Sebastian Vettel has confirmed he switched chassis ahead of this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix because of his poor performance in China, but the quadruple world champion kicked off the first European race weekend of the year with another setback.
The German, winner of the last nine races of 2013, was using a different chassis to the one raced so far but he completed just four laps in the Red Bull RB10 before pulling over with an electrical problem.
Marshals handed him a fire extinguisher as he inspected the car before hitching a ride back to the paddock on a scooter.
“We had a full electrical shutdown on Seb’s car. We’re not sure what caused it. It cut the radio and everything,” said team principal Christian Horner.
Although the car was returned to the pits, the problem prevented Vettel from taking any further part in the morning session.
After Shanghai, where the reigning world champion was ordered to move aside for the quicker Daniel Ricciardo, Helmut Marko said Vettel would get a new chassis for Barcelona because his original RB10 could have “a hairline crack”.
However speaking ahead of the Barcelona weekend, chief designer Rob Marshall this week seemed to contradict Marko when he said Vettel’s chassis change “was scheduled at the start of the season”.
“From our point of view we’d rather give them one or two new chassis during the season that we have been able to check out in the factory using various testing methods,” he explained.
However, German Vettel on Thursday revealed that his new RB10 for Spain actually isn’t ‘new’ at all.
“Obviously if you change, you change to a new one, but we decided to change back to an older chassis just to make sure nothing is wrong,” he told reporters.
Vettel said the decision to revert to the winter testing chassis is to eliminate a flaw as the potential cause of his recent struggles.
“We don’t think that there was anything wrong with the old chassis but nevertheless we decided to change,” he explained.
“It’s more a sanity check rather than a real problem with the other chassis. It’s just to try everything we can and basically reset and start again.”
Teammate Ricciardo on Thursday told Totalrace it is not unusual for Vettel to be switching chassis, “I think if you feel you have races that are at less than optimal performance, you try to find some answers.”
“I will change eventually as well, but the last few races have been good for me, so I have no reason to yet.” (GP247-GMM)