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Ten years on: The striking 2023 similarities to a controversial Red Bull moment

24th March 2023 marks 10 years to the day since one of Red Bull's most talked about Formula 1 moments. A decade after the incident, RacingNews365 wonders if we're seeing parallels in 2023.

On one side of the garage you have the homegrown favourite: the driver plucked from junior categories, incubated until he was ready and then unleashed on Formula 1 seeming hellbent on re-writing the record books, and won't quit until he does. On the other, a gritty, determined racer who on his day can match the other guy but when it comes to it, lacks that final precious ability to find time from the car when it is already somewhere over the limit. One is the reigning World Champion and the other a winner of a couple of Grands Prix the previous year. In charge is boss Christian Horner and technical wizard Adrian Newey, and Red Bull look once again set to crush all before them. So, what, if anything has really changed in the 10 years since March 24th, 2013 when Sebastian Vettel ignited one of the more infamous moments of his career? It is what even the late Queen Elizabeth II questioned Horner on when she met the Red Bull Team Principal: Vettel's refusal of team orders at the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix by overtaking Mark Webber. AKA: "Multi-21, Seb".


Awkward 😬 Red Bull's 'Multi 21' controversy happened #OnThisDay in 2013 #F1 pic.twitter.com/gndhi911cu — Formula 1 (@F1) March 24, 2020

The background

After the final pitstops in Sepang, Webber was leading with Vettel in second place, and so to protect an easy one-two finish, the code "Multi Map 21" went out over the radio to both drivers. Essentially this was Red Bull calling off the fight, and wanting car #2 (Webber) to finish ahead of car #1 (Vettel). However, Vettel had a bee in his bonnet about Webber not playing the team game in the 2012 Brazil finale when the latter was locked in a tight battle with Fernando Alonso for the title, and Webber squeezed him towards the pit-wall at the start. And so, at the first possible opportunity, Vettel wreaked his ruthless revenge and a place in F1 folklore for ever.

Things kick off

On Lap 46, Vettel went charging down the inside of the pit-straight, being gently squeezed into the pit-wall by Webber. The battle continued all through the first sector before Vettel used his better tyres to dance around the outside at Turn 4 and that was that. On the cool-down lap, he was told by his race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin - Rocky - that there would be some "explaining to do." A visibly annoyed Webber simply said to Vettel in the cooldown room "yeah, Multi-21 Seb, Multi-21" before Vettel took a drink and the two, accompanied by Newey and third-place Lewis Hamilton (himself engaged in a team orders battle with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg) headed out to receive the bubbly. Webber claimed that "Seb made his own decisions and will have protection as usual" with the race winner looking sheepish. Two weeks later though in China, during media day, Vettel's stance had hardened, and he delivered an iconic line. "I was racing, I was faster, I passed him, I won." And that is the difference between merely the very good Grand Prix drivers and the hard-nose so and so you need to be to become a multiple World Champion.

But what about today?

Back to the beginning, for Vettel read Max Verstappen and for Webber read Sergio Perez. The two had their own team orders falling out in 2022 in Brazil, ironically enough, and then another battle kicked off in the second race of 2023. Throw in the fact that Hamilton retired from the last race of 2012/2022 and then had a team orders snafu of his own in the second race of 2013/2023 and the odds of lightning striking twice seem ever smaller. This time, the Red Bull saga was over the point for fastest lap in Jeddah with leader Perez and P2 man Verstappen told to call off their fight for it. Cue one driver playing along and the other completely ignoring the instruction and doing whatever he needs to do get the maximum result possible. Sound familiar? Even 10 years later, and almost-exactly 200 Grands Prix after (Azerbaijan 2018, another Red Bull team orders bust-up, was exactly 100 races after Malaysia 2013), a phrase springs to mind. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. The more things change, the more they stay the same. C'est la vie.

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