Having withdrawn Sebastian Vettel's car from parc ferme
to investigate the problem that prevented race stewards from extracting a full litre of fuel from its tanks after qualifying, Red Bull Racing has decided to go to town on technical changes ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The German, who came to Yas Marina leading the championship by 13 points, was ordered to stop on track after his final qualifying run and, when there proved to insufficient fuel - or, as RBR insists, an unresolved extraction issue - to provide the necessary sample for checks, it led to his third-placed times being stripped and left him at the back of the grid. Red Bull then decided to return the #1 machine to its pit to investigate the problem, and opted to change various key components in a bid to enhance his chances in the 55-lap race on Sunday evening.
"The gearbox has been replaced with the approval of the FIA technical delegate following a written request from the team concerned, this being in accordance with Article 34.1 of the 2012 F1 Sporting Regulations," an official statement from FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer revealed, "But this gearbox change was before the five consecutive events expired [and] therefore this is not in compliance with Article 28.6a of the 2012 F1 Sporting Regulations.
"Further, the new gearbox has different ratios fitted than declared Friday after P2. Also changes to the suspension set-up are made on car number 01. Due to the different gear ratios [that have] been fitted and the suspension set-up changes, car number 01 should now be required to start from the pit-lane according to Article 34.5 of the 2012 F1 Sporting Regulations."
Starting from the pit-lane is no easy task in Abu Dhabi as, unique to any circuit on the F1 schedule, it exits via a sharp left turn and through a narrow tunnel. Because of that, technical director Charlie Whiting has revealed that he will take a slightly different approach to Vettel's start.
"The usual procedure is to wait until [the] last car on [the] grid has passed pit exit before the pit-lane light goes green," SpeedTV
report Will Buxton tweeted following a chat with Whiting, "Here, Charlie will look at turn one from his gantry [and], when all cars have gone through and he can no longer see them, [the] pit-lane light goes green. Vettel will be waiting at the lights, positioned at the end of pit-lane by the HRT garage, before the drop downhill to the tunnel."
Interestingly, Red Bull did not opt to put a fresh engine in the back of Vettel's RB8, as even using up a ninth engine would have only attracted a ten-place penalty, which would have been largely meaningless in light of what had already happened.
"We have some engines left for six of our eight drivers - one left, which we should use for this weekend," Renault's Remi Taffin confirmed on Friday, "So it will be up to eight this weekend for all our customers and we should be okay for the rest of the year."