Who's in charge at Red Bull?Laurence Edmondson April 11, 2013
After years of smiles for the cameras, jokes for the press and single-finger celebrations in parc ferme, the Red Bull team orders controversy has finally brought out the true character of Sebastian Vettel - and with it we are starting to understand the power he wields at his team.
After directly disobeying the company that has made him a worldwide superstar, Vettel had a chance to show contrition on Thursday in China. Instead he admitted he would do the same again purely because he did not feel his team-mate Mark Webber deserved the win. With those comments he has further undermined the authority of team boss Christian Horner and given the finger (the middle one this time) to the rest of the team. The message is simple: Vettel puts his interests ahead of Red Bull's.
Since Malaysia he has apologised to the workforce at Milton Keynes, but that apology became meaningless when, at the first opportunity, he told the press he would repeat his actions. Vettel is smart, it's one of the reasons he has been so successful and one of the reasons Red Bull employ him, so he must know how his comments are being interpreted by the press and the watching world. Yet he's landed Horner with a complete mess when it would have been just as easy to keep quiet, apologise and back up the apology he offered Webber in Sepang.
The remarkable thing is that Vettel has inflamed the situation further and made a conscious effort to bring up the bad blood from previous years in the process. At some point in the past three weeks he appears to have been backed in his actions rather than punished for them and you have to wonder why Horner hasn't taken a firmer line. We've known for some time that Helmut Marko is a powerful influence within the team and a strong ally of Vettel, and if he is backing his prodigy then perhaps Horner is too preoccupied with his own intra-team politics to effectively sort out the rift between his drivers.
The one thing we do know is that the gloves are off between Vettel and Webber. Never before has an all-Red Bull front row seemed so appealing.
Laurence Edmondson is deputy editor of ESPNF1