Monday 22 January 2018

F1: Red Bull ethics aid Alonso as title race heads for final lap

Tom Cary in Sao Paulo

Six years after fizzing into Formula One as a brash young soft drinks manufacturer, Red Bull Racing won their first world championship in Brazil yesterday.

Whether they can now go on to add the most prized crown of all, the drivers' title, to the constructors' gong they picked up in Sao Paulo will be decided in Abu Dhabi next Sunday.

The mathematics are horribly complicated but Sebastian Vettel's controlled win from team-mate Mark Webber at Interlagos -- Red Bull's fourth one-two of the season -- has left four drivers still in the hunt going into the final grand prix of the season.

In reality there are just three. After his fourth place yesterday a dejected Lewis Hamilton conceded he now requires "a miracle" if he is to claim his second world crown. Hamilton needs to win in Abu Dhabi and then hope the three ahead of him all trip up.

"We weren't quick enough here and we won't be quick enough in Abu Dhabi," Hamilton said. "Realistically, we need a miracle."

Hamilton's McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who recovered from 11th to finish fifth, is definitely out of contention.

Mind you, he is probably just thankful that he will be luxuriating in five-star splendour in the Middle East at all. Following his run-in with some gun-toting Brazilians on Saturday evening he might have found himself the ransom in F1's first kidnapping.


And so we are left with a battle between the three drivers who, if you subscribe to the view that the points table never lies, must be considered 2010's biggest beasts: the two Raging Bulls against the Prancing Horse.

It will be a battle, too, between diverging philosophies. Yes, the dreaded team orders debate is still alive and kicking.

For Fernando Alonso, the mission is straightforward. He is in control of his own destiny. If the Spaniard finishes first or second in Abu Dhabi, he will be crowned champion for a third time.

The situation on the Red Bull side of the equation is a lot more complicated. By insisting on allowing their two drivers to race each other, to take points off each other, Red Bull have made their task far harder even while winning plaudits.

Vettel, Webber and Alonso wasted little time in getting past rookie German Nico Hulkenberg, and from then on, one safety car period notwithstanding, there was really only one question: would Vettel be ordered to make way for Webber?

The answer, as Red Bull had repeatedly assured us in the build-up, was no. Vettel crossed the line first and erupted into the spontaneous index finger-pumping which he has made his trademark. Webber, sportingly, congratulated his young team-mate. Inside the 34-year-old must be tied up in knots.

Ferrari must be chuckling away merrily. They can't believe Red Bull are doing this to themselves. For them, there is nothing wrong with team, especially during a tense title run-in.

Had Vettel made way for Webber yesterday the Australian would have been just one point behind Alonso heading to Abu Dhabi. It would have amounted to a straightforward fight between the pair of them. The task now is much harder.

"It helps but it is not in the team's philosophy (to impose team orders)," Webber said. "It was a good drive by Seb to claim the win."

The big question now is whether Vettel will get out of Webber's way on Sunday if they are one-two-three again on the final lap. Again and again Vettel was asked what he would do. Again and again he dodged the question.

"I guess you will find out then," he said. However, he hinted that he would do the honourable thing when he added: "Both of us know how to act." We will see on Sunday.

Last night, it was Red Bull's turn to kick back with some well deserved caipirinhas.

Now, however, comes the big one.

Raging Bull or Prancing Horse? (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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