Formula One’s championship comes down to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, when one of the Red Bull drivers may need to sacrifice his title ambitions if the team is to prevent Fernando Alonso from claiming his third drivers’ championship.
But with teams banned from “team orders” _ telling drivers to let their teammates pass _ it may come down to Vettel voluntarily letting Webber through if Red Bull is to add a driver’s championship to the constructors’ title it has already won.
Alonso has 246 points through 18 races, Webber has 238 and Vettel 231. A victory at Abu Dhabi is worth 25 points and second place is 18 points. In the case of drivers finishing tied on points, the winner is calculated by races won, where Alonso has the edge _ five victories compared to four each for the Red Bull pair.
Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz said he would never back team orders after Ferrari was fined and heavily criticized for using them in Germany to allow Alonso to pass teammate Felipe Massa, picking up the additional seven points for a win instead of second.
Though Mateschitz said “we have turned out as idiots because we did not act in this way,” the team would adhere to its principles.
“We never even thought about it as long as both our drivers remain in the hunt for the championship,” Mateschitz said. “It is not assured that Alonso will always be the lucky one. Abu Dhabi will be incredibly exciting and provide highest tension.”
Last weekend at Interlagos, Vettel led Webber home in a one-two finish. If Vettel had let the Australian through in a similar manner to the Ferraris in Germany, then Webber would have gone to Abu Dhabi only one point behind Alonso.
“The team’s position has always been on the sporting side and that’s how it is,” Webber said. “Everyone has different ideas, but that’s how it is at the moment, so I will go there and do my best.”
While Alonso would relish pole position for Sunday’s race, Red Bull has had a season-long edge in qualifying and will be favorites to start on the front row. The Italian team will instead focus on its improved reliability and Alonso’s experience in pressure situations.
Felipe Massa is also ready to chip in and help his Spanish teammate again if need be.
“I really hope to be racing at the front, in the middle of the fight between the drivers still involved,” the Brazilian said. “If I can score some good points, taking them away from Fernando’s rivals, it can be useful for him.”
McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton can still win his second title, but the 2008 champion needs the top three to falter.
“I’ll keep trying _ we have nothing to lose now,” said Hamilton, who has 222 points.
McLaren teammate Jenson Button has no chance of holding on to the championship he won in 2009.
Williams driver Nico Hulkenberg will also look to follow up his first career pole at Interlagos with another standout performance at Abu Dhabi, as the German driver’s seat with the British team is not yet secured for 2011.