One of the most infamous incidents in modern Formula One was the Multi-21 radio call. Even after five years, the mention of the Red Bull code word for team orders leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
According to the order, Mark Webber, who was leading, supposed to finish the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix in P1. Meanwhile, teammate Sebastian Vettel was ordered to maintain second place.
But then, the unthinkable happened, Vettel barged past Webber in the closing stages of the race. This move potentially robbed the Australian veteran of what could have been his final Formula 1 win.
“Multi-21, Seb. Multi-21!” a furious Webber shouted at his teammate.
The podium ceremony was quite subdued, Vettel tried his best not to celebrate an undeserving win. Webber made it a point to ignore his teammate’s existence.
At the time it seemed as if Vettel disregarded a team order for personal, but the truth was far from it. Recently, Red Bull Team principal Christian Horner revealed Vettel’s motivation for the Malaysia incident. According to him, it had its roots from the last race of the previous season.
“Sebastian was fighting (Fernando) Alonso for the championship and Mark squeezed him up against the pit wall in Brazil in the championship decider,” Horner said.
“That ultimately resulted in (Vettel) getting turned around by Bruno Senna. Sebastian was hugely angry about that…”
Horner wasn’t too thrilled with the move either.
“Because we discussed it before the race, that Mark wasn’t in the championship – do everything possible to support your teammate.
“But then there was a hangover of that that led into Malaysia. Literally two races later, split by about four months.
“So then you’ve got a situation where Mark’s in the car ahead, Sebastian on new tyres in the car behind.
“The tyres were pretty fragile, we’re telling them ‘right, hold position’ … and Sebastian thought ‘f*** you.’”
Horner said that Vettel saw Malaysia as an opportunity for payback for Webber’s actions in Brazil. Especially since it almost cost him the world championship.
“100 percent, 100 percent. (Sebastian) told him that when they sat down in China. That was probably about as tense as it could get,” he said.
Horner believes that there was one fundamental, unavoidable fact that led to the animosity.
“I think it was very difficult for Mark to accept at the time – and if I think he looked back at it now with perspective and honesty – Sebastian was just quicker,” Horner said.
“So therefore Mark would use whatever tool he could to get under his skin. Because Mark was a great competitor, he was a ruthless competitor. He’d read every mind-management book in the business. One of his heroes was Roy Keane!
“Mark would use whatever tool he could to try and ruffle Sebastian, and if that meant using the team to do that, he would do that.
In 2019, Vettel was shown up by his teammate Charles Leclerc for much of the season. Of course, the rise of Leclerc posed a massive threat to the 4-time world champion.
Admittedly, Leclerc himself, has rarely disobeyed team orders. Meanwhile, Vettel ignored team orders in Russia.
The intra-team rivalry escalated, and things came to a head in Brazil when the two collided.