Having extolled the benefits of running KERS as a 'no-brainer' in the build-up to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, Mark Webber unfortunately ended up giving a graphic demonstration of just how important it was around the Sepang International Circuit, as he found himself without the power boost right from the word 'go' on race day today.
After qualifying third in Kuala Lumpur, Webber reported that he had no KERS on the warming-up lap around to the grid, and when the starting lights went out, he was duly swamped, ending the opening lap just ninth. From there, the Red Bull Racing star – who had been so desperate to bounce back and kick his title challenge into gear in Malaysia following an immensely disappointing home outing in Melbourne a fortnight ago – engaged in an entertaining early battle with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi, being able to overtake the Japanese ace into the corners, but finding himself breezed back past again along the straights.
Having finally shaken his rival off, Webber set about limiting the damage to his finishing position, and boldly made a risky four-stop strategy pay off as he hunted down and passed Ferrari's Felipe Massa and – on fresh tyres – made easy meat of the ailing Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages. Just a handful of laps more, and the Australian would very likely have got Nick Heidfeld for third, too – so in the circumstances and given what might have been, it was a stirring recovery.
“It was a tough race today,” the 34-year-old acknowledged. “Even out-of-the-box, it wasn't a good start and we had a failure with the KERS, so I was out-of-position on the first lap and you get killed on the long run with no KERS. For the first three or four laps, I was trying to pass people, but they were coming back at me on the straights; it was tough to clear people when I didn't have KERS.
“Anyway, I fought back with a good strategy and got some good points, at least. I would have liked to have gone a bit longer on my fourth set [of tyres] to have a better-condition set for the end to nail the guys who were in trouble, but I was losing a lot of time behind Lewis, who was in strange trouble very quickly with his set.
“It was an interesting grand prix and we keep learning. I was disappointed not to get on the podium – it was close, but not close enough – and it's not our day yet, but I'm pushing for it to come.”
“Mark had a poor initial getaway and unfortunately a KERS issue denied him the use of that, meaning he got swamped down to Turn One,” reflected Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, “but it was a great recovery drive from him with a different strategy – he really made it work, and ultimately he was very unlucky to miss out on the final podium position.”