Despite completing a rare clean sweep, Ford gun Mark Winterbottom has had to defend his tactics after early carnage at the V8 Supercars exhibition round at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Winterbottom pointed the finger at the rest of the field after some rivals came off second best from his strategy change in Sunday’s rolling start – a concept he described as “a shambles”.
Winterbottom became the first driver to sweep the non-championship round at Albert Park since Russell Ingall in 1998 when he led a Ford one-two for the fourth straight race.
He finished more than a second ahead of teammate Chaz Mostert and was two seconds faster than third-placed Holden ace Shane van Gisbergen on Sunday.
The man dubbed “Frosty” was all smiles after receiving a major confidence boost at the non-championship round – then the rolling start was mentioned.
As pole sitter Winterbottom could decide when to begin the race and accelerate in the rolling start.
But unlike the previous three races he left it until the last moment on Sunday, clearly catching some drivers off guard.
Two-time V8 champion Marcos Ambrose and Nick Percat were almost immediately taken out in the chaos that ensued, with James Moffat and Will Davison also suffering damage.
Before the field could settle, Fabian Coulthard spun Holden great Craig Lowndes into the path of Jason Bright on turn two.
“It’s not my fault. At pole you have the right to go when you want, but if they predict you are going to go at the same spot it’s their fault,” Winterbottom said of the rolling start.
“You can’t pre-empt things – that caused the carnage.
“But that’s what that start does. It’s a shambles to be honest.”
Winterbottom was glad rolling starts were only used at Albert Park as he looked to use the confidence gained in Melbourne at the next official round at Tasmania’s Symmons Plains from March 27-29.
“They try and have a spectacle here and it works because cars are crashing and that creates one,” he said.
“Coming away from here undamaged is a huge advantage.”
While Winterbottom said his weekend was “as good as it gets”, he admitted he would not read too much into six-time champion Jamie Whincup’s quiet weekend in Melbourne.
Red Bull Holden’s Whincup did not crack the podium in four races.
“They’ve got sponsors here. I am sure they would not like it when Shane (van Gisbergen) beats them in the same car,” he said.
“But you’d have to ask him why he isn’t winning.”