The tension is showing in the run up to the final pair of races in this year’s world championship as the three team bosses fighting for the titles lead their troops into the great unknown at Interlagos.
And with it has come a suggestion from Red Bull that if Fernando Alonso wins, there will be a stain on the result because of the team orders row back in July. “It would be frustrating (if Alonso won the title) because we’ve obviously worked under the auspices that team orders have been illegal,” Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner told BBC Radio.
Ferrari responded directly to this today, team boss Stefano Domenicali saying, “When you consider the car Red Bull have had this year, in my eyes it’s a miracle that we are fighting for this title at all,” in an interview with German news agency SID. “If we had that advantage, the championship would be decided already.”
Meanwhile McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has said that nothing should spoil a great title fight, “We shouldn’t detract from what really, probably, is one of the greatest Formula 1 championships in our history, with issues about what teams did or didn’t do during the course of the year,” he said in a Vodafone teleconference today. “You’ve got to give Ferrari credit. Regardless of the team order debate and all those other things, Ferrari were really struggling mid-season, they’ve had a resurgence and they’ve looked very competitive – and Alonso is a formidable competitor.”
Whitmarsh, who gets on far better with his opposite number at Ferrari than predecessor Ron Dennis ever did with his, is thinking of the bigger picture of F1’s image here. But he’s also playing a conciliatory role in a partisan squabble, partly in deference to his position as chairman of the teams’ association FOTA. He and Domenicali sit down together on FOTA business all the time and he has wisely chosen to rise above this.
Horner’s comments can be interpreted in several ways. To some extent they are true, of course. But do they need saying now? They betray anxiety that after all their speed and phenomenal development, Red Bull might actually lose this championship. If they do it won’t just be the seven points Alonso gained “illegally”, but also the 50 Vettel lost from reliability failures in Australia and Korea and plenty of others from the mistakes by the drivers and many other factors.
The comments up the ante ahead of this weekend’s race. There are always some good mind games in the final stages of a tight championship fight, but it’s a shame Horner has gone this route. I know that many fans feel this way about Alonso’s position, including former FIA president Max Mosley, who had a dig at Ferrari on this score last week.
I agree that they broke the rules and that a points reconciliation rather than a fine would have been appropriate. But the situation was dealt with at the time and we have to move on. There have been many situations like this in the past and the integrity of the championship is what counts.
In any case, if you look at this in a fair minded way, Alonso has fallen foul of a couple of very heavy calls by the FIA and lost many places behind safety cars in the European and British Grands Prix. Those cost him at least a couple of podiums, far outweighing the seven points gained in Germany. What goes around in F1, almost always comes around.
Nothing every goes quite the way you expect it to here at Interlagos. Think of the last two year’s title showdowns with the last lap thriller for Lewis Hamilton to finish fifth and clinch and a similar scenario for Jenson Button last year.
This weekend will be no different. No-one can afford a slip up, but equally no one has a clue what the outcome will be on Sunday and you can’t ask for more than that in sport.