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SBD Global/March 26, 2013/Franchises

Red Bull F1 Driver Mark Webber Thinks About Future After Controversy At Malaysian GP

F1 driver Mark Webber "has returned to Australia to consider his future" as the corrosive atmosphere within his Red Bull F1 team "hits an all-time low," according to Robert Grant of the AAP. Webber "accused Red Bull of protecting teammate Sebastian Vettel after the German disobeyed team orders and passed the Australian on Sunday to snatch victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix." Vettel was contrite later, admitting: "I f---ed up," but Webber "was furious and immediately returned to Queensland to think about his future." Webber said, "I think it's very early days right now. It's very raw, obviously, and we need to work out how the team goes best forwards from here. I will be in Australia on my surfboard -- the phone won't be engaged" (AAP, 3/26). In Toronto, Jeff Pappone wrote, "There’s no doubt Webber used the word 'protection' for a reason." In the '10 season friction between the two caused some bitterness, something the team did not help "by appearing to back Vettel over Webber at every opportunity." While many agree Vettel gets preferential treatment, this time he was told by the team he had “some explaining to do.” His comments in the post-race interview "likely won’t be the last word inside the team" (GLOBE & MAIL, 3/25). The BBC's Andrew Benson reported Webber told a pit-lane reporter that he questioned "whether he would ever get the full support of Red Bull to mount a title challenge" against his teammate. He described himself as a "black sheep" at Red Bull and said he would not follow orders again in a similiar situation (BBC, 3/25).

A TELLING MOVE: In London, Kevin Eason suggested by passing his teammate, Vettel "showed a side of his character that defied the cuddly, cheery image of the sport’s youngest three-times world champion" and "exposed himself as ruthless to the point of immorality." Eason also wrote, "Only Formula One gets itself into this sort of tangle. Teams running two cars drive into a moral cul-de-sac as soon as they push the button for team orders. At some point, there will always be favouritism, either to ensure the safe return of both cars or to maximise points for a World Championship" (LONDON TIMES, 3/25). Also in London, Eason wrote that "peace talks at Red Bull are on hold" and the team was "ripped apart by Vettel's decision to ignore orders" and pass Webber. Former drivers have called for Vettel to be sanctioned by his team, but "that is unlikely." Team Principal Christian Horner has "promised talks with his three-times world champion" (LONDON TIMES, 3/26).
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