Mark Webber, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2011

Vettel “definitely affected” by gearbox problem – Webber

2011 Brazilian Grand Prix

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Mark Webber, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2011
Mark Webber, Red Bull, Interlagos, 2011

Mark Webber has no doubt Sebastian Vettel’s gearbox problem in Brazil was real.

Vettel slowed and let Webber past to win after the team detected a gearbox problem on his car, prompting speculation Red Bull had contrived to hand Webber victory in the final race.

Writing in his column for the BBC Webber said: “[Sebastian] started getting a gearbox problem as we approached the first pit stops.

“I was closing in on him a bit but I don’t know how much time it was costing him at that point. But I do know it was a reasonably minor issue then, getting more serious as the race went on.

“He was definitely affected in the middle and towards the back part of the race. In the end, he let me by on lap 30 because the team knew the only way he would last all 70 laps and make the finish was by slowing down.”

Webber admitted he would have preferred to beat Vettel in a straight fight: “It was a bit disappointing in a way. I was feeling pretty good and it would have been nice to have a flat-out run to the flag against him.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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92 comments on “Vettel “definitely affected” by gearbox problem – Webber”

  1. Its great to see Webber saying how it’s a bit of a disappointment not to get the win by outracing Vettel, but by him suffering a problem. A real racer.

    And a bit sad how about 30-40% of people/fans still argue it might have been a trick, despite the whole team, both drivers and telemetry saying otherwise!

    1. @bascb Yeah in the poll here just over one-third suspected it was a fix:

      Was Vettel’s ‘gearbox problem’ team orders in disguise?

      But more than half thought otherwise (the rest were unsure).

      1. Those results reflected people’s opinion just after the race, when the suspicion was justified. You gave them the benefit of the doubt and some of us didn’t. However I think that a similar poll today would yield different results and more people would believe Red Bull. After they presented the telemetry, the case was pretty much closed.

        1. It’s sad they had to show the media the telemetry so they belive them.

          How low has F1 go that people need the teams to justify every single thing they do.

          1. Given the underhanded methods and coded messages some teams have employed when using team orders in the past, it’s not a surprise.

          2. I think that’s a good thing. If the teams were less secretive and on occasions sneaky then we’d be more obliged to take what they say as the truth. Otherwise prove it to us. Get the telemetry out!

        2. people’s opinion just after the race, when the suspicion was justified

          I don’t think it was “justified”. There being less information available doesn’t excuse putting two and two together and coming up with five.

          1. From your article:

            I’m not surprised that some people doubt Red Bull’s sincerity on this occasion. But based on the information available to us at the moment, I’m prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt.

            Many people weren’t prepared to give them that benefit. At the time team orders were a real possibility. It wasn’t a “conspiracy theory”, it was merely guessing. And it was guessing on both sides.

            It was nothing like “putting two and two together and coming up with five.”

    2. Everyone loves a conspiracy, fact of life. Did you know they faked the moon landing for instance? If people beleive that ignoring clear evidence blind can’t be too hard.

      Then there’s always those that think the whole things quite funny.

      1. Or that Webber has been gifting Vettle wins all year just to give the team a double world champ.

        1. LOL.

      2. thatscienceguy
        1st December 2011, 13:12

        It’s a little known fact that it was Helmut Marko on the grassy knoll.

        Kennedy was in front of Vettel at the time

    3. Although I don’t believe Webber would have fought for victory against Vettel, his spirit deserves praise.

    4. After the telemetry and Webber acknowledging he saw the signs, I wanted to change my answer because I was initially suspicious of them rigging something.

    5. I thought it must be a sensor problem cause gearbox issues are very hard to nurse usually they simply fail unnoticed or when they warn its terminal I could resurface alot of gearbox failures from the past to prove it. Half a lap before Lewis DNF, Coulthard thought he had seen tyre black line what he saw was a puff of black smoke from the gearbox, this was on the penultimate corner result 4 corners later kaboom, in the end i belive more in an sensor issue than a real problem I could resurface alot of gearbox failures from the past to prove it.

      1. There are plenty of things that can take ages to break, a bad mainshaft bearing will usually last just a few laps, but a selector barrel bush or 100 other things may take hours to rattle to bits! Ultimately Vettel made the decision to back off, based on the best advise available. Was he correct to do so, we will never know!

  2. Kind of strange for Mark to be commenting on this now, feels like the team might have ask’d him to.

    Almost certainly more out of irritaition more than anything else, unless of course ;)

    1. It’s a weekly column, it would be far more odd/suspicious if he didn’t mention it!

    2. @scribe

      Kind of strange for Mark to be commenting on this now, feels like the team might have ask’d him to.

      Webber’s words would have more weight than Vettel’s or Marko’s. If anyone else commented, the fans would be saying “Yeah, right, they’re just trying to cover themselves”. But because Webber was the man to benefit from Vettel’s problems, he gets nothing from lying about Vettel’s problems.

