When Sebastian Vettel disobeyed team orders last week and overtook Red Bull teammate, Mark Webber, to win the Malaysian Grand Prix, eyebrows raised across the country as F1 fans looked on at something quite extraordinary.
To ignore orders and potentially ruin a teammate’s race by pushing him to the limit of his driving ability is a risky decision not too often undertaken in Formula One.
The benefits of winning a single race pale into insignificance compared to the consequences of disregarding the team, aggravating your fellow driver, and generally looking like a power-hungry, selfish egotist.
Pundits, the media, and fans alike rightly condemned Vettel’s actions, but one feels that won’t be enough to dissuade the three-time world champion from doing all it takes to win a fourth title.
Vettel has already come out and apologised for his actions but, in the end, it means nothing. He can appear remorseful all he likes after the event and still walk away with maximum points and extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
For fans in the F1 betting world, Vettel’s decision greatly impacts how we bet before and during the race – for there can be no confidence in how a race will finish if the German is so hell-bent on winning.
Usually, if you have a team one-two after the final pit stops, you can be fairly confident the race will finish that way. This occurred last weekend in Malaysia and, naturally, fans will have backed a Webber victory during the race knowing his team-mate was never going to potentially harm both drivers by challenging him.
Sadly, that is exactly what Vettel did, leaving the Red Bull team, Webber, and no doubt many punters furious with the outcome.
Some fans have likened Vettel’s move to Michael Schumacher’s reign at Ferrari, when team-mates were persistently told to step aside for the German ace.
Rubens Barrichello infamously let his teammate pass while leading the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix to let Schumacher through on team orders – a move that sparked furious debate within the FIA over the validity of team orders in the sport.
Famous cases of team orders: Barrichello lets Schumacher win the 2002 Austrian GP (left), while Massa was instructed to cede his race-leading position to Alonso at the 2010 German GP (right).
Felipe Massa, similarly, was given a coded message from Ferrari while leading the 2010 German Grand Prix to move aside for teammate, Fernando Alonso – an incident that still splits betting fans to this day.
Although Vettel’s position differs in that he defied team orders not to overtake Webber, the consequences for fans in the betting world are nevertheless the same.
Without confidence that the front man will fight tooth and nail to keep his place, there is no fun in betting on Formula One, at least not on this aspect. Instead, fans may well look further down the grid and take their chances with the far less predictable lottery of points placings for middling drivers.
If Red Bull find themselves in a similar situation later this season, it will be interesting to see how both Vettel and Webber react. The Australian is within his rights to seek revenge for Malaysia, while Vettel will do everything to keep the lead, a situation that makes first-place betting dangerously unpredictable, despite the thrill of the chase.
[Images via Corbis Images]