It might not be what Mark Webber wants to hear, but following what he described as a 'cruel' day after doing 'everything right', Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner has again asserted that Sebastian Vettel will continue to enjoy free rein to battle for the F1 2010 World Championship crown.
Neither Webber nor Vettel scored in the inaugural Korean Grand Prix on Sunday, after once more locking out the front row of the grid for Red Bull 24 hours earlier. The Australian lost control of his RB6 on only the second racing lap in treacherous conditions, collecting the luckless Nico Rosberg as he bounced back across the track again, whilst the German's bad luck bogey re-appeared on lap 45 as a Renault engine failure denied him an almost certain victory after dominating proceedings right from the word 'go'.
That means that whilst Webber's 14-point margin over Vettel in the title chase remains intact heading into the final two outings in Brazil and Abu Dhabi and with 50 points now left on the table, it is no longer either of the pair atop the drivers' standings, but rather Ferrari rival Fernando Alonso, who took full advantage of the latter's Korean ill-fortune to inherit victory.
With the Spaniard leading Webber by eleven points and Vettel by 25, it does not take a rocket scientist to discern that one of the RBR duo has a far greater chance of overhauling Alonso than the other – and conventional wisdom goes that to allow Vettel to carry on racing Webber, and therefore potentially take points away from his team-mate, could end up costing both of them the laurels.
Red Bull stands in danger, some might say, of world championship suicide should they not throw their full weight behind Webber now, but with memories of the events of Istanbul and Silverstone still fresh in observers' minds, Horner's suggestion that the energy drinks-backed outfit's two drivers will continue to be allowed to fight it out is likely to offer the sport's conspiracy theorists a field day.
“Some days motor racing can be cruel,” the Englishman mused in the wake of his team's Korean nightmare, “and for Red Bull, it was unfortunately one of those days. Mark was unlucky; he hasn't made many errors this year, but unfortunately he made one here that cost him dearly – he dropped a wheel on the kerb, and it bit him hard. Sebastian had the cruellest of luck – ten laps to go, and out-of-the-blue he had an engine failure. He is remarkably philosophical, because it was cruel to lose a guaranteed race victory in that way.
“As a team, we'd done everything right and we had the pace to win. Starting on the front row, we got the strategy right, we read the conditions right and to have an engine failure – almost in sight of the end of the race – is appalling luck. It's our first non-points score this year, but we leave still in the lead of the constructors' [championship] and we're still in it in the drivers' too – Mark is second and Sebastian is only one race win behind the leader.
“We gave Fernando a big gift here and we need to look at that, but as we saw in this race, different drivers were leading the championship at different points and we have seen how quickly things can change – it was only two weeks ago that we were celebrating a one-two finish, and we'll be back in Brazil. This championship will not be over until the last lap in Abu Dhabi has been completed, and our strategy is unchanged. We'll be pushing flat out until the end.”