Former McLaren Team Principal Ron Dennis has called Red Bull’s assertion of a spark plug failure for Sebastian Vettel into question.
Initially, the young German’s sudden loss of pace – and the lead – in the Bahrain GP was attributed to an exhaust problem.
Post-race, a media statement clarified the diagnosis as a spark plug problem within the Renault engine, sparking disharmony in the Red Bull and Renault marriage.
Spain’s AS newspaper is now quoting Dennis’ claims that Vettel’s loss of pace was to prevent him running out of fuel!
Despite still being a minority shareholder in the McLaren Group, Dennis has some knowledge in the goings-on: one of the Group’s subsidiaries is McLaren Electronics Systems, which is the supplier of the control ECU fitted to all F1 cars.
Dennis’ theory could go some way to explaining how Vettel was able – having saved enough fuel mid-race – to post competitive lap times in the final stint of the race to ward off a challenge for fourth place by Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.
"The problem with the Red Bull could be design," Dennis continued. "It could be the fuel tank is too small, or the fuel consumption is higher than they expected."
Renault has also confirmed it is continuing its investigation and – conveniently, no doubt to shift the focus off its engine build quality – currently has no reason for Vettel’s problem in Bahrain.
"A problem with the spark plug was found, but we have no reason to suspect a defect in the component itself," said Rob White, the engine boss for Renault.
Who’s trying to cover their backsides in this instance?!