18th July 2009 – Red Bull Team Principal, Christian Horner, confirmed after the German Grand Prix that he will not favour either of his driver’s unless one become’s a clear title contender. “We will continue to support both drivers equally” stated the 35 year old Brit, “If and when we reach a point where there is a significant gap, or it becomes mathematically impossible for one of them to challenge for the Championship, then they are both team players and one of them will play a supporting role should it be required”.
Jenson Button currently has a commanding lead in the championship with 68 points with German Sebastien Vettel in second place on 47pts and Australian Mark Webber only 1.5pts behind with 45.5. However, with 8 races still to go, anything really could happen. As Webber and Vettel are so tightly matched it could mean that no team orders will ever come into play, but could this be at the cost of the Drivers world title? One gets the impression from Horner that winning the Constructor’s Championship is more do-able and so more of a priority.
This opens once again the debate of giving equal treatment to two drivers, like McLaren famously do, or the approach of having a favoured driver like Schumacher at Ferrari. In 2007 McLaren won the Constructor’s Championship with both drivers finishing on equal points, only a single point behind the Champion, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. If McLaren had decided earlier in the season to impose team orders and ask one of the drivers to support the other, one of their drivers could have been World Champion. The F1 Driver’s World Championship title is much more revered than the Constructor’s Championship. Do most fans really care or notice who wins this? Take 2006 for example, are people more likely to remember Alonso in his Renault winning his second World Championship or Ferrari winning the Constructor’s Championship?
This is all great news for the increasingly nervous Button who sees a Red Bull car capable of dominating for the rest of the season. If Red Bull don’t impose team orders and win the Constructor’s Championship but Button wins the Drivers’ Championship, will they be happy with that? Button and Brawn GP definitely will be happy. However, if Red Bull picked a driver to favour now, they would have a good chance of winning both the Drivers and Constructor’s championship? But this would need the other driver to play ball and even if they have a contract stipulating such orders, it does not necessarily mean the driver will stick to it.
The drivers are so closely matched that it is impossible to pick one that is more likely to win or expect the other to respect the order to play second fiddle which is all great news for us as it’s going to make for some very interesting races! Both are desperately trying to win every little battle in practice, qualifying and in the race. They know that any tiny advantage eked out now could rally the whole team around them. Vettel seems to have a slight edge over Webber in qualifying and raw speed, certainly at the beginning of the season, but so far Webber has appeared to be more the racer and has been more effective in overtaking, but it is too close to call it between them.
This is excellent news for Button who will happily see them take points off each other to slow their pursuit of his lead. It also means that in any 50:50 encounters with either of them, Button knows that they will not want to take any undue risks as if they take themselves and Button off it will give the clear advantage to the other driver and their season may be over.