The 2010 Championship will be decided this weekend and on recent performances and assuming the cars are reliable, it seem likely that at the end of the day the top three will comprise Vettel, Webber and Alonso in some order. While I don’t think you can count out Hamilton, his McLaren has been a little off the pace of the three drivers ahead of him in the championship.
There are many, many permutations, but to keep it simple we’ll just have a look at a few. If Alonso is first or second he walks away champion, no matter who finishes around him. If Webber wins Alonso has to be third or worse for the Australian to be crowned. Vettel needs even more luck to go his way; if Vettel wins Alonso needs to be fifth or worse.
For Lewis Hamilton to regain the drivers’ title he needs a lot to go his way. First he needs to win, and then he needs the other three contenders to finish either out of, or well down the points. Nothing else will do. This seems unlikely at best, but he has the chance to play spoiler should he be able to mix it with the Red Bulls and Alonso it up front. Let’s not for get both Hamilton and Also have quick team mates who are capable of winning races. Neither Button or Massa have been on great form recently, but both could make life difficult for others on their day.
As much fun as the speculation is, the question I have is what if Vettel is leading going into the last lap and Webber is behind him and Alonso third or fourth? Would Vettel pull over for the Australian and give his teammate the championship. Of would he try to hold onto his position for another win this year?
Clearly the relationship between the two Red bull drivers is not great, and that’s to be expected at this point in the year after they have gone after each other so hard for 17 races now. I’m not sure any professional partnership between two competitive sportsmen would do well under this pressure.
So what’s the team been saying? Team principal Christian Horner “if we find ourselves in a position where one of the drivers can win the world championship, then the drivers will do whatever is necessary to ensure as a team we achieve the best result.” That seems clear, if they should find themselves in that position then Horner expects Vettel will allow Webber though and do what he can to hold off Alonso. I’m sure it would not be easy for Vettel, but the team employs him.
Later in the week Red bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, the man who founded the energy drink company threw a turd into Christian Horners’ “everyone is doing their job” punchbowl. He was clear he wants the drivers in win, but no team orders. He’d rather they fight it out on the track.
Talking of team orders, at Hockenheim Alonso gained an extra seven points when Massa pulled over to let him through into the lead. Take those points away and Alonso leads Webber by only one point and Vettel by eight. That would have meant that Abu Dhabi this weekend would have been a winner takes all race for the three of them.
F1 doesn’t have a “play to the rules’ mentality, it’s about winning and nothing else. If Red Bull were not to enforce some kind of team orders for Vettel to help Webber, should the situation arise, it would reinforce the idea that Webber is done with the team after this race. Would the team rather wait until next year in the hope that for Vettel will be their first champion? That seems rather far-fetched, even in the cynical world of F1.
There have hints from Webber that there have been team orders to hold position rather than race each other in the recent races, rather than risk another accident like turkey where Webber was taken out by Vettel. I can’t imagine either driver holding back in Abu Dhabi with the title on the line.
Of course, part of what makes F1 so fascinating is the politics and intrigue that run through the paddock and despite all this speculation into tactics and what if’s, we have a race to run. Once again Red Bull probably arrive as favourites for the race. But Alonso has beaten the red bulls in three of the previous five races and is not far behind them in race speed. He’s not been as good in qualifying, he’s also the only one of the three that’s been in the position of winning the championship before.
With the pressure on all the title contenders so intense, will that be a deciding factor? Or, with all the contenders worried about engine mileage under F1’s eight-engines-a-year rule, will it be reliability that wins the day? It’s difficult to believe that after such a great year of racing that it will all go down without one final twist in the season. It could be reliability, it could be teammates, it could be a desperate lunge for position or even a mistake under the incredible pressure, but it will be fun to watch.
The race is on Speed TV in the US at 4:30am Sunday morning.