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F1: Being Mark Webber

Bryan Edwards

Some say that Mark Webber is the unluckiest man in F1. That's wrong: he's one of the unluckiest men in any sport. But it's also true that one makes one's own luck.

Let's put on one side that Webber and his team mate are pretending a truce while it's clear from the body language that being in the same country, never mind the same room, is not a pleasant experience for either of them.

Let's look at Webber's Shanghai GP 2013 in isolation.

Qualifying: Q2 - the team failed to fuel his car sufficiently for his run and to get back to the pits. He appeared to run ouf of fuel and parked. The blame was put on refuelling kit that delivered 3kg of fuel less than had been "ordered." The team said, with surprising alacrity and long before qualifying was finished, that the bowser had been "quarantined."

For Webber, running out of fuel meant that the car did not have the minimum one-litre of fuel required for a scrutineering sample. It also fell foul of a rule that requires any car that stops during qualifying to have a quantity of fuel equivalent to that which would have been used to get back to the pits. So, by definition, a car that runs out of fuel during qualifying is going to end up at the back of the field - if it's allowed to race at all.

For Webber, once it was clear he would be allowed to race, the failure turned into a good thing: his team were able to fit a new gearbox without the usual ten-place penalty because you can't go any further back than last. There was nothing wrong with the gearbox but the change allowed the team to fit "taller" gear ratios which would help down the long straight where Red Bull were at a 17kph top speed disadvantage against Ferrari.Webber did not seem disturbed by the situation. One has to wonder if the whole thing were planned to allow for the change of gearbox and - importantly, to allow for the second part of what might be a clever strategy: starting from the pit lane on soft tyres, he treated the first lap as a warm up lap, getting heat into the brakes and making sure everything worked. Then he dived into the pits after the first lap, ditched the rubbish soft tyres and set off in pursuit of the field, working his way up to 11th.

That would have been fine, until his team-mate Vettel came out of the pits behind him. The newer rubber would, inevitably, mean that Webber would be told to move over for Vettel who was on a completely different strategy. Webber appeared to decide to put a car from another team between himself and Vettel and made a dive inside the Torro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne. They collided. Webber said. perhaps "whined" is a better description, that the incident was Vergne's fault but it was difficult to see how: the move looked at best optimistic and at worst foolhardy. The stewards agreed and Webber will have a three place grid penalty at next week's Bahrain race.

But that was not the end of Webber's misery. Pitting for a new nose after the collision, the team made another good decision and fitted a set of new medium tyres. Unfortunately, they didn't fit a set of wheels and, having reported that the rear right was wobbling and being told to nurse the car back, Webber had to retire, in exactly the same place as he parked in qualifying, when the wheel fell off.

Some will see conspiracy: but the team did every thing right for Webber, including - perhaps - manipulating his starting position. And it was working, at least until the wheel fell off. Today, it is difficult to see that the fault lies with anyone but Webber who seems to have let his emotions get the better of him.

And that's a shame.