He said: "I'm not sure I can give a proper answer because in the moment it might be different but I would probably do the same."
Vettel added his move was "indirectly" a form of payback for what he said was a lack of past support from Webber.
He said: "I never had support from his side. I have a lot of support from the team and think they are supporting both of us the same way. I respect Mark as a racing driver but there was more than one occasion in the past when he could have helped the team and he didn't."
Speaking before that announcement, Vettel was asked if he was getting revenge for Webber being less than helpful in
last year's title-deciding race in Brazil,
when Webber appeared to be obstructive twice despite being told by the team to help Vettel in his championship battle with Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
The German replied: "Probably you could say indirectly so."
Vettel did not mention the several times in the past that Webber has obeyed team orders not to challenge Vettel, even when he felt he was faster and was himself a title contender - as for example in Canada, Japan and Brazil in 2010.
On the future, Webber said he believed the chances of a repeat were "so small". He added: "It's very rare that it's happened and when it has it's a hot point, because it has been sticky to handle. Although I have tested the system I haven't gone through with it, but obviously Malaysia was a little bit different."
Asked if he would have given the place back had team principal Christian Horner ordered him to do so over the radio, Vettel said: "I didn't mean to ignore the team's order. I heard it, but I didn't understand it the proper way. I apologised for that.
Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
"The wounds that were ripped open in Sepang had barely healed from the end of 2012, when Webber was asked to support Vettel's attempt to close out the title against Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso in Brazil and the team felt he was not only unhelpful, but obstructive"
"Had I understood, I think [if] I had thought about it and reflected on what leaving Mark in first place meant, I probably would have done the same thing because Mark doesn't deserve that."
Vettel explained that he did not initially understand the team's message "Multi 21" - a coded team order for Webber (car number two) to finish ahead of Vettel (car number one).
Webber experienced the same confusion in Brazil last year, when he was given the message "Multi 12" - an order for Vettel to finish ahead of Webber.
Vettel said he had not been punished by the team.
"I did speak up and apologise," he said. "Sanction, punishment, what do you expect to happen? We dealt with it internally. I did apologise to the team as soon as I could, the whole team, not just the people working here."
He admitted his actions had undermined Horner's authority.
"You could say so," Vettel said, "but I went to talk to everyone straight afterwards. The intention was not to undermine the team principal."
When it was suggested Horner was no longer in control of the team, Vettel said: "That is not right. He is the boss, he is in control of all the employees. I am not in any other position than I am. I am the driver."
Webber said everything was "fine" within the team.
He added: "For me it's not an unusual situation and I'm looking forward to racing here this weekend and getting on with it.
"When you're at the front in Formula 1 there's always stuff going down, so it just depends on how much is going down that you've got to manage.
"I'm looking forward to driving the car here, putting it in first gear and driving out of the garage and getting down there to feel what the car's like on the circuit."
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