British press brand Sebastian Vettel 'ruthless' after his Malaysian GP 'betrayal'
Fleet Street round on the World Champion after Sepang controversy
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 26/03/13 11:38am
The triple World Champion's decision to go against the instructions of the Red Bull pitwall and overtake Webber in the closing stages of the Sepang race has dominated the news agenda since Sunday, with images depicting Vettel's sullen post-race demeanour appearing on both front and back pages.
With Vettel having already been publicly admonished by his team bosses, Fleet Street have now collectedly piled into the 25-year-old and focused sharply on how the controversy has impacted on his reputation.
The Guardian's F1 correspondent Paul Weaver wrote: "The German's greatness as a driver was already assured when, last year, he became only the third driver to win three successive world championships. But on Sunday, by ignoring team instructions from his employer, Christian Horner, and choosing instead to chase down Webber to secure his 27th win, he also joined another, darker list.
"We can now count Vettel as one of the most ruthlessly single-minded drivers the cacophonous old circus has ever seen. Being in one club, of course, does not preclude membership of the other. Vettel merely moves in alongside Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher in that respect. Maybe the ruthlessness underlines the greatness."
The Times' Kevin Eason drew an uncomfortable contrast between Vettel's off- and on-track personality, suggesting the Sepang incident saw him expose himself "as ruthless to the point of immortality".
"There is a team order and then there is a double-cross," he wrote. "One was given and disobeyed yesterday as Sebastian Vettel showed a side of his character that defied the cuddly, cheery image of the sport's youngest three-times world champion.
"You expect a man as young as Vettel to have a backbone of steel to have been so successful at the age of 25. But he exposed himself as ruthless to the point of immortality as he defied his Red Bull team and jumped Mark Webber, his team-mate, for the victory in Malaysia."
Inevitably, parallels were almost immediately drawn between Vettel's actions in Sepang to those of his countryman and friend Michael Schumacher - who Germany's current F1 star has made no secret of admitting in the past was his childhood hero.
While The Independent noted that Vettel's "relentless will to win is similar" to that of his idol, The Daily Mirror suggested that by 'stabbing his team-mate in the back' the Red Bull driver had gone even beyond some of Schumacher's more ill-advised stunts.
"He followed utterly in the footsteps of his idol as he betrayed his teammate Mark Webber, his team Red Bull, boss Christian Horner, and billionaire boss Dietrich Mateschitz who has financed his racing career since he was 13," Byron Young wrote.
"And the manoeuvre in the Malaysian Grand Prix was straight out of Michael Schumacher's book of world domination: utterly ruthless and morally reprehensible.
"In fact in the blazing heat of Malaysia Vettel's yesterday was probably worse than most of Schumacher's track actions. His were usually reserved for a track rival."
With Christian Horner having suggested he will have further talks with Vettel in private before the season recommences in Shanghai in two weeks' time, The Times observed that the Red Bull Team Principal "has been cast into the mould of Dr Frankenstein, unable to control the monster that he created".
"Horner is now faced with a rapid repair job on the relationship between his drivers, which has not been good even at the best of times," the newspaper added.
"They have a history of spats and rows, although they seemed to have decided to get on as best they could after Webber accepted a one-year extension on his contract until the end of the season.
"Webber made his feelings clear in the debrief last night, while Horner says he will have further talks with Vettel. Whether that means the three-times world champion will be punishes remains to be seen, but Webber will be looking to his team principal to lay down the law."