Red Bull Racing has denied suggestions that it is favouring Sebastian Vettel over Mark Webber, after it emerged that the latter had turned his engine down on the lap which the two collided on.
Mark Webber had earlier fuelled speculation by telling journalists in the post-race press conference to do some digging to find out why Sebastian Vettel appeared to be considerably faster on the run up to the accident.
Following its post-race debrief Red Bull later confirmed these suspicions, revealing that Webber had to save fuel and was asked to turn his engine down, whereas his team-mate remained on full power.
Subsequently, the team stated that Vettel had been able to run his Renault engine at full strength for longer than Webber as he had saved more fuel earlier in the race. However, the German only had enough extra fuel to run one more lap before he would have been forced to turn down his power plant. This meant that the 22-year-old would only have one realistic chance to snatch victory.
Speaking to reporters in Istanbul on Sunday night, team principal Christian Horner insisted that the outfit were well aware of the factors which lay behind the build up to the accident.
“We now have all the facts,” he said. “Mark had changed down into a fuel saving mode that cost him a little bit of performance on the straights, which also explains how Sebastian got a very clear run on him.
“The large mistake remains that not enough room was given, and the explanation is there on how Sebastian had managed to get into the tow. He had managed to save an extra kilogramme of fuel – as both cars start the race with the same amount of fuel.
“Effectively he had one more lap of the optimum engine mode, but we couldn’t back him off because he was under pressure from Lewis Hamilton behind.”
He added: “The frustrating thing is we have given away 28 points today and it should have been a 1-2. Both drivers have also lost points. From a team point of view it doesn’t matter which way around they are, but the priority is to finish 1-2 and that is exactly what we should have done today.”
Although Horner would not place the blame on any particular driver, he did believe that both men should have given each other more space on the race track.
“I think Mark put Sebastian on the dirty side, gave him just enough room and Sebastian came across obviously quite aggressively – but he was quite a long way down the side.
“So, it was very, very frustrating. We saw the McLarens racing each other and giving themselves a bit more room, we’ve seen drivers racing each other previously in Malaysia – which springs to mind as a recent race and they are usually very, very good at giving each other room. Today, for whatever reason, that didn’t happen.”
The Red Bull boss also moved to dispell suggestions that today’s incident was evidence that the team favoured Vettel over Webber.
“Both our drivers are treated absolutely equally,” he explained. “They both have the same equipment, they both have the same opportunity. That is a policy we operate and that is the way that the team is he managed to save a bit more fuel because he was in a slipstream for some of the race and he took advantage of that as is his right to do.
“He [Vettel] was under a lot of pressure from Hamilton behind, which got him into a position to pass Mark. Our priority at that stage is that we want to win the race. Even if the cars wanted to change position we were still first and second, and it is still 43 points for the team and both drivers were pulling away from McLaren in the championship.”
Horner’s comments were echoed by Red Bull’s motorsport advisor Helmut Marko, who stated:
“We are handling our team and both drivers in the same way. Vettel was under such pressure and if such a situation comes up you have to look after the team. We still could have been 1-2.”
“It wasn’t a situation where we were racing each other. We were under enormous pressure from the McLarens they were much faster on the straights so we had to gain our advantage in the corners.
“He [Vettel] had to attack otherwise he would have got overtaken by Hamilton it would have been completely different if the McLarens were 10-seconds behind, but that wasn’t the case.”
However, when asked to comment on the incident, Marko said that he believed that Vettel had been right to turn back into the middle of the track as he was ahead of his team-mate.
“He [Vettel] was already ahead, at least two metres ahead, and there was a corner to the left side coming, so he had to go for the line,” he said. “He cannot brake on the dirt because for sure he knows what happens.
“But it was unnecessary the whole situation. We will talk with everybody quite clearly to make it not happen again.”