      1. (I don’t seriously think they faked the moon landing.)

    3. Actually I think Webber has said these things on Sunday evening already, just they got out in the world now.

      1. Correct. Although this is from his column he has already said he believed Vettel had a gearbox problem Sunday evening.

        He said he could smell the gearbox and could see oil leaking.

  3. There were always going to be suggestions that Red Bull staged Vettel’s problem to gift Webber a win. However, if the call for a gearbox problem was some secret code, we’d have heard about it by now – teams are entitled to use team orders, but they are not allowed to use coded instructions. With the FIA having access to all telemetry, they would have picked up on any attempt to dive under the radar and use a coded message by now. Red Bull stood to lose a lot more than they gained if they were caught.

    1. Well said PM, in six pages of posts on the “conspiracy” story on Monday I dont think anyone said it as well, if at all.

    2. @prisoner-monkeys I’m not saying that there was such a conspiracy, but how exactly would they know that it was a coded instruction? Wouldnt something like Fernando is faster amount to a coded instruction? I mean we know it was, but viewed independently, there is nothing proving that it was a coded message, if you get what I mean

      1. @raymondu999 – The FIA have access to the telemetry from the cars. The telemetry would warn Red Bull that Vettel’s gearbox was failing. After all, how else would they know he was in trouble? If the sensors placed in the gearbox did not show a failure when the team claimed there was (ie, it just showed Vettel slowing down and short-shifting), then the FIA would know that Red Bull was sending a coded message to Vettel, because they would have no other reason to tell him that his gearbox was failing when it was not.

  4. Webber did mention after the race in an interview that he could smell the oil from Vettel’s gearbox when he got close behind him… I’m surprised that hasn’t been mentioned before now. Anyone who thinks a man who admits he’s disappointed to win through his team-mate’s car troubles would go to this length to lie about the circumstances under which he took the win needs to rethink.

  5. It was always going to be real, during the BBC coverage they had a picture of a group of mechanics looking extremely stressed in the backrooms and the screens look like they had red graphs on them. Red Bull would never risk ruining their reputation over something like this for what ultimately didn’t gain them that much.

    Even when Webber won you could hardly call him ‘ecstatic’.

  6. Colin Vearncombe aka Black, a musician from Liverpool, once tweeted this:

    Wondering if what really scares conspiracy theorists is the thought that maybe things are as unnervingly prosaic as they seem

    As I was thinking about Vettel’s gearbox problem and the possible conspiracies behind that, this tweet came to my mind.

    1. That’s a great quote @Girts, it seems to apply well to this situation.

    2. Agreed.

      Surely a good conspiracy theorist can come up with something better than a faked gearbox problem.

      If I would have given it a go I would have said Red Bull deliberately gave Vettel a faulty gearbox because they knew people would question sudden problems handing Webber a win. Now they can prove Vettel had a problem and nobody questions them. Mission accomplished. ^^

      1. artificial racer
        1st December 2011, 21:45

        Red Bull just had to remotely activate the oil leak valve in Vettel’s gearbox until he was safely behind Webber.

        It’s ok though, this is just compensation for the rest of the season when the team clearly sabotaged Webber’s KERS.

      2. That’s the way to do it – give Vettel a dodgy, older gearbox with a high chance of problems.

    3. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to be able to look at possible alternative explanations. Also, final verdicts don’t have to be polarised, often opinions will slant towards one view knowing the other is almost just as plausible.

      If you go through life believing 100% of what people tell you, then what kind of life is that? Sometimes its better to question and be wrong than just to believe what you hear and then celebrate your judgement once you learn they were telling the truth.

      Let’s be honest, Red Bull have a bit of a history with this kind of thing that probably gave us ‘conspiracy theorists’ a slight push in one direction, but we were wrong – and I’m guessing most of us we’ll be happy to admit we got it wrong, much like I am doing now.

      1. @john-h You are right for sure, and I admit that a few of F1 ‘conspiracy theories’ or whatever you call them are or have been pretty reasonable. But most of them just don’t make sense and I think that ‘Vettel’s fake gearbox issue’ is one of them.

        Some people compare this with the ‘crashgate’, which was one of the cases where those who were suspicious from the beginning turned out to be right. I believe that situation was different, it’s clear why Renault did that. They were a relatively struggling team who had an opportunity to score the 1st victory in two years, get 10 points and additional prize money and increase sponsors’ interest. I can see no reason why RBR would play a theatre in this case. They already had secured both titles long ago, 2nd place in the DWC was unreal and nobody gives a damn about the 3rd place in the championship. OK, let’s pretend they wanted to boost Mark’s moreale but didn’t want to make fans angry once again by using blatant team orders. But then you have to assume that Mark didn’t know anything about that, otherwise it makes no sense again. And it’s very unlikely that the team could have been able to hide it from Mark as too many people are involved in the whole process.

