Red Bull has made major changes to the set-up of Sebastian Vettel's car ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in a bid to help his chances of charging through the field.
The World Champion will start from the pitlane at Yas Marina after his team elected to remove his RB8 from parc ferme overnight in the wake of the fuel cell problems that led to his exclusion from qualifying.
The team claimed that it had chosen to take the car out of parc ferme to get to the bottom of why the FIA was unable to extract the mandatory one-liter sample of fuel it requires for post-qualifying checks. But as well as working on the fuel issue, Red Bull has made hefty revisions to the set-up of the car to try to boost Vettel's chances of recovery.
A statement issued by the FIA a few hours ahead of the race revealed that Red Bull has replaced the gearbox of the car, made changes to the suspension and had also fitted new gear ratios to those submitted after second practice. The changes to the car will be primarily aimed at optimizing its chances of overtaking other cars – especially because in its configuration on Saturday the Red Bull was slowest through the speed trap at the end of the main straight.
According to the FIA's official speed trap figures issued after qualifying, Vettel and teammate Mark Webber were at the bottom of the rankings, with speeds of 193.5 and 193.4mph, respectively. This compares with the fastest speed of Pastor Maldonado at 202.4mph, while main rivals Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were recorded at 198.7 and 195.0mph
Red Bull is likely to have ensured that Vettel has more straightline speed potential in the race, so he is more able to make use of the two DRS zones at Yas Marina and overtake other cars. Team principal Christian Horner said on Saturday night that he believed there remained opportunities for Vettel to score points in the race as the championship enters its final stages.
"There is no reason why Sebastian cannot salvage something," he said.
Red Bull still has a chance of securing the constructors' championship in the Abu Dhabi GP. To do so, it needs to outscore Ferrari by six points and McLaren by 16 on Sunday.