|© AP Photo/Mark Baker
If a fuel mishap in qualifying wasn’t enough, Red Bull worsened Mark Webber’s weekend after a wheel on his car was fitted loosely after a pit stop, consequently ending his Chinese Grand Prix prematurely on Sunday.
The Australian driver was excluded from the results after Saturday’s qualifying as the FIA found that he was underfulled for the session - forcing the driver to stop on the track - against the regulations.
Failing to make into the top-ten shootout was already a handicap but a penalty which put him on the back of the grid was another. Red Bull, though, opted to start Webber from the pit lane instead, making several changes on his car ahead of the race.
The 36-year-old made up ground and looked strong enough to finish in the points but on lap 16, he collided with the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne at Turn 6 forcing him to pit for repairs.
However, the right rear wheel wasn’t fitted properly with Webber reporting the problem over the radio immediately when he headed back out on the track. Red Bull instructed him to head back to the pits, but then the wheel came off at Turn 16, into the path of other drivers, including teammate Sebastian Vettel.
"The guys thought the tyre was fixed when we left the stop, but it came off on the out lap," he said.
He retired on the spot and was later handed a three-place grid penalty for the Bahrain Grand Prix next weekend, as the stewards ruled that Webber was the cause of the collision with Vergne.
"You could not script it, could you?" Webber said referring to his nightmare qualifying and then the race.
"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, but by then I was committed to the inside and the incident happened," he explained.
Vergne claimed that he didn’t even know that Webber was there.
“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," said the Frenchman.
Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost called the collision unfortunate "especially as it’s a particular shame when this happens within the Red Bull ‘family’"