VIDEO: Vettel ignores team orders, telling team “tough luck”

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Sebastian Vettel endured a difficult Chinese Grand Prix today in Shanghai as he could only bring his Red Bull home in fifth place, finishing some 24 seconds behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo. However, he did turn some heads when he flouted team orders and refused to let his faster teammate through after the first round of stops.

Ricciardo was far quicker than Vettel in the race, but a poor start meant that he trailed his illustrious teammate. However, he soon closed after pitting, and was clearly quicker than the German driver. Red Bull gave Vettel the order to let Ricciardo past, but he quickly challenged it.

“What tires is he on?” Vettel asked his engineer, Rocky. When he was told that they were on the same tires and therefore the same strategy, he then refused to let Ricciardo past. “Tough luck” was the impetuous call from Vettel, who inferred that if Ricciardo was going to gain the position, he would have to overtake him without any assistance.

Ricciardo continued to close, and ultimately found a way past into the first corner. Vettel had asked about Ricciardo’s strategy, and was told that he was on a two stop, whilst the German driver was still able to run a three-stop if need be. He then backed off slightly to let the Australian driver through, and then saw little more of him for the remainder of the race.

Vettel was soon protesting over the radio again as Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi unlapped himself. Despite being entitled to do so, it annoyed the Red Bull driver who complained to his team. With worn tires, he soon pitted and eventually re-lapped Kobayashi later in the race.

He may have won the last four world titles, but the cracks are beginning to appear in Sebastian Vettel’s F1 crown.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.