China crisis for Webber with no fuel, no wheel, no points and a penalty

Mark Webber parks at the side of the track

Mark Webber parks at the side of the track after losing a wheel

First no fuel in qualifying, then without a wheel in the race, Mark Webber ended a dismal Chinese Grand Prix weekend with his Red Bull rolling into retirement while a rear tyre bounced down the track on Sunday.

Starting from the pitlane after being sent to the back of the grid because Red Bull failed to put enough fuel in his car for Saturday’s qualifying, the Australian lasted just 18 of the 56 laps.

In that short time, he pitted twice and broke the front wing in a collision with the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne.

The Stewards took a look at the incident and handed Webber a three grid place penalty effective at the next round in Bahrain.

Webber explained,  “The start of the race was going OK and we decided to get rid of the other tyres quickly and then regroup. But then I got to Jean-Eric [Vergne].”

Wheel on Mark Webber's Red Bull works itself loose

Wheel on Mark Webber’s Red Bull works itself loose

“I was coming from a reasonable distance behind but he knew I was there. He looked like I was going to get past him and then he went for the apex. It’s disappointing. One view looks like Jean-Eric [Vergne] is giving me the line, the other looks more like it is me. It compounds an amazing weekend for me…” added the Australian.

The afternoon was in stark contrast to the previous Malaysian Grand Prix, where he led until world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel ignored instructions from the pit wall not to overtake and denied him victory.

The feud between the team mates was the talk of the Shanghai paddock in the run-up to the race but they never came close to racing each other, let alone being in a position for Webber to exact any revenge.

The nearest it came to any drama, in a race dictated by tyre strategy, was when Vettel almost hit the loose right rear wheel as he rounded the turn 14 hairpin and found it bouncing and rolling in front of him. (Reuters)