sport

Horner defends Vettel display

Red Bull chief Christian Horner has defended Sebastian Vettel after the World Champion apparently refused to obey a team order during the Chinese GP.

Asked to yield position to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who subsequently passed the German and proceeded to beat the reigning World Champion by twenty seconds to the chequered flag, Vettel told the Red Bull pitwall "tough luck" after being informed that the Australian was running on an identical but fresher medium compound tyre.

Yet with Ricciardo then passing Vettel shortly afterwards, Horner heard nothing wrong with the exchange.

"He's going to challenge them because he's a racer and the guys want to race each other," countered Horner. "We were looking at a different strategy and then he has moved out of the way and let his team-mate through."

Opinion was divided during the race whether Vettel made an error as he ran wide in Turn One as Ricciardo went through, but the German said afterwards that had deliberately given up the position.

"There was no point holding him up further, he was quite a bit quicker," Vettel told Sky Sports F1. "At that stage we were on different strategies and once I was told that I decided to let him go."

Vettel has endured an undistinguished and troubled start to the new season. The four-times champion has been out-qualified by Ricciardo in three of the four events so far and appears to be struggling to master the RB10 under braking.

"We always want the best result for the team and Daniel finished twenty seconds up the road. More important for us is to understand why Sebastian is struggling. He's obviously not getting as much out of the car as Daniel at present," said Horner.

"We know that Sebastian is very sensitive to how a car enters a corner and at the moment he hasn't got the feel he needs."

Vettel is currently fifth in the Drivers' World Championship, 46 points behind Nico Rosberg, while Red Bull already trail runaway Constructors' Championship leaders by almost one hundred points.

"We've got to take the fight to them and we're going to give it everything. I believe we can take the championship to them but we can't concede too much more ground," declared the Red Bull chief. "We were 22kmh slower on the straights and that's where we have to improve - and hopefully there will be some steps on that for Barcelona."

Red Bull have, however, been boosted by the unexpectedly-quick performances of Ricciardo.

"He's exceeded all our expectations," added Horner. "He's so cool under pressure and he's been enormously impressive since the start of the season and his confidence is growing."