The aftermath of the Multi 21 team orders saga continues to rage, and today it has emerged that Red Bull have mandated that their errant world champion Sebastian Vettel will be ‘punished’ for his disobedience in Malaysia and demoted to the Toro Rosso team for the Chinese Grand Prix.
Although Vettel apologised in person to the Red Bull back room staff at the team’s Milton Keynes head quarters last week, the team’s senior management – bar one – were in favour of additional disciplanary action as the authority of team principal Christian Horner was severely undermined by the Sepang incident.
A team insider revealed, “Initially Christian [Horner] was not upset because it was quite normal procedure in the team, this happens all the time with Seb – he never listens. But once the paddock, particularly Flav [Briatore], started sticking the knife into Christian and questioning his leadership, it became a question of damage control.”
Apparently the catalyst for Horner’s reaction, was a caption photo of Vettel joking about the incident with Michael Schumacher, this prompted the team principal to act with greater resolve.
Meanwhile the world champions have confirmed that Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo will be promoted to Vettel’s Red Bull RB9 seat for the race in Shanghai.
Ricciardo will join fellow Australian Mark Webber in the team’s line-up, an all Aussie affair for the Chinese Grand Prix.
The Red Bull statement, which will be released later today, said: “Red Bull Racing have decided that Sebastian Vettel will be demoted to our junior Toro Rosso team for the Chinese Grand Prix weekend – Round 3 of the 2013 Formula 1 world championship – with Daniel Ricciardo promoted to the champion’s RB9 for the race in Shanghai.”
“The reason for this action is a result of Sebastian’s disobedience and ignoring the team’s Multi 21 call to hold station during the Malaysian Grand Prix. This measure by the team shows our resolve in dealing with the champion’s ill discipline on that day.”
“At the same time we are very proud to have two Australian drivers in the line-up of our main Red Bull team for the first time ever, with Daniel Ricciardo joining Mark Webber in the team for the occasion of the race in China.”
“We hereby believe our actions will bring to an end this Multi 21 saga that has negatively affected our team. When we managers on the pitwall want to stop drivers from racing in a grand prix they must obey our decisions. The pit wall is the command centre of a team. If drivers start ignoring pit wall instructions and race when they want, we will have real racing and we don’t want that in our sport.”
When asked for comment Vettel replied, “I accept the team’s decision, and will make the most of my return to Toro Rosso where I won my first ever grand prix.”
However, he added, “I have apologised to my team, but will continue to say that I misunderstood or did not properly hear the instructions. They said on the radio: ‘Do not overtake Mark, do not fight’ but my radio was crackling and what I thought I heard was: ‘What steak do you want tonight’ – it is very difficult to hear what they say on our intercom system….”
Meanwhile Ricciardo commented on his big break, “I need to make the most of this opportunity and I thank Red Bull for faith shown in me. When they call Multi-21 from the pitwall I will jump on the brakes. Simple mate.”
Webber was unavailable for comment as he was surfing somewhere on the Great Barrier Reef to get away from the F1 sharks and spend some quality time with himself, as he contemplates being shafted yet again by his teammate.
Outspoken Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko, Vettel’s mentor, was incensed by the decision, “This is a ridiculous decision by Red Bull. If they didn’t pay me so much, and if I did not enjoy my power trip so much I would resign. Everyone knows Adrian [Newey] saves weight everywhere, including the radio and as a result Red Bull radio communications are very bad. Seb did not hear the order, he thought they were talking about his dinner… And anyway this is racing and team orders, that do not favour Seb, should not be part of racing.”
Reports from Faenza indicate that Vettel’s return to the team for a seat fitting ahead of the weekend in China was well received. The team members gave him a hearty welcome when he arrived at the factory, throwing him in the air in celebration, as is the local tradition in that part of Italy.
Vettel drove in 25 grands prix for Toro Rosso winning his first Formula 1 race with the team when he powered to victory in the 2008 Italian GP at Monza.
Final word to Horner, ”On the positive side, having two Australian drivers in the team is our way of support and sympathy for Australia where our campaign ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ has been taken literally by many from down under. Sadly, injuries and near death experiences have ensued as a result of our advertising. Today we also launch our new advertising campaign down under: Red Bull doesn’t really give you wings so please stop jumping off buildings Australia!”
“Hopefully we kill two birds with one stone,” added the Red Bull team boss.