Mark drove one of his best races of the season but even a series of fastest laps wasn’t enough to get him onto the podium in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He came home in fourth place, nine seconds behind Jenson Button.
“I was happy with the way I drove but the race was frustrating,” says Mark. “You get what you deserve in racing but this was very tough. Had I had a clean race I could have challenged Jenson for the podium, but that wasn’t the case.”
Mark’s first issue occurred almost immediately when the sidewall from Seb Vettel’s punctured tyre lodged itself onto the leading edge of his left sidepod on the second lap and spent the remainder of the race wedged there.
"It certainly cost me downforce and grip – once the boys have had the chance to analyse the data, we’ll know by how much,” says Mark, “The thing that really sealed my fate though was the five seconds I lost at my first pitstop due to a problem with the right-rear wheel-nut, and as a consequence I lost time behind Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado.”
Maldonado got a penalty, but that didn’t make up the three seconds that Mark lost trying to lap him, and it meant he had to wait until his second stop before he could mount a challenge on Massa. At this point he switched onto a three-stop strategy – the only driver to do so.
“It’s not often you stop for tyres on the final lap of a race, but a three-stop strategy was worth trying. We had nothing to lose but it was risky.
“Jenson and I had a good ding-dong early on with lots of passing and re-passing. It’s always good to fight with him and Fernando [Alonso]; there’ll be a day when it might not work out but generally it’s good, clean stuff between us. It’s enjoyable.”
Mark now returns to the UK, before heading to Brazil next week for the final race of the year.
“I enjoy racing at Interlagos and the atmosphere there is amazing.” says Mark, ”I’ll do my best to end the season on a high note. Such is the layout of the track that we usually get good races there, so let’s hope I can be in the thick of it once again.”