|© AP Photo/Greg Baker
As bad as things seemed for Mark Webber at the Malaysian Grand Prix, they took a sharp turn for the worse at the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday.
The Red Bull driver was forced to start at the back of the grid in Sunday's race after running out of fuel in qualifying.
Red Bull blamed a "fuel bowser problem" for failing to put enough in the tank for Webber to complete a timed lap in the second stage of qualifying and make it back to the pits, with the Australian marooned out on the track.
F1 rules dictate that any car which stops on track during qualifying must have at least a litre of fuel in its tank to provide a sample for stewards, but Webber's Red Bull had only 150 millilitres. That meant he was banished to last on the starting grid.
"We need a bit of luck now," Webber said. "It's not the optimum starting position, but we still have to try to get something from there."
The bad luck, or bad management, compounded Webber's woes which began back in Malaysia when teammate Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and passed the Australian in the closing stages to snatch the win.
That prompted an extraordinary amount of vitriol to flow between the two feuding drivers, with Vettel no sooner arriving in China than he was accusing Webber of not being a team player and admitting his Malaysia actions were partly payback for the Australian's perceived failure to help him on past occasions.
The public nature of the spat increased the likelihood that this year will be Webber's last in the dysfunctional though very successful Red Bull team, and he would have been eager to put in a strong performance on Sunday as a riposte to Vettel and other figures within the team he believes favour the German.
But the chances of a win, or a podium finish, appear very remote after Saturday's penalty, even allowing for Webber's past history of storming through the field at Shanghai.
Two years ago, Webber started from 18th on the grid after another qualifying miscalculation. He produced a remarkable drive to finish third -- a career highlight to rank almost alongside his wins at Monaco and Silverstone.
"The good thing about the race here is that, particularly with the strategies, it is open," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. "And Mark's demonstrated the year before last he can come from a lowly grid position and still be right up there by the end of the race."