Adrian Newey expected Sebastian Vettel to retire after first-lap collision in Brazil
Red Bull technical chief thought crash damage would only worsen
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 25/11/12 10:39pm
In wake of an already poor first two corners, in which he lost three places from fourth on the grid, Vettel tagged the Williams of Bruno Senna under braking at the end of the backstraight, spinning him round.
A second heavier impact then occurred with the Williams which damaged the bottom left-rear part of the Red Bull where the exhaust pipes are housed.
It initially appeared certain that the damage would be severe enough to put Vettel out on the spot yet, amazingly, the German continued without pitting and then through a further 70 laps of extraordinary twists and turns ended up in sixth place to clinch his third straight title by three points.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 as Red Bull's celebrations in the pitlane got underway, an exhausted-looking Newey admitted he was certain retirement had beckoned for Vettel after watching the early drama unfold from the pitwall.
"To be perfectly honest after the first lap I thought... probably all over," Red Bull's technical chief confirmed.
"I was pretty surprised to see the car going. Sebastian radioed in thinking he wasn't going to be able to get going.
"We then photographed the car going past and saw all the bodywork damage and, more worryingly almost, a huge crease in the exhaust system. Normally [with] that sort of damage the exhaust is going to crack and the bodywork will catch fire and that will be the end of that."
But although Newey was initially fearful, and the RB8 only lost further bodywork as the race went on, the design genius explained the sequence of events that ultimately got the car to the finishing line - including the late final late pitlane drama that contributed to Vettel's lengthy stop for intermediate tyres.
"All we could do was change the engine mapping to keep the exhaust as cool as we could," Newey explained.
"We obviously lost performance with all that damage which is why in the middle stint we put him on the hard tyre hoping that would last longer, but of course with all the damage the balance of the car wasn't so good.
"So he went to the point where he had to come in because the tyres had gone but we knew it could rain any minute. But as usual you can only put on the tyres that are appropriate for the weather conditions - you can't rely on the weather forecast.
"And of course one lap later it was raining and we needed intermediates. But by then the radio had gone, Sebastian arrived in the pit lane unexpected and wanting intermediates."