Old habits die hard!
A controversial Malaysian Grand Prix ended with Mark coming home in second place. He crossed the line four seconds behind team-mate Sebastian Vettel, but the talk after the race was of how Vettel had disobeyed team orders.
“I felt like I drove well today,” says Mark. “The beginning of the race went well for me: I made a good start and was leading the race with 10 laps to go. The team made a decision, which was for us to look after the tyres and get the cars to the end of the race. I turned down my engine and was cruising, but Seb made his own decisions today and he will have protection [within the team]. That’s the way it goes.”
By the latter stages of the 56-lap race, the Red Bulls were under no threat from other cars. The Mercedes’, in third and fourth, were more than 12s back and Mark was fully expecting Sebastian to adhere to the team’s wishes.
“As far as I was concerned,” says Mark, “the fight was off. We know Seb’s a quick peddler, but I was disappointed with how he behaved. In the end the team did a good job; we had some good pitstops and made the right calls. I had a lot of support from Australia around the racetrack and I want to say thanks to the guys who flew here to cheer me on; I did my best.”
Mark started the race from fifth place, after a rain-affected Q3 on Saturday afternoon created a topsy-turvy grid. All of the top 10 runners completed the session on intermediate tyres and on a drying track the fastest times were set by the last people to cross the finish line.
“It was disappointing to qualify fifth,” says Mark. “We didn’t get the last part of Q3 right; we were quick enough to start much higher up, but we misjudged the clock. I went slowly on what I thought was my penultimate lap to conserve the tyres, when in fact it was my final lap. We’ve learnt from it.”
Half an hour before the start of the race rain fell and all of the cars started the race on intermediates. Mark made a flier from fifth on the grid to be second by the end of lap one. When Vettel pitted on lap five, Mark took the lead of the race – something that he wasn’t to lose until the controversial incident with Vettel 10 laps from the end.
“There were a lot of things going through my head in those closing laps,” says Mark. “Not just from today, but from the past as well. There are three weeks before the next race; let’s see what happens in the future.”
Mark heads from Malaysia to Queensland in Australia for some R&R, before returning to the UK at the beginning of April for a simulator session at Red Bull Racing headquarters in Milton Keynes prior to the next race, the Chinese Grand Prix, on 14 April.
“This time tomorrow I’ll be catching a few waves on my surfboard and reflecting on everything that’s happened. I hope the weather’s good.”