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Webber masters a bumpy ride

Mark Webber concedes that the Turkish Grand Prix weekend has not been the smoothest of his season, but he is flawless when it matters.
Mark Webber of Red Bull celebrates his third pole in succession in Istanbul yesterday.
Mark Webber of Red Bull celebrates his third pole in succession in Istanbul yesterday.

ISTANBUL // Mark Webber conceded that the Turkish Grand Prix weekend has not been the smoothest of his season, but he was flawless when it mattered - and so was the Red Bull RB6. For the seventh time in as many Formula One races in 2010, Adrian Newey's aerodynamic masterpiece will start from pole position for today's race.

Webber suffered an engine failure during Friday's second free practice session, but the detonated Renault V8 was approaching the end of its expected life cycle. He then sat out the opening part of yesterday morning's session, because of a hydraulic problem, but a 1min 26.299secs lap gave him a fractional edge during the final moments of qualifying. Lewis Hamilton got close at an open circuit that suits the McLaren-Mercedes much better than Monaco did, two weeks ago, but the bottom line is the Red Bull-Renaults were fully 14kph faster anything else through Turn Eight.

"We are losing about 0.4secs to them through there," said Hamilton. The McLaren was fast enough to claw some of that back during the balance of the lap, but Hamilton's best efforts still left him 0.138secs adrift. "I was a slightly on the back foot when qualifying started," said Webber, "but I knew I could get something from it if I dug deep. It was a very tight three-way fight until Seb had a problem ..."

That was a reference to teammate Sebastian Vettel, who is running a fresh chassis this weekend after the team discovered small cracks in the one raced in Monaco. Vettel likes to name his cars - the last one was Luscious Liz, this one is Randy Mandy - but he was probably calling it something else yesterday afternoon. The German had been quickest in Q1 and Q2, but then his brakes began locking. "It was very strange," he said. "The car locked up going into Turn 12 on my first run, but that wasn't really a problem. Then it happened again two corners later and I thought, 'OK, maybe I braked a little late', but then I got confirmation that there was a problem when it happened again at the start of my second run.

"To be honest, I feel quite lucky that I'm still third." Asked about the weight of expectation that accompanies a third consecutive pole position - and his fourth of the campaign, one more than Vettel - Webber said: "I've known worse pressure. "Last year we clearly had a quick car, but it was a little bit snookered at some venues. This time we've been to lots of different tracks and it works well at all of them."

For all Red Bull's qualifying speed, their rivals tend to be a little bit closer in terms of race pace and Hamilton believes he can make a nuisance of himself today. "I wasn't 100 per cent happy with my car's balance yesterday," he said. "But everything feels good today and I couldn't have asked for more from the lap. It feels great to split the Red Bulls, because they have been almost untouchable.

"I'm in a strong position. Overtaking is very difficult at this track, but it's not impossible and I'll be making life as hard as I can for Mark." McLaren have some new parts coming in the short term - but so, too, do Red Bull. Yesterday the team tested their own version of McLaren's pioneering aero vent, which stalls the rear wing on the straights, to increase top-end speed, but they have since discarded the system for the balance of the weekend.

"It worked OK," said Webber, "but we came in to the weekend with our eyes wide open. It's a tricky project to get right and fair play to McLaren, who got the jump. We're not in a position to take risks. We never put stuff on the car if there's a chance it might make it slower and we're not going to start now."

Published: May 30, 2010 04:00 AM

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