  7. I don’t think he would have beaten him in staright fight, but here you go.

    Next season, different mindsets, different approaches, you’ll never know.

  8. Who cares now anyway, it’s all water under the bridge whatever was going on and it’s not as if it affected the chamionship outcome in terms of outright winner, which is the only position that really matters. Bring on 2012 winter testing and all the photos of the brand new weird and wonderful cars!!!

    1. which is the only position that really matters

      I disagree strongly.

  9. More often than not, conspiracy theories in f1 are correct. Remember Singapore scandal?

    1. But Briatore was nowhere near the Red Bull garage this weekend.

      Or was he…

      1. Everyone in formula one Paddock is used to doublespeak not just briatorie

  10. In f1 you should be as cynical as you can . Don’t be naive

  11. Twice, to public knowledge, RBR gave clear team orders to halt Webber as he closed on Vettel, Silverstone and Suzuka, so why on earth would they bother trying to cover an order to let Webber past Vettel?
    Makes zero sense.

  12. Jonathan_Byron
    1st December 2011, 13:26

    How odd¡ that the gearbox was broken in Interlagos 20 years after the feat of a racing driver Ayrton Senna not as the mediatic assembly made in Germany ,from radio Vettel says “this reminds me of Senna’s race in 1991” … it´s very curious that Ascanelli likened it to the great Ayrton Senna.

    or this other

    This car does any moves, there is not at only one countersteer any driver in the actual grid would be champion with this car.

    And want to compare with this …

    I think Bernie should having irrigate the track to make us believe in his new idol of crowds,surely this has been so resembled more.this sport is completely mannered
    without difficulties does not exist merit,today only are racing cars but only cars.
    Driver is less important every day.

    Mansell said ‘a monkey sitting at Williams would be world champion’ at least had the guts to recognize, not as another that only knows how to lift finger and show both what is cocky.

    Webber certainly has to be very thankful that your team has left you win a race and don´t you dare speak ill not be that you don´t pay it the salary at the end of the month.

    The telemetry can be manipulated.

    Bahrain 2008

    Braking test,be no doubt,not neccesary braking explicitly it may have another options to make
    and also his director Flavio Briattore has been the most cheating director in F1.Alonso´s vendetta at the first opportunity, and besides is a very old trick.

    Throughout this item, the old fox Ecclestone is on back again to make build another “super-driver”, to sell your product the F1

    Vettel = Schumacher II.

    1. Mostly nonsense.

      1. I don´t get it either

    2. Well VET didn’t drive a Williams, nor did he win a world championship at Williams. There was one more driver on the grid with that car and I certainly didn’t see him become a world champion. Pretty sure he did drive for Williams once. Next time you come with an argument, make sure to plug the hole before filling the tub.

      1. Jonathan_Byron
        1st December 2011, 20:27

        Yes, not drive a williams but drive a Red Bull “Two driver who have the same car” technically are equally but not in electronics,when dissapears the aggressive motor map,two are matched.

        in qualyfing

        -Vettel 16
        -Webber 3

        Fastest laps in race

        -Webber 7
        -Vettel 3

        It seems that Mark know how to go fast with Pirelli in race don´t forget fast drive also,curious disease is this, after the first laps,is where he acts the Newey invention
        is here where Vettel makes the difference in the rest of race he lives of profits.

        1. MW has more fastest laps, which didn’t matter at all when you’re 100+ (couldn’t be bothered to check) points behind.

          Here’s the race stat that matters:


          -Vettel: 11
          -Webber: 1

          They were not evenly matched.

          1. Jonathan_Byron
            2nd December 2011, 0:11

            -One rider.
            -one circuit.
            -two bikes.

            -first a Moto2.
            -second a MotoGp.

            driving for a same rider in the same circuit.

            -in Moto2 —-1:42
            -in MotoGp— 1:36

            If I dispose 70 or 80hp extra all the lap, is clear that I have a big advantage over other rivals, this is what the Renault engine and blown diffuser doing from Q3 to the first entry to the pits.That merit has then running with a rider for 15 laps with MotoGP and the rest with Moto2, always win the one carrying the MotoGP. All you have to do is finish races.Not only are the cold numbers that you get also how you get obtain this numbers.Webber simply doesn´t have this extreme mapping in your engine and therefore doesn´t qualify well at begining, he has a same or similar rhythm to that of other top drivers, this is the legal loophole for saying later they have the same car.

          2. In case you hadn’t realised, this isn’t MotoGP, its F1. Your point is clouded in nonsense- there is no loophole used to claim they have the same car- apart from setup, which all drivers choose, people in the same team have the same machine, and Vettel used that machine a lot better than Webber this year.

