Formula 1 - All eyes on Red Bull rivalry as F1 circus moves to China

Formula 1 heads to China this weekend for the resumption of a fascinating on-track battle, but all eyes will instead be on the off-circuit relationship between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel.

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Formula 1 - All eyes on Red Bull rivalry as F1 circus moves to China
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Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel (R) of Germany and team mate Mark Webber of Australia stand on the winners' podium after the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix at Sepang (Reuters)

The controversy over Vettel ignoring the 'Multi 21' team order in Malaysia to steal the win from Webber may have died down in recent days, but it is certain to get reignited when the pair appear in public for the first time at Shanghai on Thursday.

Interestingly, both of them will not face the media together as only Webber has been asked to appear in the regular Thursday FIA press conference.

While that means there will be little chance of the media stoking up tensions between the pair under the watching gaze of the television cameras, it does equally allow Webber a better chance to vent his own feelings.

Red Bull has obviously been eager to play down the matter since events in Malaysia, with its motorsport advisor Helmut Marko even claiming that the situation between Vettel and Webber was sorted out as soon as the debrief after the race when the pair shook hands.

Team principal Christian Horner also made efforts in the days after Malaysia to insist that he believed a line could be drawn under the controversy, after Vettel apologised to the team for what he did.

However, being sorry for a wrong in the private of your factory is one thing - it will be another matter completely when it comes to seeing how Webber and Vettel react in the heat of the battle when a team orders call is made again.

Both Vettel and Webber may be justified in feeling that neither can fully trust the other now, while the team will not want another embarrassing situation of having its orders ignored on the pit wall.

The likely focus on the Red Bull row will be welcome at rivals Mercedes, whose own use of team orders in Malaysia caused some controversy when Nico Rosberg was instructed to stay behind Lewis Hamilton despite believing he was much quicker.

That Rosberg understood and accepted the situation afterwards was clear, but equally he made it clear that the team needed to 'remember' what he had done, in case there is a payback opportunity later in the campaign.

Boss Ross Brawn has successfully dealt with the thorny internal politics of team orders before, both at Ferrari and at Brawn GP when Rubens Barrichello was upset several times at being told to hold position.

At Red Bull, the situation is not as straightforward to sort out, and it's one that will not only be probed in Shanghai but will also be tested to the limit with Webber and Vettel poised to fight it out for more wins over the remainder of the campaign.

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