The scrum of journalists camped outside the Red Bull Racing Energy Station wanted to know only one thing after the race: whose fault was it? The incident in question was the collision between Mark and his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, while they were dicing for the lead of the Turkish Grand Prix.
“I am very comfortable with my side of things,” says Mark. “I saw Sebastian coming down my inside, so I stayed tight because I wanted him to be on the dirty stuff as we approached the braking area. I held my line and he moved across on me; there wasn’t much contact, but you don’t need much at 300kph (186mph) for it to end in tears.”
Luckily, Mark was able to continue in the race – albeit after a pitstop for a new front wing – and he went on to finish third, behind race winner Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. But his fourth podium of the year wasn’t what the world’s press wished to talk to him about; the media wanted to know why Sebastian – in an identical car – had managed to get such a good run on Mark during the immediate lead-up to the accident.
“The team had asked me to turn down my engine,” says Mark, “which is what I did. Whether or not Seb got the same message, I don’t yet know, but that might explain why he was suddenly so much quicker than me along the straight.
“Of course this outcome was a very unfortunate result for Red Bull Racing because Seb’s DNF meant we gave McLaren 28 points on a plate. But let’s not forget that I finished third; I’ve had worse days in my life.”
Up until lap 41, the Turkish Grand Prix weekend had gone very well for Mark. He’d tested Red Bull Racing’s new ‘F-duct’ during Friday practice, with some promising results, and he’d gone on to take his third pole position in a row on Saturday afternoon. He then made the perfect getaway at the start of the race and the first time he came close to being headed was when he had the incident with Vettel.
“The first stint of the race was very interesting,” says Mark. “Lewis was leading the chasing pack and we found a very good rhythm. He might have been a little quicker than me, but I had track position and there was no way he was going to find a way through.”
Mark and Lewis pitted together on lap 15, but Mark stayed in front and the next phase of the race saw both Red Bulls and both McLarens lapping very quickly at the head of the field. Until, that is, the shunt on lap 41 that gifted McLaren a one-two finish.
“There were still 17 laps to go at the time of the accident,” says Mark, “but I’m confident that I could have won this race. I wasn’t quite as happy on the prime tyres as I’d been on the options, but the car still felt okay; I felt in control of the race.
“Seb and I have to sit down and chat about what happened. We’ll probably have a difference of opinion about what happened until we go to our graves, but we’re both adults and we need to press on. If we’d been fighting for 18th and 19th positions when the accident occurred, no-one would have cared; as it was, we were fighting for the lead and it’s all anyone wants to know about.”
Mark Webber is the Team Principal of MW Arden, a three car team in the new GP3 series supporting European Grands Prix.