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F1 China 2013: Penalties for Webber and Gutierrez

14 April 2013

Mark Webber's disastrous 2013 Chinese Grand Prix experience ended with the race stewards handing him some salt to rub into the still-smarting wounds, as he was handed a three-place grid penalty to serve next week at Bahrain.

Webber was found to have been responsible for the collision with Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne on lap 16 of the race at Shanghai International Circuit on Sunday afternoon.

The race left Vergne with some damage but able to continue after recovering from being spun around, while Webber's car suffered damage to its front wing and then had the right rear wheel fall off after he'd returned to pit lane to have a new nose and fresh set of medium compound tyres fitted.

At the time, Webber insisted that he was not to blame for the incident and that Vergne had appeared to give way to him as a courtesy from Toro Rosso to their sister team in the paddock.

"One view looks like Jean-Eric is giving me the line, the other looks more like it is me," said Webber. "It compounds an amazing weekend for me," he said ruefully.

"The start of the race was going OK and we decided to get rid of the other tyres quickly and then regroup," he continued. "But then I got to Jean-Eric. I was coming from a reasonable distance behind but he knew I was there. He looked like I was going to get past him and then he went for the apex. It's disappointing."

Vergne said that he hadn't been thinking of allowing Webber past at that point and that the clash had been entirely the Red Bull's fault.

"I think Mark could not have got through from where he tried and I'm not even sure if he was trying to pass me," the Frenchman said in the paddock after the race. "Certainly I didn't even know he was there. Unfortunately, the impact put me into a spin and the incident damaged my floor.

"From then I lost a lot of downforce," he sighed. "It was not a good race from then on, having lost a lot of time and having to drive a damaged car. It's not been a good weekend, as I did not have a smooth time of it from the start," he said, adding that he was looking forward to getting back on track in five days time in Bahrain.

Meanwhile Sauber's Esteban Gutiérrez has been handed the slightly higher penalty of a five-spot grid penalty for the next race, after ploughing into the back of Adrian Sutil's Force India at high speed into the turn 14 hairpin on lap 6.

"It was definitely a mistake," admitted the Mexican, expending his apologies to Sutil for ending both of their races early. "I didn't consider the amount of speed I had on the straight and I lost a lot of downforce into that corner and tried to my best to stop the car.

"I should have considered a little bit more distance to brake as I approached the corner and the car in front quicker than I expected," he added. "I had nowhere to go."

The official notice from the race stewards, which in for the 2013 China GP included Mark Blundell, noted that Gutiérrez had "admitted he had misjudged his closing speed."

"I guess Gutierrez missed his braking point and had nowhere to go but into the back of my car," said Sutil. My rear wing was broken and there was no option but to stop."

The race stewards then went on to investigate a series of incidents in which eight drivers appeared to use DRS while there were yellow flags being shown out in the circuit.

Among the drivers who were waiting to hear if their race classifications might be affected are Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Riccardo, Jenson Button, Romain Grosjean and Max Chilton.

However, the stewards deemed no further penalties were applicable, although Red Bull was fined for the unsafe release of Webber's car from the pit lane with a wheel insecurely attached. (See separate story.)


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