Team orders and World Championship – will McLaren and Red Bull do a Ferrari?

October 27, 2010

First, I must apologise for not posting for a while. I have a few work and family issues on at present, but hope to be back to normal (whatever that means) by December.

As Fernando Alonso sailed (almost literally) to victory in Korea last weekend I wondered how the managerial minds at McLaren and Red Bull were now turning to that dreaded subject – team orders. Both Martin Whitmarsh and Christian Horner made much of the distinction between their approach of two drivers who are clearly racing each other as well as everyone else, to that of Ferrari where the focus is on getting Fernando to the top step of the Driver’s World Championship. However that was when Fernando himself was less of a threat, and there were a few more races to go, now the situation is different. There are a maximum of fifty points up for grabs and Fernando leads the championship with 231, followed by Webber with 220, Hamilton with 210, Vettel with 206 and Button, who is the last driver who could mathematically beat Alonso with 189.

The view of most commentators is clear, McLaren have to get behind Hamilton and Red Bull have to get behind Webber if they want to win the Driver’s Championship. But will they? If, like Frank Williams, they chose to focus on the constructors’ championship – which after all is the basis on which Bernie’s media spoils are divided up – then Red Bull, with a 27 point lead, already have things pretty much in the bag. The other interesting dynamic at Red Bull is the attention that is paid to Vettel (particularly by Dr Helmut Marko) and his dominant performance in Korea which was undermined by his engine losing the will to rotate in a rather spectacular manner. Do you think they will tell Vettel he is now number two while he still has a mathematical chance of winning the championship? I think not.

At McLaren, under Martin Whitmarsh’s rather refreshing and open regime, I suspect it will be down to a good old team chat, and Jenson may well, as he himself has suggested, accept that the title is not within his grasp and fall in behind Lewis, but I suspect it will be down to Jenson to accept this as the way forward, rather than he be told, that isn’t the best way to manage a world champion. So we may have Ferrari and McLaren operating a world champion driver strategy in Brazil, behind Alonso and Hamilton, but Red Bull? I suspect they will stick to the wheel to wheel approach that they’ve held to so far, until it is clear as to who it is they need to focus on, of course by then it may be too late.

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