Usually, all the talk heading into a race weekend would be about who looks most likely to be standing on the top step of the podium come Sunday, with journalists resorting to a combination of speculation, guesswork, past form and different permutations to try to predict the winner.
But with there having been little news over the three weeks since the Malaysian Grand Prix and with no clear winner in sight ahead of the race in Shanghai, ‘Multi 21’ is very much at the top of the news agenda. The Formula One press corps resumed their grilling of Vettel and Webber yesterday, throwing a volley of questions at the two drivers over the incident which saw Vettel snatch the win from this teammate in the dying laps in Malaysia.
Vettel made a very public apology to Webber following that race but the 25-year-old German seems to have made a U-turn in the build-up to the Chinese Grand Prix, saying he was sorry for ignoring the team’s instructions but not sorry for winning. “I don’t apologise for winning, I think that’s why people employed me in the first place and why I’m here. I love racing and that’s what I do,” the youngest-ever triple world champion said in a video for sponsors ahead of the race.
Vettel went one step further in an open media session yesterday saying he would probably do the same thing if he found himself in a similar situation again. “There is quite a conflict, because on the one hand I am the kind of guy who respects team decisions and the other hand, probably Mark is not the one who deserved it (to win) at the time,” Vettel said. “… In terms of the relationship to Mark, I respect him a lot as a racing driver, but I think there was more than one occasion in the past where he could have helped the team and he didn’t,” he added.
Webber to stay
Events in Malaysia seem to have led to a meltdown in relations between Vettel and Webber, which have been tense since the pair collided in the Turkish Grand Prix in 2010, and what happened in Malaysia could well have been the last straw for Webber and prompted the Australian to re-think his future with the team.
The Australian, though, gave little away in a press conference yesterday. “I’m definitely keen to race this year and put together a very strong campaign and challenge for more wins, and you do enough of that and more things can happen,” Webber said. “The next part is, yeah… come the summer I will talk to Dietrich (Mateschitz, Red Bull owner) and then go from there,” he added.
Red Bull may have drawn a line under the whole episode, but comments made by Vettel and Webber indicate a complete breakdown in trust between the two. Whatever the outcome of the race, which at least yesterday seemed to have been reduced to a mere sub-plot to the storyline unfolding at Red Bull, one thing is certain — both drivers head into the rest of the season with knives unsheathed, giving fans the mouth-watering prospect of watching two top drivers and bitter rivals racing each other in a no-holds-barred battle.