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Drivers Butt Heads With Team Principles At Sepang 2013

Three Formula 1 teams, Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari experienced noticeable conflicts between driver strategy and team strategy. The monsoon climate of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia made for a steamy race. As temperatures reached 105 degrees Fahrenheit with 50% humidity, driver’s had to wrestle with a wet racetrack during qualifying and on the first few laps of the actual race.

With Sebastian Vettel on pole position, Felipe Massa starting second, Fernando Alonso starting third, and Lewis Hamilton starting fourth, it was expected racing at the front would be intense from the get go. As Alonso began to close in on Sebastian Vettel, Alonso hit the rear of Vettel’s car, as a result, Alonso’s front wing was damaged. With sparks flying from the scraping aero piece, the Ferrari pit crew readied themselves to  fit a new nose to the Ferrari. Defying team orders, Alonso refused to pit, his front wing snapped as he accelerated down the main strait. It was caught under the front wheels and knocked Alonso out of the race.

Mark Webber of Red Bull lead most of the race. He says his team told him to turn down the engine to preserve fuel, prevent engine wear, and preserve the tires. Vettel, who was in second, asked if Webber would move out of the way over radio communications, saying “Get him out of the way, he’s too slow.” Vettel was told not to attack Webber, but ignored this order and began racing with Webber wheel to wheel. After a furious battle lasting around 3 laps, Vettel forced his way past Webber and went on to win Sepang.

A similar exchange took place between Nico Rosberg who asked pit wall if teammate Lewis Hamilton would move out of the way so Rosberg could try attacking the Red Bull cars. Team principle, Ross Brawn told Rosberg several times that the race was over, and explained to Rosberg that Hamilton was ordered to turndown his engine to conserve fuel. Unlike Vettel, Rosberg heeded his Principle’s orders, though after the race he said upon getting out of the car “remember this one.” Meaning Rosberg expects Hamilton to do the same if the situation is reversed in a future race.

During the post race press conference, Mark Webber was visibly angry with Sebastian Vettel, Webber went so far as to say he might rethink sticking with Red Bull or with Formula 1 racing in general. Vettel apologized to Webber, admitting he made a mistake in ignoring team Principle Christian Horner’s orders.

At the back of the pack, both Force India cars were forced to retire from the race due to concerns that the wheel nuts were malfunctioning, McLaren’s Jenson Button was held up in pit lane for 1 minute as the crew forgot to tighten the car’s front right wheel nut, and Kimi Räikkönen said that he felt his Lotus F1 car was setup poorly to meet the challenges of the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Formula 1 racing resumes in three weeks at the UBS Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.