MONZA // Christian Horner, the Red Bull Racing team principal, held his head in his hands on the pit wall. Not since the inaugural Korean Grand Prix of October 2010 at a wet Yeongam have Red Bull ended a race weekend without having collected any points.
Yet that was precisely what happened at yesterday’s Italian Grand Prix as both drivers for the constructors’ champions were forced to retire before Lewis Hamilton had completed his third victory of the season.
Sebastian Vettel, the reigning world champion, was ordered by his race engineer to stop his car on track after it suffered an alternator failure, while – moments later – Mark Webber returned to the pits after he experienced high tyre degradation, spun off the track and struggled to continue.
“A hugely disappointing race,” Horner said.
It is the second time Vettel has had an alternator issue during a race in the 2012 season.
The German saw an almost certain victory in Valencia disappear after experiencing a similar problem three months ago.
On Saturday, he was given a warning when the car stopped during practice, but the alternator had been changed by the time the race began, indicating a more grave problem.
Renault, the engine supplier to Red Bull, last night apologised and promised to prioritise finding a solution before the next race in Singapore in two weeks.
Vettel’s championship challenge, however, has taken a severe hit: Fernando Alonso, the standings leader who finished third, increased his lead over the German from 24 points to 39 with seven races remaining. “We lost some points, but we did the best we could,” Vettel said.
Webber came close to finishing, but after losing traction on his tyres, the Australian spun off and damaged his tyres critically. After recovering and returning to the track, he told his engineer he was going to retire due to the vibrations in the car.
“We do 330 kph around here,” he said. “I couldn’t see the track, so we decided to retire.”
The result also sees Red Bull have their lead over McLaren-Mercedes trimmed to just 29 points.
Alonso will have likely experienced a sense of Schadenfreude at Vettel’s early retirement.
The two drivers had been involved in a controversial incident earlier in the 53-lap contest that resulted in Ferrari’s Spaniard being forced on to the grass as he attempted to overtake his rival and Vettel being handed a drive-through penalty for not leaving his rival enough space.
Vettel said he thought his manoeuvre was not worthy of a penalty, but Alonso appeared to still be seething in the post-race press conference, saying his race had been compromised, with his car picking up damage from its brief off road moment.