By Alan Baldwin
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Red Bull principal Christian Horner denied on Friday that Sebastian Vettel had weakened the boss's position at the Formula One champions by ignoring orders in Malaysia last month.
"Is my leadership undermined? I don't think so," the Briton told reporters at the Chinese Grand Prix, referring to his team's three successive drivers' and constructors' world championships.
"I've led the team from the time that Red Bull entered the sport to those 35 victories, to those world championships," he added.
"Of course there have been lumps and bumps along the way, there have been incidents between the two drivers. But we retain them because they are both fiercely competitive individuals, they drive each other forward and they bring the best out of each other."
Commentators have suggested that, by ignoring instructions and winning the race at Sepang when the team had told him to stay behind Australian Mark Webber, triple world champion Vettel was effectively out of control.
The 25-year-old German certainly does not lack confidence, holding his own in a feisty 20 minute briefing at the Shanghai circuit on Thursday in which he showed little real remorse for his actions.
The championship leader said he had not understood the coded 'Multi-21' order but added that he would probably have ignored it even if he had been clear in his mind because Webber had not 'deserved' to win.
Horner indicated he could not be sure Vettel would not do it again but said the bad blood between the drivers was not a new phenomenon and dated back years.
"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 knows why we employ him to do it and he's been with Red Bull for a long time now," said Horner.
"He recognizes, more than anybody, the value that the team has behind the success that he's achieved in the car, and he knows that he can't operate without the team.
"So he doesn't put himself above the team or think that he's running the team for one moment."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Tom Pilcher)