LONDON, March 28 (Reuters) - Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel has apologised in person to Red Bull staff for ignoring team orders in a controversial Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend.
The team said the 25-year-old German had also spoken to aggrieved team mate Mark Webber, who had victory snatched away in the closing laps, after the race at Sepang and the pair had shaken hands.
“He’s said he can’t turn back the clock but he’s accepted what he did was wrong,” team principal Christian Horner said of Vettel, who visited the Milton Keynes factory on Tuesday to address employees.
“He’s apologised to the team and to every single member of staff for his actions, because he recognises the team is vitally important and being part of the team is a crucial aspect to being able to challenge for those championships.”
Vettel had also apologised to Webber in a news conference after Sunday’s race, saying he had made a mistake.
The German has won the last three drivers’ titles with Red Bull, who are chasing their fourth successive constructors’ championship.
The German had qualified on pole position in Malaysia but found himself behind his team mate after the pitstops with the team instructing the pair to hold station to save fuel and prevent excessive tyre wear.
The new Pirelli tyres for this season are quick-wearing and, with a comfortable time cushion between them and Lewis Hamilton in third place for Mercedes, the team wanted to safeguard the one-two.
Webber turned down his engine and eased off, assured that Vettel would do likewise, but Vettel seized the opportunity to overtake with both drivers going wheel-to-wheel as they battled for position.
“It was the intent of the team that Mark should win that race,” Horner told Sky television on Thursday, also ending any doubts about Webber’s plans for the rest of the year.
“He’s big enough to know that there was no malice, no intent from the team to create any situation like that. He’s in a car that’s capable of winning grands prix and hopefully going for a championship so I’ve got no doubt that Mark will see out the season with us.”
Horner recognised that the fans wanted to see drivers racing each other but said his responsibilities were to the 600 people employed by the team and whose bonuses are dictated by the position in the constructors’ championship.
“The responsibility is to make sure that the team achieves its maximum,” he said. (Editing by Mark Meadows)