When Mark Webber retired from the Singapore Grand Prix, the team personnel were puzzled as to what caused his RB4 to stop functioning properly. Webber was enjoying a great race until the fabled gearbox gremlins seemed to encroach on the Milten Keynes team again. At the time, team boss Christian Horner could only offer “freak circumstances” as a possible reason for the box trying to select 2 gears at once. But now, they have an even better excuse…
The team now believe that the cause of the gearbox problem may have been due to static electricity produced by a tram traveling under that particular part of the circuit at the time of the problem. Webber was in fifth gear, but the moog valve (that controls the gear selection) had been triggered into selecting seventh. Webber pulled into the pits, despite having a great race until that point, and vacated his car.
At Turn 13 the gearbox selected two gears at once. The moog valve controlling the gearshift had been triggered into changing to seventh while he was still in fifth. Yet after interrogating the software we can see that it at no time was allowing for this. We can see a momentary electrical surge at the precise moment, which seems to have triggered the moog valve.
It was exactly what [Scuderia Toro Rosso] suffered from with Bourdais in Friday practice, at exactly the same place. A tram line runs beneath the track at that corner and it seems as if static from a passing tram at the very moment Mark was in the corner passed through the ground. Christian Horner.
The thing is, Mr. Horner, is that there are another 16 (non-Red Bull) drivers on track racing around all weekend, and presumably the trams were running throughout this period. So why weren’t other squads affected as well? Why was there not a spate of electrical surges with others teams, causing their ‘boxes to jump around the cogs without reason? It would appear that while this was Webber’s first race-ending mechanical failure of the year, the Red Bull gearbox is still a little delicate in some circumstances.