Red Bull MUST solve reliability issues

Red Bull had a disappointing weekend in Australia with a DNF for Sebastian Vettel and a 9th place finish for native son Mark Webber. Perhaps most unfortunate is that Vettel could be heading to Malaysia with 50 points and the lead in the 2010 drivers title but he now faces the daunting task of reclaiming his composure and charging back into the hunt.

Reliability is obviously the specter that Vettel faces and the situation is starting to remind me of the Newey/McLaren days with young phenom Kimi Raikkonen. Both Vettel and Raikkonen can drive the wheels off of a car and only Ferrari were capable of making a car to withstand the punishment that Raikkonen can give. That successful marriage netted the Finnish driver a world title in 2007. It remains to be seen if Red Bull designer Adrian Newey can build a car for Vettel’s style. Vettel said of his race:

“I felt that something was wrong one lap earlier than I went off. I had some sparks coming up from the front left wheel; we didn’t know what it was and so wanted to pit. Then, a couple of corners before, I had huge vibrations building up and as soon as I touched the brakes, I had some sort of failure going in to Turn 13 and ended up in the gravel. There was nothing I could have done, I lost the car and that was it. It’s a shame as I think we had the race in total control at every stage, even though the conditions were difficult. But to win you have to finish. It breaks my balls not to get the win, but there’s still a long way to go in this Championship. We’re working hard to get on top the reliability issues and we hope to have a solid race and see the chequered flag in Malaysia.”

Mark Webber was a different story this weekend. It certainly could be argued that having to take an extra lap, while Vettel made his tire change, probably scuttled the Australian’s race but his charge back to the front added to the excitement of the race and ended in tears as he caused an accident taking both Hamilton and himself out of the running.

“My start was tricky with a lot of wheel spin, but I was happy to get away with third. After the safety car, the race was going well. I wanted to get in on the lap that Sebastian pitted to change to dry tyres, but obviously whoever’s ahead has the call so I had to do an extra lap on the intermediates, which lost me a lot of time. Leaving the pits I couldn’t get second gear and went wide. I knew I had to make the moves on track. We then decided to pit which worked out okay. At the end of the race we caught the leading guys, but then we had the incident. I apologise to Lewis about that. I lost all down-force in the front of the car when I got close to them, the car lifted and I slid into the back of him. Unfortunately it had looked like a good finish, but it’s still very difficult to follow in these cars. I went down fighting, I wasn’t happy with sixth place and wanted to get a podium, but in the end it was a tough day for the team. We’ll be back.”

Effectively Webber said he was thinking of the fans and wanted to make it an exciting race. He didn’t want to leave anything on the table. He told BBC:

“Well, I went down fighting,” Webber said. “In the end, when you are a little on the back foot, as we were for different reasons, like I say the first stop and things like that.

“I think it was best to throw caution to the wind and get into it. I was thinking of Bahrain for the people at home, maybe we should do something different, so in the end I didn’t want it to finish like that but hopefully it was a bit more enjoyable.”

Well, er, thanks Mark…I think.

Christian Horner is not happy with the weekend as well and if I am him, I am worried about having arguably one of the best drivers on the grid and not having a car that can handle the task at hand. Vettel signed for an additional two years and to be honest, the team has to step up. I know they are trying hard but F1 is fleeting and they may never get this chance again so it is imperative not to scuttle the resources you have in hand. Horner said:

“Ultimately an extremely disappointing day. Having been in control of the race, the second in succession, Sebastian unfortunately retired with what looks like a wheel related issue (front left), which certainly cost him a comfortable race win today. It was cruel luck for him for the second year in a row here in Australia. With Mark, at his home GP, he dropped a place at the start, but then was making progress in the damp and tricky conditions. We had to leave him a lap longer than Sebastian to change to dry tyres, as he would have lost too much ground pitting immediately behind him. As the circuit went from intermediates to slicks, he made a couple of good passing moves on Massa, but then, unfortunately, he got tangled up with Hamilton for the first time in the race. After everything had settled down and with the position he was running in, we decided we had nothing to lose by putting another set of tyres on to let him have a go in the last ten laps, which Rosberg and Hamilton also elected to do. We got Rosberg at the stop but Lewis and Mark got tangled together which resulted in Mark having to pit again for a nose change. Ninth place after starting the race with two cars at the front of the grid is massively disappointing.”

I am not marginalizing the issue as I know Horner is in complete understanding of the situation but it has to be frustrating to have such a terrific talent and not be able to capitalize. Not unlike McLaren’s weekend come to thin about it.

Red Bull must regroup and Newey has to take a long look at this car. One wonders if the departed Geoff Willis may have been handy in this situation.

Then there is the sigh of relief from Fabrice Lom of Renault:

“What a sad result. The only good thing from today was that we didn’t have any engine problems, but that’s it. It’s a sad day – we had the tool to win the race. We need to tie all our work in all areas together in order to bounce back for the next race. I would like to congratulate Renault for their second place – well done to them.”

To paraphrase, “well, at least the engine held up”. That a boy Fabrice! From zero to hero in a two week time span. To be honest, he’s right.

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