Even Ferrari smelled a rat on Sunday when Sebastian Vettel let his teammate Mark Webber pass for victory during the 2011 season finale. Before the Brazilian Grand Prix, Australian Webber had failed to win a single race all season but was mathematically still in the fight for second place in the drivers’ championship. In the race, he passed dominant back-to-back world champion teammate Vettel after the 24-year-old developed what Red Bull described as a gearbox problem.
But suspicions were roused in the media centre when the young German continued to set fast laptimes from second place, and it also emerged that Vettel’s gearbox had been freshly installed before the event.
“They are really good at dealing with problems,” Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali is quoted as having coyly told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport.
Vettel, who compared the situation to Ayrton Senna in 1991 when the fabled Brazilian managed to drive around a gearbox problem at Interlagos to win, insists his issue was genuine.
“I can tell you that I had a gearbox problem,” he said when asked by a cynical reporter.
And Webber told O Estado de S.Paulo’s Livio Oricchio: “I’ve agreed with you many times this year, but not this time.”
Auto Motor und Sport quotes the race winner adding: “I could smell it (Vettel’s failing gearbox). And you could see that he was losing oil.”
Indeed, the team’s Dr Helmut Marko told German broadcaster RTL that Vettel’s gearbox was almost completely depleted of fluid after the race.
“I think Adrian Newey usually says ‘There is too much oil in the gearbox’,” the Austrian smiled, “but I think he can see now that it is all there for a reason!”