Uncharacteristic errors from Jamie Whincup at the Clipsal 500 has left the six-time champion languishing in the wake of Red Bull team-mate Shane van Gisbergen.
While van Gisbergen swept to two ARMOR ALL Pole Awards and two race wins, Whincup turned seventh and 10th place grid slots into a pair of sixth place finishes.
The low points of Whincup’s weekend included a kerb hopping violation in the Sunday Shootout that turned second in regular qualifying into a fifth-row start.
Leaving Adelaide already 96 points behind van Gisbergen in the standings, Whincup said he underprepared for the weekend.
“A couple of mistakes in qualifying and the Top 10 Shootout puts you back in the pack and then you’re battling cars,” he said.
“It was a great weekend for the team. SVG has shown the car speed is there, I’ve just got to step up next round.
“I came in not as prepared as I probably should have.”
Former Supercars champion turned Fox Sports pundit Russell Ingall was among those surprised by Whincup’s lacklustre form.
“We look at Jamie Whincup and expect him to qualify on the front-row and win races and all of a sudden that’s just not there any more,” he said.
“It just seems that there’s been such a change from what we’ve seen of old.
“We’re used to him being so polished and professional and all of a sudden we see these mistakes.
“It doesn’t look like Jamie Whincup, it looks like someone else is in the car.
“He’s fallen behind a few guys that he shouldn’t be behind. He’s taken a step backwards.”
Whincup’s qualifying mistakes meant he started behind van Gisbergen for both races, ensuring he was given the second choice on strategy.
He was called to pitlane on the opening lap on Saturday in anticipation of a Safety Car that never came, meaning he had to do two long stints to the end.
Sunday saw Whincup take a heavy fuel load at his first stop – a strategy that the driver said also needed a Safety Car in order to vault the #88 Holden into contention.
“That side of the Red Bull garage didn’t do a good job,” Ingall continued.
“The strategy that they had on Saturday didn’t work at all which put him back as well.
“I think Jamie is getting a bit smoked by the van Gisbergen freight train, but that’s just one part of it.
“I think their side of the garage needs a bit of a tune-up as a whole.”