Red Bull motorsport advisor, and renowned Sebastian Vettel fan, Helmut Marko has shown unexpected support for the German's F1 team-mate, Mark Webber, after another disappointing home grand prix for the Australian.
Despite qualifying third, behind Vettel and an inspired Lewis Hamilton, Webber found himself squeezed unable to run with the leaders from the start, and swapped places with the fast-starting Vitaly Petrov as their respective pit strategies took effect. With the Russian only stopping twice, however, Webber's need for four sets of Pirellis ultimately cost him a potential podium, with Fernando Alonso also getting ahead of the Red Bull by the flag to push the Australian back to fifth.
While critics were again trotting out suggestions that Webber had failed to cope with the pressure and expectation of racing in front of his countrymen, however, Marko suggested that there may have been something more fundamental to blame for the 34-year old's result.
"Mark had some problems with the chassis," he told German television station RTL
, no doubt mindful of the nine-tenths margin between the previously inseparable Red Bulls in qualifying, "With him, neither the hard nor the soft tyres really worked, and tyre wear was also significantly greater than Sebastian's."
Team boss Christian Horner also confirmed that there would be a detailed examination of Webber's car before the next race in Malaysia, in the hope of uncovering whatever may have hampered the Australian's efforts in Melbourne.
“It's a very unusual gap, to see such a big distance between the two guys," he told the BBC
post-race, "We need to go through things with a fine tooth comb and understand where those differences are, because Mark, today, was very hard on the tyres which generated more degradation, and we need to find out if there's something perhaps in the car that's contributing to that. We couldn't find it yesterday, but we'll certainly have a very, very good look before Malaysia!”
Such was Webber's frustration that he parked the car immediately after crossing the finish line, but he urged a clear head going to Sepang with the season still stretching into the distance.
“I wasn't quick today and it was the same in qualifying yesterday, so we need to understand the reason why," he confirmed, "There wasn't much else I could do today. I lost the last position to Fernando during the pit-stops and that was it really. It was very frustrating.
"Seb drove a good race, in terms of what the car can do, but it's not normal for me not to go and match the rhythm at the front. I was in a different race to Sebastian today, so we had to do different things. I was in trouble with the tyres much sooner than he was, so we need to have a look why. I should be able to stay with these guys, but today I finished a long way behind. It was a tough race and I was pushing as hard as I could, but I wasn't getting much back. To finish that far behind is not really usual, but let's stay cool, it's the first race.
"I'm looking forward to going to Malaysia, and I wish the race was tomorrow already.”