With only six races to go in the 2010 Formula One Championship season, it’s time for the big teams to make some difficult decisions and pick a preferred driver for the remainder of the season to maximize the team’s chances of taking out the championship.
Leading in to the Belgian Grand Prix, there were five drivers who were in a position—some better than others—to take out the championship with both McLaren and Red Bull drivers being joined by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso as the outside chance.
Coming out of the race, everything has changed. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber have opened up clear breaks on their respective teammates. Both now have over a full race win advantage and surely must now be anointed as their team’s No. 1 driver.
At Red Bull, the decision is seemingly very easy. Despite statements from the team earlier this year after the Turkish Grand Prix and some shenanigans around preferential treatment with access to newly developed parts at Silverstone, Webber has taken a clear step forward and established himself as the team’s best hope to take out the championship.
It may well be that Sebastian Vettel has more raw talent than Webber, but his inconsistency, rash decisions and propensity to crash has destroyed his chances for success this year. His race at Spa merely served to underline the already widespread belief that his impetuousness would cost him the championship.
The manoeuvre that Vettel pulled which lead to the collision with Jenson Button defies explanation. It was an extremely aggressive move which ended with Button’s car out of the race and Vettel heading in for one of five trips to the pits for the race. He was to pit at least once more for puncturing his tyre in a later overtaking effort that went wrong.
His litany of mistakes meant that he came out of the race without points and now sits 28 points behind Webber and should be told to support his more consistent teammate over the remaining races.
At McLaren, a similar situation has arisen, but for completely different reasons. Jenson Button was the innocent victim of today’s action, but has been slowly slipping behind his teammate since his early successes in Australia and China.
While there would be a fair bit of sympathy for the reigning world champion, the terrible reality of F1 is that it cares little for reputation and previous success. All that matters is getting the team in the best possible position to take out the championship.
Of course, team orders are specifically banned in the world of F1, so neither Button or Vettel could be told to yield to their more highly placed teammates, but there are any number of tactics that can be employed.
Cars can develop “brake problems” or “lose grip” to help explain a drop in lap times to allow a team mate to pass.
Subtlety is the key, lest teams want to end up facing the wrath of the administrators. Ferrari will be able to advise of the consequence after they face the World Motor Sport Council in ten days time to face charges arising out of the German GP.
The teams have a couple of weeks to figure out how to progress their season before the circus hits Monza—another circuit that the McLaren’s will like more than Red Bull. From there it is back to tracks that are better suited to Red Bull’s strengths for the remainder of the season.
The racing may not be exciting, but there is plenty of interest remaining in the title chase with only three points separating leader Hamilton for Webber.
Now it gets serious.