That is the outcome of last month's grand prix in Malaysia, when Vettel's alarming decision to disregard pitwall instructions by the team principal, Christian Horner, to remain behind Webber lobbed a large incendiary device into the most successful Formula One team of recent years.
Horner, after insisting that he was still in charge, was then asked if the incident in Kuala Lumpur might happen again.
He said: "If they were in the same situation, exactlythe same would happen again because they would race each other. If those two guys are in a position to win in the final 10 laps of a grand prix, they are going to race each other. As far as orders in the future, we will let our drivers race. We will not impose team orders at the end of a race. However, we expect the drivers to act on theinformation they have from the team."
He added: "All we can do from a team point of view is [ensure] that they know what they risk. They don't want to take each other out because they need the points as much as the team does. They have the facts and if they don't deal with those facts, they are answerable. They both know that. They are not stupid."
Horner also admitted that he knew exactly what Vettel was about to do in Malaysia. He said: "I knew as soon as he left the pitlane on that final set of tyres the likelihood was that it would be difficult to control because of all the history.
"These two guys are never going to spend Christmas together. There is a lot of history between them. That's not something that's new to Malaysia, it has existed for the last four or five years, and in that time we have won more than 2,000 points with them, 36 grands prix and six world championships, more than 40 pole positions. It is nothing new, having to manage this situation."
But while no one can deny that Red Bull have enjoyed phenomenal successes, or that Horner himself has been the outstanding leader of his short era, the fact remains that the team have been substantially damaged in recent weeks. Webber has been hurt, because his relationship with Vettel is now so poisonous that his own position within the team looks untenable. Vettel, likewise, has been diminished because his bullish, self-confident air here makes a mockery of his contrite, apologetic demeanour in Malaysia.
However unpalatable team orders are, they should be respected when they come, and they came in Kuala Lumpur. Horner's authority has been badly undermined, even though he bridled at the suggestion that it is now Vettel who runs the team. He said: "I don't think Sebastian for one moment thinks he runs the team. He knows what his job is, he knows what we employ him to do. He's made a decision in a race as a hungry driver. But he's made his position clear, he's apologised to the team and he's apologised to me. It's happened and we move on, but it doesn't change anything."
The fact is, though, that a monster has loomed out of the Shanghai smog this week, and it is the same, smiling cherub who won his first race at this track four years ago, changing forever the dynamic between himself and Webber. Horner is loth to admit it, but things have changed even more radically now. When Vettel said here on Thursday that Webber didn't deserve to win the Malaysian race and that he would probably do the same thing again he effectively tore asunder his apology of three weeks ago.
Horner and Red Bull must take responsibility for this. They should have acted more decisively when their two drivers collided in Turkey in 2010, and then when there were further conflicts at Silverstone in 2010 and 2011 and in Brazil in the final race of last year. Then, Webber hindered his team-mate's chances of winning his third-consecutive world title. Webber has not been blameless in all this.
Horner insists: "I get the best out of them, I really do. How many happy ex-McLaren drivers are there? Both drivers have plenty of choice and any team in the pitlane would love to have our driver pairing."
But many in the paddock have been shocked by Vettel's behaviour. McLaren's Jenson Button said: "I'm surprised he [Vettel] said what he said, personally. Lots of people have won world championships without being like that. He's going to get asked so many questions in many different ways until he cracks."
"It's unnecessary isn't it? It's such a small thing that he's done that's wrong, I'm sure he thinks, but to go against a team orders is pretty big. I don't like team orders full stop. But you're allowed to have them in the sport and you have to stick with what he team says. They employ you. They pay you money to go racing."
Meanwhile, at Mercedes – whose authority over their drivers in Malaysia was never questioned – appear to be moving against team orders too. Their chairman, Niki Lauda, said: "We sat around the table and decided with immediate effect that our drivers may freely race against each other." And the team principal, Ross Brawn, added: "We want our drivers to race. The rule is don't hit each other." Whether that message survives the season, though, remains to be seen.
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