Mark Webber's F1 world championship ambitions hang in the balance after the Australian recorded only his second non-score of the season following a crash just two laps into a rain-affected Korean Grand Prix.
The race began behind the safety car as rain made driving conditions too dangerous for a conventional grid start, but was red-flagged after just three laps with grip and visibility at a premium. The cars then sat on the grid for almost an hour before race director Charlie Whiting gave the order to restart, again behind the safety car, and the pace remained controlled for a further 14 laps before conditions were deemed suitable for racing.
Just a lap had been completed, however, before Webber, chasing hard to keep Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel in sight, put a wheel too far off the side of the road. The subsequent lack of grip kicked the rear of the Australian's RB6 out but, even as Webber appeared to catch the moment, he spun across the road, bounced off the retaining wall and then cannoned into the side of an innocent Nico Rosberg as he returned to the opposite side of the road.
"Totally my fault," Webber admitted to the BBC
, "I just put a wheel over the kerb at turn twelve and it was just a slow motion one after that."
With Vettel leading Fernando Alonso, the championship scenario could be turned on its head - provided the race goes far enough to qualifying for full points. Without 42 of the scheduled 55 laps being completed only half points would be awarded, somewhat softening the blow for Webber. One lap more than that, however, and the Australian would fall eleven points behind Vettel, with Alonso also overtaking him in the standings with two races remaining.
Should the race order remain unchanged to the chequered flag, with Jenson Button currently in fifth place on the road, the two points scenarios would be as follows:
Full points awarded:
Sebastian Vettel 231
Fernando Alonso 224
Mark Webber 220
Lewis Hamilton 207
Jenson Button 199
Half points awarded:
Mark Webber 220
Sebastian Vettel 218.5
Fernando Alonso 215
Lewis Hamilton 199.5
Jenson Button 194