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Webber admits tyres may have caused pace confusion

25 March 2013

Mark Webber may have been seething after seeing victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix snatched from his grasp by Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, but admitted that the current tyre situation may have led to the German's decision to overtake.

Bringing the debate over Vettel's ethics and whether Red Bull had 'lost control' of its triple world champion back 'on topic', Webber added another jibe at the current Pirelli tyre compounds, which RBR, amongst others, believe are ruining racing by making grands prix more about tyre conservation that out-and-out competition.

Prior to the Malaysian race, both Red Bull and Mercedes suggested that it may be prudent to reintroduce last season's tyres, and Webber did little to disguise the fact that the Milton Keynes team was not going flat out in the latter stages of the race as it attempted to ensure its rubber lasted to the end. Both Webber and Vettel were forced into four stops for fresh tyres at Sepang, and the Australian questioned whether his team-mate, on the harder compound at the end of the race, figured that he was in trouble on the medium and having to lap slower than expected when, in reality, both drivers had been given the instruction to turn down their engines and hold station.

“Going into the event, we were pretty concerned, as some of our long runs before the grand prix itself were pretty poor,” Webber confirmed, “I think [the tyre situation] is quite good for the neutral and good for new people that are following F1, but [for] people who have more of a grasp of the sport, and more education of where the sport was, it's still a little bit hit and miss.

“You watch Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer play each other and it's playing with the lines, it's playing with precision for a five set match and we all enjoy watching that but, at the moment, we're driving at eight-and-a-half tenths, or eight-tenths, conserving our pace.

“I'm sure more situations like this will probably happen in the future because there's a lot of ambiguity in who's [on the] pace and who's quick. The racing is completely [based] around nursing and trying to make the tyres survive - they're not conducive to driving a car on the limit. You don't see us really pushing on the limit. Obviously, Seb and I had a push in the middle in our last stint but, generally, no drivers are really on the limit today.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner confirmed that both drivers had been told to back off in the name of tyre preservation.

"When that last pit-stop was complete, Mark was ahead – [although] it was very close on pit exit – [and], as far as we were concerned, it was a matter of managing the tyres to the end of race," he told Sky Sports after the race, "Following cars closely destroys tyres, and we know we've been marginal [on wear], so what we didn't want to do was find that we'd run out of tyres and taken an unnecessary risk. At that point, Sebastian has obviously chosen to ignore that."

Apologising for having a 'little rant', Webber said that F1 was setting a bad example for other series further down the ladder, where it was imperative for drivers to be able to hone the skills.

“I think, for the junior categories, they need to get the tyres and things better for young drivers to learn how to push the cars to the limit and drive absolutely on the edge,” he claimed.


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