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More Distasteful Than Defeat

Look — I don’t want Fernando Alonso to win the championship.  I don’t think any of us want that.  (Okay, okay. . . it’s possible that some of us want that.)  But here’s another thing I don’t want, ever: for one Red Bull driver to hand a race win to another Red Bull driver.  If it comes down to that, I’d rather see Alonso as World Champion.

If that makes me “crazy” or “stupid” or “naive” or or all of the above (or even worse), then hey, that’s fine.  In this context, I’ll consider it a compliment.  I do actually get that there are significant philosophical differences about team orders among Formula 1 fans, and I get that I’m in the minority here.  I also get that there’s scant, if any, historical support for my view of things.  I really do comprehend these things — I promise!

I can almost get on board for a situation in which a driver has been mathematically eliminated from the championship.  Almost, but not quite.  But I certainly can’t get on board for a situation like Sunday’s, when neither driver has been eliminated.  The number of people criticizing Red Bull for not telling Vettel to move over for Webber in Brazil is. . .well.  Not surprising, I suppose, but annoying for various reasons, not the least of which being that it seems to have a lot to do with who they feel ought to have moved over for whom.

I wish I could get a stat on how often some variation of the phrase “if the situation were reversed” has been used in commentary about this issue, but here I go, adding another instance: I can’t help but think that, were the situation reversed and Vettel leading Webber in the points, many of the same people currently objecting to what Red Bull did (or didn’t do) on Sunday would be singing a different tune — perhaps something more along the lines of “Webber has worked so hard for this all season, and now he’s just supposed to move over for this young, arrogant upstart, while there’s still a chance that he could win the WDC?”

Well, I would argue that both drivers have been working their asses off to get where they are this season, and I loathe the thought of either one of them being told to give up while there was still a chance — even if it’s a relatively slim one.  Each has had his very good moments and very bad moments this season, some through no fault of his own and some maybe not so much.  And with two races left, the two of them were separated by a fairly slim points margin, but neither had been eliminated from contention.

Yes, it would have made Webber’s life easier, and it probably would have set many minds at ease, if Vettel had simply let Webber have the win.  Webber’s championship still would not have been ensured, but he’d be in a better position — no doubt about that.  Come to think of it, though, the same could be said of the Japanese Grand Prix.  And how about the rest of the season, for that matter?  Why not have one driver start helpfully moving over for the other as soon as one is slightly ahead in the points, the way Ferrari does?

I suppose my point is that, if you’re a team that wants to treat its drivers equally (and I will be happy to argue about the extent to which Red Bull does that some other time), how do you decide when the time has come to tell one of them he needs to just give up?  As a sports fan, my preference would be for that never to happen at all — but if it is going to happen, it might be most “sporting” to at least wait until all (or even most!) hope is gone.  And that was not the situation on Sunday, clearly.

Yes, I think it will be a shame if Red Bull doesn’t come away from this season with both championships.  Honestly, I think they deserve it — especially if they lose by seven points or less.  But if they don’t win it, they don’t.  I’ll let Dietrich Mateschitz take over from here:

Let the two drivers race and what will be will be. if Alonso wins we will have been unlucky. I predict a Hollywood ending. Worst case scenario we don’t become champion? We’ll do it next year. But our philosophy stays the same because this is sport and it must remain sport. We don’t manipulate things like Ferrari do.

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