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GP Week : Issue 191
A virtual back-to-back safety Car period started and ended Mark Webber's sunday comeback amid the curious on-track intervention of an suV. A front-right blowout from Sergio Perez on the run to Turn 4 – caused by a severe lock-up by the McLaren driver at Turn 1 – nearly took out an unsuspecting Webber, who just managed to outrun the flying debris. But the incident, which brought out the first afternoon’s two Safety Cars, made Webber easy pickings for Lewis Hamilton when it became clear the Australian had picked up a puncture. As the Safety Car was called out to remove Perez’ debris Webber decided to pit with a view to running to the end of the race. But the move did not go to plan: at the restart Adrian Sutil and Webber got into a scuffle in the braking zone at Turn 3, sending both drivers off. The rear end of the Force India snapped sideways under braking and sent Sutil spinning into the path of Webber. Detecting a problem post-contact, Webber pulled to the side of the track before the back end of his car erupted in flames. After the race, the Australian said his assumption was that the RB9’s KERS unit had caught fire. “The incident with Sutil was obviously the end of my race today,” Webber said. “I don’t know what happened, but obviously he hit me from the inside and that was that. There was quite a lot of damage at the back of the car and I hope it hasn’t gone towards the chassis – we will have to see before the next race.” If a rebuild or new chassis are required it will be a challenging task for the team to complete in the short break between back-to-back races taking place a 14-hour flight from Red Bull’s Milton Keynes headquarters. But the well- resourced team are one of the best on the grid at overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and are certain to rise to the challenge – no matter how difficult. Asked whether Webber’s engine had suffered any damage in the blaze, RenaultSportF1's Thierry Salvi said it was too early to tell. “It’s too early to tell if we can re-use the engine yet – we will have to look at the damage,” said Salvi. “There is plenty to study in the week before Japan now, particularly with the strong position Sebastian is now in the championship.” In a farcical response to the incident, a fire truck masquerading as an SUV took to the track ahead of race leader Sebastian Vettel, serving as a temporary Safety Car before Bernd Maylander was able to lead the pack in the real McCoy. The fire truck was sent out at the request of the FIA, but led the field thanks to a miscommunication between Race Control and the trackside officials. “It’s not great getting stuck behind the Safety Car,” joked Vettel in the post- race press conference. “It wasn't quite clear that it was the Safety Car but then the Safety Car board was flashing and I lifted. Obviously I saw that there was another car on the track. I think it was a BMW or... no, sorry – it looked like a BMW. I think it was a Hyundai or KIA SUV. You want the number plate?” Fire Truck turns Safety Car ... 34 GPWEEK.com // 34 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> KOREA