Midway through the race, the German was comfortably leading the race at Albert Park, when he suddenly lost control of his RB6 and hit the gravel. In his first conversation with the team via radio, he told his race engineer that a problem with the front left-hand brake caused his run-off excursion.
However, according to a report from the GMM news agency, the team conducted some further investigation on the problem and it seems the “damaged wheel mounting due to a vibrating wheel nut was the cause” of the incident.
Additionally, according to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, the “left front wheel nut worked loose and damaged the mounting, which then speared Vettel into the gravel and retirement under braking.”
“In 6000 kilometres of testing nothing like this happened,” Red Bull’s Christian Horner was quoted as saying after the race.
During the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix, a failed spark plug ruined Vettel’s race, dropping him from leader to 4th place overall. Two weeks later, a mechanical issue caused him to record his first retirement of the season.
“Of course it is annoying. Yet another defect. I could be going to Malaysia with 50 points,” said a frustrated Vettel, who is instead 25 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso heading to the Malaysian GP.