Shanghai: After dominating Formula One last season, Red Bull find themselves in an unfamiliar position this year: off the podium. After Nico Rosberg opened up a significant lead before winning the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, Red Bull teammates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel battled the two McLaren cars for second and third place.
In the end, however, they couldn't hold on and missed out on the podium for the second straight race. Webber took fourth place and Vettel, the two-time defending world champion, could do no better than fifth.
Red Bull aren't used to fighting for the minor places. The team easily won the constructor's championship last year, largely thanks to Vettel's 11 wins and 17 podium finishes. He only missed standing on the podium twice.
Webber took fourth place and Vettel, the two-time defending world champion, could do no better than fifth at Shanghai.
"In the end, fourth was not too bad," Webber said. "It wasn't the maximum, but it's very tight between the teams at the front."
McLaren, Ferrari and now Mercedes have all won this season, leaving Red Bull without a victory so far.
Vettel nearly salvaged a podium spot on Sunday after a dismal performance in qualifying left him 11th on the starting grid — his lowest position in more than two years. After falling to 15th early in the race, the German fought his way up to second with five laps remaining. But his tyres began to wear away, allowing McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to pass, before Webber did likewise to relegate him to fifth.
"It's a shame because the podium was so close and yet so far," Vettel said.
But Vettel said the tyres weren't the only problem — he also made some tactical mistakes.
"We were generally too slow on the straights, and we're losing time there; it made it difficult to pass other people," he said. "I missed out on the start. I wasn't entirely happy finding the revs and I lost the initial bit when the lights went off. Usually I'm pretty quick with that, but today I was one of the last ones."
Sunday's finish was at least better than the Malaysian GP last month, when Vettel collided with back-marker Narain Karthikeyan with a handful of laps remaining and finished out of the points in 11th place.
Webber, meanwhile, has finished in fourth place at three straight events. The Australian said he also could have driven a smarter race on Sunday.
"I made a few mistakes running wide trying to push onto the back straight. It's hard there as you can get onto the marbles," he said.
The team can take some solace that they are still in the hunt. McLaren lead the constructor's standings with 88 points, but Red Bull are not far behind in second with 64.