SEBASTIAN Vettel and Mark Webber’s tense relationship at Red Bull was never a secret, but new details uncovered by Team Principal Christian Horner have revealed just how bitter the pair’s partnership became.
The “Multi 21” blow-up at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix, which saw Vettel sensationally pip Webber for the win against the team’s orders, became one of the ugliest moments seen between the pair during their four-year partnership at the Bulls.
Webber blasted past his teammate early in the race to take the lead. Vettel was sent a coded message — “Multi 21” — instructing him to let the team’s “number two car” finish first.
But Vettel wasn’t having a bar of it.
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Vettel made a huge move to overtake Webber in the final stages of the humid race despite Horner urging him against the rash move over the team radio. He eventually won the race, leaving the Aussie star fuming.
“Multi 21, Seb,” a furious Webber said to his teammate after the race.
The tense confrontation was what Horner described as the most frustrating moment of Webber’s career.
“It was very difficult for Mark to accept at the time that, and I think if he looked back at it now with perspective and honesty, Sebastian was just quicker,” Horner said on the official Formula One podcast, Beyond The Grid.
“So therefore Mark would use whatever tool he could to try and get under his skin.
“As a team, we were just trying to play a straight bat, but every now and again, you’d get a missile coming in and the situation got tougher and tougher.”
Horner also said the 2012 title race between Vettel and two-time champion Fernando Alonso played a major role in the Red Bull partnership’s deterioration.
“It probably culminated at the end of 2012 when Sebastian was fighting Alonso for the championship and Mark squeezed him up against the pit wall at the start of the race in Brazil, in the championship decider, which ultimately resulted in him getting turned round by Bruno Senna. Sebastian was hugely angry about that,” Horner continued.
“There was a hangover of that that led into Malaysia, literally two races later, split by four or five months. You had a situation where you have Mark in the car ahead, Sebastian on new tyres in the car behind. The tyres were pretty fragile, we’re telling them hold position and Sebastian thought ‘f*** you’.”
Horner said Vettel told Webber it was “payback” before explaining an awkward moment the team experienced with Queen Elizabeth.
“That was probably as tense as it could get,” he said
“I had been invited to a lunch hosted by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, which I expected there to be about 200 people at. There turned out not be 10 of us there. This was at Buckingham Palace. It was just after the ‘Multi 21’ scenario.
“I had this bizarre situation of having to deal with the drivers and then go to lunch with The Queen and Prince Philip and explain to her what ‘Multi 21’ was and why our Australian driver was particularly grumpy with our German driver. I had that conversation over lunch with The Queen and she seemed to show great interest in it.”
RED BULL: VERSTAPPEN ‘LARGE PART’ OF RICCIARDO EXIT
Red Bull believes the ‘Max Verstappen factor’ was pivotal in Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave the team and have described his impending move to Renault as an “enormous risk”.
After months of mounting expectation the Australian would sign a new deal with Red Bull, Ricciardo informed the team as he embarked on his summer holidays he had signed a two-year deal with Renault for 2019 and 2020.
“It’s a great shame that he has chosen to leave the team,” Horner said. “He feels Renault are in the ascendancy. I can’t help but feel he wants to be a leading role perhaps in a smaller environment.
Renault are currently fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, and Horner continued: “Daniel said he decided after a long flight to America that he had decided he wanted a change. If you look at the rational reasons for that, it’s difficult to understand.”
Red Bull have hailed Ricciardo and Verstappen, team-mates for the last three seasons, as the strongest driver line-up in F1. But a strength can also be a weakness and Horner believes Verstappen’s prowess was a critical factor in Ricciardo’s shock decision to depart and partner Nico Hulkenberg at Renault next year.
“The competition between him and Max is intense.,” Horner said. “Max is growing stronger and stronger. I think Daniel has decided the time is right for him to check out and try something else.
“Daniel had his reasons. I think it comes back to wanting to take on, in his words, ‘a new challenge’.
“But I also feel he sees Max growing and growing in terms of speed and strength and he doesn’t want to play a support role I guess, for want of better words.
“It’s not that they were treated in any way different. They would have equal status, as they have always had. I can’t help but feel that was perhaps a large part of Daniel’s decision making.”
Horner added: “I could understand if it was to Ferrari or Mercedes. But it’s an enormous risk at his stage in his career.”
— with Pete Gill, Sky Sports