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Horner insists he's in control
Christian Horner insists his authority as Red Bull team principal has not been undermined by Sebastian Vettel's disregard for his team orders in Malaysia and the subsequent fallout.
Vettel claimed he misunderstood the order from the pit wall not to overtake team-mate Mark Webber for the lead at the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix, but admitted in China that he would probably do the same again if he faced a similar situation with all the facts. Despite Vettel's willingness to ignore orders from his boss, Horner still believes he is in control of Red Bull and its drivers.
"Has my authority been undermined? In that race he didn't do what I asked," Horner conceded. "Was I happy about it? Of course I wasn't. Did we discuss it? Yes we did. Did he apologise? Yes. Has he learnt from it? I'm sure he has. Would he do it again? I think he'd think twice, but as he explained yesterday there's an awful lot of history between the two drivers.
"It's something that isn't new and it's something that's been there between the two of them for the last four or five years. Let's not forget they are one of the most successful pairings the sport has ever seen. They've won three successive constructors' world championships for the team and Sebastian has become the youngest ever world champion. Is my leadership undermined? I don't think so.
"I've lead the team from the time that Red Bull entered the sport to those 35 victories and to those world championships. Of course, there have been lumps and bumps along the way and incidents between those two drivers, but we retain them because they are obviously competitive individuals, they drive each other forward and they bring the best out of each other.
"At some points of course it's uncomfortable for the team, but I think it's a healthy rivalry. And even though they took things into their own hands, they still gave each other just enough room. And while it was uncomfortable to watch from the pit wall, it was spectacular driving from both of them as they just gave each other enough room to work with on numerous occasions. What has happened has happened. We can't change it, we can't go back and it's a question of looking forward and focusing on this event and the next 16 events after this."
However, Horner did admit that Vettel appeared to justify his decision to go against the will of the team purely because of his personal issues with Webber.
"Sebastian hasn't achieved the success he has achieved by being submissive," Horner continued. "He saw an opportunity and 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 and justified it to himself from the previous events that had taken place. That was part of his judgement on what he planned to do on that day."
Horner added: "I don't think for one moment Sebastian thinks he runs the team. He knows what his job is, he knows what we employ him to do and he knows why we employ him to do it ... He knows he can't operate without the team and he doesn't put himself above the team or think that he is running the team for one moment.
"He's made a decision in a race as a hungry driver and obviously based that decision on all kinds of emotions at that point in time. I think he's made his decision clear but he's apologised to me and apologised to the team. It's happened and we move on, it doesn't change anything."
After speaking with Red Bull co-owner and boss Dietrich Mateschitz, Horner said from now on the pit wall would not deliver direct orders to its drivers but instead make them aware of the situation and allow them to take their own decisions.
"Just to be clear, I sat down with Dietrich after the race and discussed at length with him what happened in Malaysia. Dietrich is a purist and a fan of the sport and Red Bull is clear in its intent that it wants to support competition, have Red Bull athletes across all different categories of sport but in Red Bull racing we also have a team. So that conflict of what the driver wants and what the team wants exists.
"What we have discussed and what we are clear on going forward is that we will trust the drivers and allow them to continue to race each other. They will have the information and they will know what they need to do with that information."