Shanghai, China – The current relationship between Red Bull teammates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber is the center of attention heading into this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix -- the third round on the 2013 Formula One calendar.
Emotions are still high between Vettel and Webber following their altercation in last month's Malaysian Grand Prix. Vettel, the three-time defending F1 world champion, won in Malaysia after a controversial pass on Webber in the late stages. After the race, Webber had heated words with his teammate, claiming he disobeyed team orders.
Vettel has apologized to Webber and the team but continues to defend his actions in the race. The young German has repeatedly said that he did not understand the "Multi 21" message (team order not to overtake Webber) that was issued over his radio.
"I personally don't consider myself as the bad guy in this situation, as I don't think that I did something that in particular could be rated as bad," Vettel said. "I think I said more-or-less everything after the (Malaysian) race, and I apologized to the team, which was important to me. I also took the opportunity to visit the team and explain to them personally what had happened from my point of view."
Vettel and Webber have been at odds with each other in the past, but after Malaysia, their association has sunk to an all-time low.
"I do respect (Webber) a lot as a racing driver," Vettel admitted. "But I also think there have been a few occasions in the past where he could have chosen to help the team, but he didn't."
There had been speculation that Webber might depart Red Bull in wake of the incident in Malaysia. However, the Australian said on Thursday that he has no plans of leaving the team this season.
"I'm definitely keen to race this year and put together a very strong campaign and challenge for more wins," said Webber, who finished second in Malaysia. "In the summer, I will talk to (Red Bull top boss) Dietrich (Mateschitz) and then go from there. If I'm driving well, performances are good, then we'll make some decisions in the future. But at the moment, it's the third race, and I've never made decisions on my career at this point in the season.
"Obviously, it's a bit of a topic at the moment for different reasons, but I don't see why I should make any decisions at the moment for the future."
Both drivers are hoping to put their latest episode behind them and focus on Sunday's 56-lap Chinese GP at Shanghai International Circuit. Vettel enters the race with a nine-point lead over Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, who won the March 17 season-opener in Melbourne, Australia. Webber is 14 points behind Vettel.
"In Malaysia, there was plenty of interest from everyone, other teams, media etc, but for me, it's not an unusual situation, and I'm looking forward to racing here (in China) this weekend and getting on with it," Webber said. "When you're at the front in Formula One, there's always stuff going down, so it just depends on how much is going down that you've got to manage.
"In the end, for me, I'm looking forward to driving the car here, putting in first gear and driving out of the garage and getting down there to feel what the car is like on the circuit. That's what I'm looking forward to."
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, April 24. Race: Chinese Grand Prix. Site: Shanghai International Circuit. Track: 3.386-mile (5.451-kilometer), 16-turn road course. Start Time: 3 a.m. (et). Laps: 56. Miles: 189.568 (305.066 km). 2012 Winner: Nico Rosberg. Television: NBC Sports Network.