think that’s how it should be.”
Moreover, the authoritative Auto Motor und Sport quotes Vettel as confirming: “I heard the command.”
Red Bull has been accused in some media reports of feigning the brake problem in order to retire the car for tactical reasons and therefore install a fresh gearbox for China next month without penalty.
Dr Helmut Marko told Bild newspaper: “After the crash (with Narain Karthikeyan), the temperature of the brakes rose far above the allowed level. We called him in purely because the car was no longer safe. It was not a tactical decision.”
It is reported that Vettel will sit with his team bosses this week in Milton-Keynes to discuss the apparently ignored team order.
German racing legend Hans-Joachim Stuck said: “Another driver would be fired, but Vettel has the confidence of being a double world champion.”
According to Welt newspaper, Swiss commentator Marc Surer added: “It was the right decision by Vettel, as the team needs to be careful with commands like that.”