The team v driver debate reared its ugly head again on Sunday as Sebastian Vettel broke team orders to win the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.
Webber was clearly seething after the race telling the media that both Red Bull drivers had been told to hold position, with Webber out in front.
It was never going to be an order that three-time world champion Vettel would take seriously though, was it? That’s not how you win titles.
The climax of the race came as the German and Australian went wheel-to-wheel, much to the frustration of their team back in the pit lane.
“This is silly Sebastien,” barked team boss Christian Horner over the team radio, as Vettel led with 10 laps remaining.
However, ‘the silliness’ did not stop Vettel from securing his 27th race win or Red Bull claiming the precious 1-2.
The fight for third and fourth place proved almost as exciting – team orders once again playing a major role.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were told to hold their positions late in the race, although not without a contest from fourth-placed Rosberg – who told mechanics over the radio he had the faster car. The Mercedes duo crossed the line in unison 12 seconds behind Vettel.
On the podium, Hamilton admitted he was embarrassed to be there and felt Rosberg deserved third place.
There will be plenty of soul searching in the Red Bull and Mercedes garages as bosses try to appease their number twos, and possible number ones.
But the driver v team battle ended one-a-piece, signalling that there is no easy solution to managing these feisty individuals in a team environment.
The winner of last year’s race – Fernando Alonso – crashed out early on lap two with a damaged front wing while McLaren driver Jenson Button went from the lead to 14th after a loose wheel nut saw him dragged back into the pits.
The pits provided some more entertainment when former McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton accidentally drove into the McLaren garage, instead of the Mercedes one. Old habits die hard.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa finished in fifth and France’s Romain Grosjean was sixth, outshining his Lotus team-mate and last week’s winner Kimi Raikkonen in seventh. Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne rounded out the top 10.
Controversy aside, and there was plenty of it to go around, it was a great day for Red Bull as they pull away in the constructors championship. Vettel currently leads the drivers standings after two races with 40 points, nine clear of Raikkonen.
But the season is young, and the bitter divide growing between their drivers could prove damaging.
Webber and Vettel exchanged words in the team garage and the Australian, along with Vettel and Hamilton, was stony-faced during the victory ceremony, as the bubbly threatened to bubble over.
Later, Vettel offered a profuse apology to his team-mate.
“I’m not entirely happy – I think I did a big mistake,” Vettel said, sincerely or not, is up for grabs.
“We should have stayed in the positions that we were in. I didn’t ignore it on purpose but I messed up in that situation and obviously took the lead from Mark.
“I can see now that he’s upset. I want to be honest at least and stick to the truth. I know that doesn’t really help his feelings right now.”
“Mark should have won,'” Vettel said.
Asked if the fight had him reconsidering his role at Red Bull, Webber said he had “a lot of things going through my mind.”
While Vettel may have been in the wrong to disobey team instructions, the race should leave fans questioning whether they have got the short end of the straw once more, as team orders threaten to mute the excitement of grand prix racing.
Seeing Webber and Vettel going hell for leather on lap 46 was one of the most exciting pieces of action we’ve seen on the track for a while.
And the sparks and anger afterwards – well, that’s sport entertainment at its best.