By Alan Baldwin
SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Red Bull boss Christian Horner slammed Formula One conspiracy theorists on Sunday after Mark Webber's Chinese Grand Prix ended with a wheel coming off his car and a penalty for causing a collision.
The Australian, barely on speaking terms with world champion team mate Sebastian Vettel after a 'team orders' row at the previous race in Malaysia, had started from the pitlane after Red Bull failed to put enough fuel in his car for qualifying.
"It's complete rubbish, forget conspiracy," Horner angrily told a reporter who alluded to some of the wilder speculation that there might be something more sinister behind the Australian's problems.
"We're all about trying to get two cars to the finish as high as we can," added Horner, whose team have won the last three championships.
"Anybody who thinks there is a conspiracy here against either driver does not know what they are looking at...There is no conspiracy."
Webber was certainly ready to accept the blame for some of his misfortune on an afternoon that went from bad to worse and lasted just 18 laps.
He collided with the Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, for which he was given a three-place grid penalty for next weekend's race in Bahrain, and coasted into retirement as a rear wheel broke loose and bounced away.
By then, he had already pitted twice.
"I was coming from a reasonable distance behind, Jean-Eric was really wide, but when we came close to the apex he wanted to hit it, which he is entitled to do, but by then I was committed to the inside and the incident happened," he said.
"The guys thought the tire was fixed when we left the stop, but it came off on the out lap," he added of the final blow to his hopes. "We have had a few problems this weekend; I think we could have done something from our start position today, but it wasn't meant to be."
The afternoon was in stark contrast to Malaysia, where he led until Vettel ignored instructions from the pit wall not to overtake and took the victory.
The feud between the team mates was the talk of the Shanghai paddock before the race but they never came close to each other on track.
"If Mark Webber didn't have bad luck, he'd have no luck at all," commented his former team mate David Coulthard on BBC television.
(Editing by John Mehaffey)