After the near-perfection of 2011, reigning back-to-back world champion Sebastian Vettel lost his cool in Malaysia.
Red Bull’s dominance since late 2009 has finally ended, and that fact was fully demonstrated at Sepang when German Vettel could not hang on even to fourth place. He collided with backmarker Narain Karthikeyan and lost his temper with the Indian, showing him a middle-finger salute no less than twice.
Vettel, 24, then described Karthikeyan as a “gherkin” on German television. And his description got worse in front of the British audience, when he branded his Madras-born rival an “idiot”.
Germany’s Bild newspaper quotes him saying: “I think some people get overwhelmed by the situation and don’t see where their car is. You have to wonder whether driving a car is the right job for them.”
There are also those who believe Vettel deliberately ignored Red Bull’s multiple radio messages about retiring his car – ostensibly because of high brake temperatures – at the end of the race so that he can have a fresh gearbox for China.
He argues that his radio didn’t work, but also told Welt newspaper: “I guess I should have come in, but I think that if you can, you should go to the end of the race.
“Of course you can save the car, but I wanted to see the chequered flag,” added Vettel.
Ultimately, he scored no points in Malaysia and lies a mere sixth in the drivers’ points standings. However team boss Christian Horner is not too worried.
“McLaren lost more than us here,” he said. “At the moment they have the fastest package yet they only got three points more than us. Ferrari’s victory and Sauber’s second place, we can get over.”
Nonetheless, the situation for Vettel is starkly different to last year.
“Statistically he is already among the best ever in Formula One,” wrote Livio Oricchio in O Estado de S.Paulo. “But this (race) was an example of him lacking effectiveness when he is down the field and has to gain positions.
“He is a great driver but he still has to improve in this regard. Karthikeyan was punished but my own reading is that Vettel could have avoided it.”
Jaime Alguersuari, meanwhile, thinks the only factor is Red Bull’s loss of superiority.
“The end of the blown exhausts has cost Red Bull its magic,” the former Toro Rosso driver is quoted by Mundo Deportivo newspaper.
“Vettel was almost literally walking the races (last year) but now the aerodynamic solutions in the field are very even. Many called what he did a miracle, that he had divine talents, while others knew it was due to his (car’s) technological superiority,” said the Spaniard.