Webber knew he'd get penalty
But Aussie fails to minimise damage after gearbox change
By Mike Wise at Spa. Last Updated: 01/09/12 7:14pm
Mark Webber knew throughout Formula 1's summer break that he would be on the back foot at the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.
The Australian suffered gearbox trouble during the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July, although Red Bull decided that he should finish the race in Budapest rather than retire.
The latter course of action would have cost Webber the four World Championship points of his eighth-place finish but the downside has been the knowledge that it would also cost him a five-place penalty at Spa.
According to the 36-year-old, he became aware of the problem on the Wednesday after the race. "I had a holiday on that," Webber said.
He added: "That was enough of a penalty. I lost points with that in Budapest because of the performance. But anyway, we got the car to the end but the gearbox was too damaged to run here so we had to put a fresh one in."
However, neither he nor his team were able to minimise the damage during a poor qualifying session for Red Bull on Saturday.
Whilst team-mate Sebastian Vettel missed out on a place in Q3, Webber made it through but after setting the seventh fastest time, the penalty means he will line up 12th on the grid.
"It was a difficult session for us. The car didn't feel too bad to be honest but ultimately the times are not quick enough," Webber said.
"We couldn't challenge for the front row and then it quickly turned into not challenging for the second row.
"Every driver knows he can do a little bit better putting it together, maybe a tenth-and-a-half, two-tenths absolute maximum. It's a bit frustrating when you see how tight the grid is. You've got to gain some spots but that's the same for every single person.
"We are where we are. I'd like to start seventh but obviously we have the penalty.
"For the team today, it's incredibly rare. It's something that we'll work on. That's the quality of the team. We work hard and that's why we've achieved so many good things in the past."
Yet with Webber staring down the grid past two Saubers, two Force Indias and a Williams on Sunday, he is hoping to make headway.
Polesitter Jenson Button, his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton and both Lotuses also start ahead, as does Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who lines up fifth and leads Webber by 40 points in the Drivers' Championship.
"We have a good opportunity to win some positions back. There's a few people out of position, us included. Even Jenson drove quick on Saturday. That's a surprise for him even, I'm sure," Webber quipped.
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Explaining his approach to the race, Webber explained: "The thing is, when you get a group of cars together, everyone's on the DRS. I want to pick individual fights, because everyone's on the DRS and everyone's doing the same top speed.
"You need to get people in isolation and then you've got a chance after Eau Rouge. But if everyone's together, the DRS doesn't work."
He added: "What we do know is that the form card is very even after qualifying. Different races unfold after what looks like a relatively unusual qualifying, but you would still say that the guys at the front generally have reasonable race cars as well.
"Let's see how the race unfolds and we need to be there to capitalise on any opportunity."