        2. The reason why Vettel don´t have more fastest lap is because before securing the WDC he always turned off his engine in the last laps…

  13. The only element of Webber’s story lacking credibility is his assertion that he would have been able to challenge Vettel without the gearbox problem. Vettel buried Webber in the first stint, according to his habit, and was not going to be troubled by anyone thereafter.

    1. Yep, considering how it had been all season, Vettel would have run away with it. But, Webber positioned himself well for once, and deserved the win.

      1. I agree, in the end good results have a little of luck in them. You need to be in the right place at the right time, but for one driver to get in that right place he has had to work hard…

    2. Webber was keeping within 3 seconds hoping Vettel may go off slightly, as it turns out vettel did exactly that at the exact spot Webber was thinking he would (Webber went off there also on the first lap, that’s how jenson got close). So he may have passed for the win like Jenson did in Canada, TBH that’s the only way you could pass him unless he had a mech problem or massive tyre deg.

    1. In response to jonathon byron. Conspiracy theory will stay at just that; a theory.

  14. Though I admit conspirocies have been too common in recent years, this one seems a bit rediculous.

    Why is it so hard to believe that mechanical parts can break? Engines and gearboxes are limited in quantity. With so many races, the REAL conspirocy is why there havent been more mechanical failures.

    While I am no fan-boy, it could be said that Vettel has been racing harder than any other driver, poles, fast laps, and multi-second gaps proves that. At this point, his equiptment allocation must be quite shabby.

    1. Jonathan_Byron
      1st December 2011, 19:54

      javlinsharp said on 1st December 2011

      Though I admit conspirocies have been too common in recent years, this one seems a bit rediculous.Why is it so hard to believe that mechanical parts can break?

      Yes, but not usually break when one is interested, is made to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the epic race Ayrton Senna at Interlagos 1991 where he finished in that race Senna fainting, having lost all gears except sixth and besides this, a very enlightening conversation via radio…

      Vettel -“This reminds me of the problem that Senna had the gearbox in 1991”

      Hahahahahahahahaha…. a joke? it so funny.

      by this theater function, I don´t payment nor one pound,they want to combine two things that don´t stick neither with a glue and also have won the second place in the championship sandwiching a second red bull ,the only one who had a real gearbox problems at Interlagos was Lewis.Frankly really you think it’s necesary so much ink in comment at the stupidity of the gearbox in Interlagos and hoopless tire of Abu Dabhi. Think a bit.

      Undoubtedly this is actual F1.

      this situation remenber me at…'s_New_Clothes

      somebody would have be the first to say it.

      1. …Were you planning on making some kind of sense at some point in the near future?

      2. Let’s see….poor spelling, terrible grammar, a link in a language that most people don’t understand and is, virtually, meaningless, another link that is a non-sequitur and dialogue that just seems “mental”. Not the sharpest javelin in the box, but I get his/her point which is that it is foolish and a waste of time to propose situations that are unknown and unprovable.
        My opinion of Mark Webber? I don’t think he would have fared any worse than any of the drivers below him in the championship, even if he had been driving the same car as they were, most, maybe better.
        I’d still like a rational theory as to why he has had such a devil of a time at getting off of the grid though.

        1. Jonathan_Byron
          2nd December 2011, 22:22

          Obviously my grammar and spelling should be a disaster , probably if you speak my language you would not do better.I say this with total respect, I hope you don´t misunderstand me,also must be a culture shock is evident.

          Summarizing first idea:

          -Vettel and Senna didn´t look anything however much they strive Marko, Ascanelli Horner and all media,when one is really good the marketing campaigns to reinforcing the image doesn´t need.

          The video in Portuguese, not is necessary to understand Portuguese, only see it by understand that find any parallels between circumstances of 1991 and 2011 are just ridiculous and for this the joke later, is evident that you and I don´t share the same sense of humor.

          The_Emperor’s_New_Clothes, why?

          Because everyone seems to walk on the correct line marked by the media is ie as in the tale of Hans Christian Andersen, everyone tells the king that it is dressed, when the reality is that
          is naked and only one child dares to say the king is naked. Although not if you have read this book,and excuse me for my bad English.

          Thank You.

          1. Obviously you’re taking the Senna 1991 thing too seriously, and still, the rest of your post(s) doesn’t make sense.

  15. It was a bit disappointing in a way. I was feeling pretty good and it would have been nice to have a flat-out run to the flag against him.

    Mark, I get this. But wasnt he pulling away in his typical Vettel style at a rate of ~1s per lap?

    1. Disregard, upon further review it appears that they were closer than I thought. Vettel did pull his typical gap (2 qualifying laps from race start) but the pace a few laps in was close.

    2. @d3v0 I reckon Vettel would/could have tapped into further resources if he needed to defend. He has no need to push and risk damaging elements of the car if he’s comfortably ahead.

  16. StefMeister