Mark Webber has praised Red Bull Racing's ability to 'bounce back' after a frustrating Bahrain Grand Prix and desperately disappointing Australian Grand Prix last weekend by storming to an inspired pole position in Sepang this weekend – but he insists he is not one to 'throw egg' at those who made somewhat less inspired decisions during qualifying.
With a torrential downpour turning the session into a lottery, and some big-hitters – both Ferraris and both McLaren-Mercedes' chief amongst them – falling foul of poor strategic calls and embarrassingly exiting stage left at the earliest opportunity in Q1, Webber made all the right moves.
Safely through into the top ten shoot-out, the Australian then took an audacious bid to fit intermediate tyres to his Adrian Newey-designed, Renault-powered RB6 – something he joked made him the 'black sheep' of the Q3 contenders, with every one of his rivals having rather more conservatively stuck with full wets.
It could have been suicidal, it could have ended in the gravel trap – but ultimately it ended by placing Webber on pole by more than 1.3 seconds. With what is by common consent the fastest car in the field at his disposal and a clear track in front of him when the starting lights go out on Sunday, now Red Bull needs to do what it proved unable to do in both Sakhir and Melbourne – convert the top spot on the grid into the top step of the podium on race day.
“Melbourne on Sunday was a tough day,” the 33-year-old reflected, “[but] again we have proven we can bounce back and make decisions as a team in tricky situations and get the job done for both drivers. That's encouraging for us. We are doing everything we can to launch the right footing to go into a positive Sunday afternoon. We know on Sundays we haven't executed the cleanest races so far this year, but the guys have worked like hell at Milton Keynes and also at Viry Renault engines, and we are doing our utmost to execute those important Sunday afternoons.
“We have done a lot of great work on Fridays and Saturdays, but we know [Sunday in Malaysia] is a big chance for us as a team to do well. It is a long race and this place can throw up lots of stuff in the two-hour duration of the race, so we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves. If it was a very, very dry, boring grand prix, of course those guys (McLaren and Ferrari) are going to have a bit more of an interesting afternoon, or a more difficult afternoon, to penetrate through the field – but if there's rain at any stage, it can obviously change. There's absolutely no question about it – we want to be starting at the front and we've done that.
“[The intermediate] is totally the wrong tyre if it lashes down with rain, and totally the right tyre if it holds off for that little bit longer. It had already started to spit, but in sections of the track it was definitely the right tyre to be on. In other places it was quite high-risk to throw both laps away and lose the car. I didn't know I was the black sheep of the top ten, but in the end we made the decision together and it was about putting it together. It was a tough hour for everyone; I wouldn't throw egg at anyone, any team, as it is just so easy to get it wrong and it is easy to end up massively on the back foot and then you can't respond, as we saw with both Ferraris and Lewis [Hamilton] trying desperately at the end there when the track was gone.
“It changes so quickly here, and it is just absolutely undriveable in those conditions. You are doing a 40-50km/h, but even on the pit entry it was very tricky, as at this place when it rains we know it is impressive. [In Q3] I had a huge moment in Turn Two and nearly spun the car at the apex of two and out of three. Starting my third lap, I thought I saw the quickest time on the board initially and then I knew when I crossed the line my lap was superior to that, so I thought that this is going well. I thought 'yeah, this is a good tyre to be on but quite high maintenance'. I think it was the fastest tyre to be on, but quite risky. Whether I would be on pole on the wet tyre is obviously another subject, but in the end everyone had the same chance to make the same choices.”