Adrian Newey admits one-stop strategy with Sebastian Vettel was "tantalisingly" in reach
Red Bull design guru also admits he didn't expect such a high finish
Last Updated: 06/11/12 8:34am
Red Bull technical chief Adrian Newey has revealed the team were "tantalisingly close" to not pitting Sebastian Vettel for tyres for a second time in the Abu Dhabi GP.
Amid his fightback through the field from his grid demotion in Sunday's 55-lap race, Vettel pitted for the first time for tyres and a change of front wing following damage while the race was behind the first safety car on lap 13.
With the cars ahead all pitting for their own scheduled single stops more than ten laps later, Vettel suddenly found himself ahead of title rival Fernando Alonso in second place on the road, raising the spectre of Red Bull trying to complete a 42-lap stint on the soft tyres in a bid to hold the position and against all the odds increase their driver's title lead.
But, with 18 laps to go, Red Bull opted to bring Vettel in for a second time, the stop dropping the German back to fourth, and although in the closing laps he passed Jenson Button for third place, ultimately ran out of time to make an impression on Alonso.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz after the race, Newey admitted the one-stop option had been a seriously consideration on the Red Bull pit wall but that they ultimately decided that they couldn't quite make the tyres last the distance.
"We had the debate of course and we looked at the wear from Mark [Webber]'s tyres once they came off," he told Ted.
"It was tantalisingly close that's for sure but as we've so often seen, if you overcook it then suddenly you've thrown away crunch loads of time and instead of finishing, as it turned out, third he could have ended up back in eighth again or something.
"So we didn't think we were quite going to make it, unless there was another safety car, but we couldn't take that gamble. So as soon as he was clear of [Romain] Grosjean then we elected to pit."
Although a second safety car was deployed almost immediately after Vettel rejoined the circuit, Newey confirmed that, given the caution period ultimately proved relatively short, they would have needed "another one beyond that one" to have made any one-stop plan work.
Nonetheless, the Englishman admitted to Ted that he had never expected to be salvage such a strong result in the first place having started from the pitlane.
Asked if he had shared Vettel's expectation of a podium finish, Newey replied: "Crikey, no, not really. We'd done our simulations and were hoping for minor placings, so somewhere between eighth and maybe fifth was the expectation - certainly not a podium."
The decision late on Saturday night to thrown Vettel out of qualifying for fuel irregularties had appeared to deal a hammer blow to the German's hopes of a third successive world title heading into the season's final two races.
But in wake of an ultimately successful recovery job, Newey paid fullsome tribute to the Red Bull team as a whole.
"I often say I feel as if my character's been fully formed and that was another example of it!" he added.
"It was a very stressful weekend. I think the Red Bull team handled the problem we had in qualifying very well. Sebastian did a brilliant job of not being down in the mouth. Everybody knuckled down and did their best to rescue as much as we could out of it.
"We were all here late last night deciding what we could do having elected to pull the car out of parc ferme, that left us free on set-up, gear choice, wing level and so forth so we re-optimised the car for overtaking even though we felt we were giving away a little bit of ultimate race pace. Where we were going to lose track time was getting past people rather than the last tenth of race pace, or lap time, [so that] was the trade we made."