Time for change at Red Bull
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel cannot continue to be teammates beyond this season, this much is certain following the Malaysia Grand Prix debacle.
How they will contend with being in the same garage for the remainder of this campaign is another question.
Webber has been at Red Bull since 2007.
Including his two-year stint when the outfit was known as Jaguar, this is his ninth season at Milton Keynes.
Now is the time for a change of scenery, but that doesn’t mean the Australian is the only one who might not be at Red Bull much longer.
Sebastian Vettel has won three (consecutive) drivers’ championships at Red Bull, a feat which will be remembered for many years to come, and take a great effort to match.
However, there comes a time when a relationship reaches its summit – Michael Schumacher was cast aside two years after claiming his fifth consecutive title with Ferrari, and the signs were there during the Malaysia Grand Prix that the German is testing the patience of Christian Horner and Adrian Newey a little too much for their liking.
In previous seasons, the German has ruffled feathers with his obsessive hunt for the fastest lap during the dying stages of a race, his latest refusal to acknowledge team orders may have taken matters one step too far.
One doesn’t need reminding of Turkey 2010, when Vettel took it upon himself to dive down the inside of an unsuspecting Webber, a move which ended in tears, fraying intra-team relations for the remainder of the season.
Those wounds have been reopened with the latest incident.
This early into the season, the fallout has the potential to destabilise the entire outfit’s title defence.
Horner wasn’t afraid to admit Vettel defied the team’s instruction to remain behind Webber, remarking, “He knew what the communcation was. He had the communication. He chose to ignore it.
“He put his interest beyond what the team’s interest was.”
Horner echoed Webber’s podium interview sentiments, adding, “Obviously Sebastian… chose to take things into his own hands.”
An individual who has made no secret of his awe at Vettel’s achievements, his comments are telling.
Even Vettel supporter no.1 Helmut Marko was bemused by the situation, saying matters had “got out of control”, unlike his usual stance in supporting his protégé irrespective of the circumstances.
The worst kept secret in the paddock is that the German wants to one day race for Ferrari, many see this as an inevitable outcome, and Vettel may have taken a step towards the exit door at Milton Keynes sooner than anticipated.
However, as long as Fernando Alonso is at Ferrari, Vettel is unlikely to be there, and should he continue to flout the team’s wishes, he may be forced to look elsewhere in the interim.
Elsewhere could be Mercedes.
The irony of such a move wouldn’t be lost on Lewis Hamilton, after it came to light that the Briton asked Bernie Ecclestone to secure him a seat alongside Vettel at Red Bull for this season, prior to switching to the German marque.
Season 2013 is still in its infancy, 17 rounds remain and already the title favourites have a massive headache on their hands, which risks developing into something much worse, especially if Vettel continues to take things into his own hands.