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Chinese Grand Prix 2013: Webber's woes worsen in Shanghai
14 April 2013
By anyone's standards, Mark Webber had a miserable few days of it in Shanghai this week, with events in the F1 2013 Grand Prix of China itself just the icing on the cake.
Webber had already suffered the embarrassment of running out of fuel in qualifying on Saturday, which left him with a penalty from race officials and saw hi start from pit lane for the Chinese GP the following day.
As he struggled to emerge from the race with some sort of consolation prize, he ended up crashing into the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne - for which he's been handed a three-place grid penalty that will compromise next weekend's race in Bahrain - and then had a wheel drop off after a pit stop, for which the team subsequently got a 5000 euro fine.
"We have had a few problems this weekend," he said in something of a case of masterly understatement. "I think we could have done something from our start position today, but it wasn't meant to be.”
There had been some novel thinking employed by the team when they started Webber on a set of soft tyres, in order to make a virtue of his enforced pit lane start. The team then brought him in at the end of the first lap to ditch the hated option tyres straight away, meaning that he could run the remaining 55 laps on the much more durable medium tyres.
The move seemed paying off and Webber was making steady progress through the field as other drivers cycled through their own pit stops - until Webber stumbled over Vergne's car on lap 15.
"I was coming from a reasonable distance behind, Jean-Eric was really wide, but when we came close to the apex he wanted to hit it, which he is entitled to do," he explained. "But by then I was committed to the inside and the incident happened." Webber pitted for a new front wing after the incident, but when he went out again he immediately realised there was a problem with his right rear wheel.
"Mark reported a problem with the right rear on the out lap, which had certainly left the pit lane fully torqued up," insisted Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. "The right rear then came detached from the car and caused Mark to retire. Until we get the car back, it's not possible to yet conclude the exact cause.”
"The guys thought the tyre was fixed when we left the stop, but it came off on the out lap," Webber added.
But Horner was quick to brush away any suggestions that yet another mishap for Webber was the result of a 'conspiracy' against the Australian within the Red Bull squad, in the wake of the falling out between the two drivers over team orders at Malaysia.
"Anybody that thinks there is a conspiracy here against one or either driver doesn't know what they are looking at," said Horner who labelled any such suggestions as being "complete rubbish", adding: "Forget conspiracy. It is all about trying to get two cars to finish as high as we can."
Even so, it left onlookers wondering whether or not this latest series of débâcles in Shanghai hasn't proved to be the final straw for Webber.
Even as the driver stood by the trackside next to his three-wheeled car waiting for a pick-up, rumours swept the media and Internet that Webber is poised to announce a five-year deal in the World Endurance Championship with Porsche.
While not supported by any official announcement - and the middle of the Chinese GP would certainly be very strange timing indeed to unveil such a startling high impact announcement - it goes to show how pervasive the feeling is that Webber is done with F1 in general and Red Bull in particular and can't wait to head off to new pastures in the near future.