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After Spain
Championship Standings:

Drivers' Standings
1 Lewis Hamilton 95
2 Sebastian Vettel 78
3 Valtteri Bottas 58
4 Kimi Raikkonen 48
5 Daniel Ricciardo 47
6 Max Verstappen 33
7 Fernando Alonso 32
8 Nico Hulkenberg 22
9 Kevin Magnussen 19
10 Carlos Sainz 19
11 Sergio Perez 17
12 Pierre Gasly 12
13 Charles Leclerc 9
14 Stoffel Vandoorne 8
15 Lance Stroll 4
16 Marcus Ericsson 2
17 Esteban Ocon 1
18 Brendon Hartley 1
19 Romain Grosjean 0
20 Sergey Sirotkin 0

Constructors' Standings
1 Mercedes 153
2 Ferrari 126
3 Red Bull 80
4 Renault 41
5 McLaren 40
6 Haas 19
7 Force India 18
8 Toro Rosso 13
9 Sauber 11
10 Williams 4

To Team or Not to Team

by Brian Carroccio
Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Fernando Alonso is clear #1 at Ferrari
With 2 races left in the 2010 Formula One (F1) season, the world drivers' championship remains in the balance. I wrote about a month ago, that I believed Ferrari's Fernando Alonso had the best chance to win the title, despite not leading the championship at the time. My opinion then was, Alonso's status as the clear #1 driver for the Scuderia would be his greatest strength during the stretch run.

Over the past two races, Alonso has managed to find the podium twice, with a third in Japan, and a fortuitous win in the inaugural Korean Grand Prix. The Spaniard's closest rivals Red Bull, imploded once again, and surrendered maximum points to Alonso. Red Bull, who have clearly had the fastest car all season long, have been unable to parlay their superior performance into the world championship lead. With two races to go, and both Sebastien Vettel and Mark Webber still alive for the title, Red Bull is debating which strategy to adopt. Do they rally behind Webber, who sits only 11 points behind Alonso, or do they continue to let both drivers compete, letting the best man win?

Rubens Barrichello was a clear #2 at Ferrari serving under Michael Schumacher
Of course, this is an old debate in F1 that has been discussed widely in recent years. Should each driver be given equal treatment within the team, or should the teams be allowed to clearly define roles?

In 2002, when Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello slowed down to let teammate Michael Schumacher win the Austrian Grand Prix, a race Barrichello dominated, the racing world erupted into fierce debate. A similar debate re-emerged this year when Felipe Massa gave way to Alonso, allowing him to win the German Grand Prix. Ferrari was given a slap on the wrist and not docked championship points. Many believe, the paying customer is done a disservice in such instances, when results are manipulated by teams, rather than drivers competing at speed.

While I sympathize with such sentiment, and would prefer watching drivers battle man to man, in anger, at speed, for the race win, my greater sympathy rests with the teams. After all, the teams devote enormous resources to winning the driver and constructor titles, which are worth an immeasurable amount in sponsorship and prize revenue. While the teams do owe the sport certain competitive obligations, ensuring their drivers battle for race wins at speed, with potentially damaging consequences, is not one of them. After all, if Ferrari, or any of the teams, are running 1st and 2nd, they have earned that position, and thus should determine how they allocate their points. If someone does not want them to allocate points in such a way, then catch them.

Further, many examples exist, indicating that a team's drivers battling amongst themselves is not in the interest of the teams'. Of course, McLaren in 2007, failed to define whether Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso was their top driver. Alonso and Hamilton both battled deep into the season for the championship only to cede it by a point to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel and Webber may have beat each other out of the title
This season, Red Bull's failure to define a hierarchy within their team has led to disastrous results. In the Turkish Grand Prix, Webber was leading Vettel, when the young German attempted an optimistic overtaking maneuver. The teammates collided finishing Vettel's day, and relegating Webber to a third place finish. Alonso, also earned an extra spot and the 11 point difference that Webber would have secured with the win and Alonso being down a spot would mean Webber would be tied with Alonso now for the championship. A lesser Red Bull failure was when Vettel was given a penalty before a re-start trying to get a jump on Webber in Hungary. The penalty cost Vettel a spot on the track.

Ferrari, on the other hand, has clearly defined its hierarchy this year, and in the past. Who can forget, Michael Schumacher taking the title fight to the end of the season against Williams and McLaren in his early days with Ferrari, despite an inferior car. Schumacher had the complete backing of the team, and of course, would have a 5 year title reign to start the 2000s. Further, Ferrari has managed to seize control of the drivers' championship, despite arguably having the third best car for over half the season. Remember, Ferrari managed only two wins through the first thirteen grand prixs.

As for Red Bull, who have secured all but 3 of the 17 pole positions, they have failed to take advantage of their performance advantage, largely because they have not defined their team hierarchy. I wrote about this back in June, after their debacle in Turkey, and again later in the summer.

By now, they should know that their best title hopes, rest with uniting behind Webber, who sits a mere 11 points behind Alonso. While Vettel is clearly the fastest driver, Webber has shown better race craft and more importantly holds a 14 point edge over his younger, more heralded teammate.

Thus far, Red Bull has failed to clearly indicate who, if anyone, they will support. They should realize that their failure to define their hierarchy is what got them into this mess. There is still time to rectify the situation, but they best consider employing a new strategy.

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