For the second race in a row, Mark Webber
made a fiery exit from F1 proceedings, but the magnitude of his Korean conflagration could yet have an impact on his Japanese GP weekend.
Already on the back foot after his unconventional mode of transport back to the pits in Singapore earned him a ten-place grid penalty, the Australian was making progress through the pack – and may even have been on course for a podium finish – when two unfortunate occurrences served to bring a premature end to his afternoon's endeavours.
Having already made his second stop, Webber appeared to be sitting pretty when the safety car was summoned to retrieve the shed tread from Sergio Perez's right front tyre. However, with typical Webber fortune, running close behind the Mexican at the time of the incident gave the Red Bull
driver little time to avoid the debris that resulted, and he was forced to pit again in order to replace a punctured tyre of his own.
Dropping outside the top ten, and with a podium now unlikely, Webber was determined to salvage as many points as possible from the race, but did not even get past the first lap of the restart before being collected by an errant Adrian Sutil
under braking at the turn three hairpin.
The German had come from a long way back, and wasn't even attempting to pass Webber, when he lost control and entered the corner backwards. The Red Bull, which was already turning into the corner, arrested Sutil's progress, sustaining substantial right-side damage in the process. Although he tried to recover, it immediately became apparent to Webber that his own safety should be of paramount importance, as flames began licking from the sidepod and engine cover.
“After the tyre failure on Perez' car, I was very lucky to miss the tread that came off, but unbelievably I managed to get a puncture from going through the debris,” the Australian sighed, “Before that, I was very happy with how I drove and we'd got back to a very good position before I got the puncture….
“Of course, the incident with Sutil was obviously the end of my race. Everyone bottles back up [at turn three] and I was looking for a big exit on the next straight to use some KERS on Daniel [Ricciardo] and the Williams. Then Sutil, I don't know what happened, but obviously he hit me from the inside and that was that.”
The Australian duly alighted, and attempted to quell the flames with the car's own extinguisher, but it was several minutes before the blaze could be brought under control. The incident also prompted an unscheduled appearance, in the middle of the track, by a grey fire truck, apparently despatched by one of the local stewards without recourse to the race director….
Fortunately, the vehicle – which wasn't moving at the same speed as the pack even as the safety car attempted to pick up the leader – did not cause any further incident, allowing Webber to survey the injury to his RB9.