In an extraordinary proclamation as F1 braces itself for one of the most thrilling and unpredictable showdowns of all time in Abu Dhabi this coming weekend, Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz has asserted that his team will not 'manipulate things like Ferrari do' – and that if the result is that they end up missing out on the 2010 drivers' crown because of that approach, then so be it.
There have been conflicting noises coming from inside Red Bull Racing since the energy drinks-backed outfit secured the constructors' laurels courtesy of a one-two finish for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos – with the upshot being that nobody really knows quite what the team will do in Abu Dhabi in five days' time.
The basic situation is as follows. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso continues to lead the drivers' standings heading into the eagerly-awaited season finale, but by a reduced margin since São Paulo of eight points over Webber and 15 over Vettel. Should the Spaniard take the chequered flag second or better in Abu Dhabi – regardless of what happens to his two RBR rivals – then he will be world champion for a third time. The interest arises from scenarios that place the Oviedo native third or lower.
If Alonso – who knows that he has the full assistance of his own team-mate Felipe Massa – ascends the bottom step of the rostrum at Yas Marina, then the only way for Red Bull to ensure one of its drivers pips him to the title is for Webber to win. So what happens if, like at Interlagos, the order reads Vettel-Webber-Alonso going into the closing stages..? Here's team principal Christian Horner on the dilemma.
“Both drivers drive for the team, they've received tremendous support this year and it would have been wrong to switch [their positions at Interlagos],” urged the Englishman, a former racer himself. “We've backed them equally all year and it would have been wrong to take one of them out of the championship. Had there been a situation in Brazil, if Fernando had been ahead, then Sebastian would have done what was right for the team – I just know that from the character of the guy.
“We will [continue to] back both drivers equally. I am sure they will do whatever is right for the team – I have zero doubt about that. There will be no team orders, and I don't think there are any difficult decisions to be made. If they find themselves in a situation where one, because he can't win, needs to help the other then I can only imagine that they will do that. It will have to be a driver decision.
“Both of them are great team players. There have been pressures and stresses this year, but that is because the biggest reward in motorsport is up for grabs. When your nearest rival is your team-mate, it is perhaps the most uncomfortable rivalry you can have in the pit-lane, but ultimately they drive for a great team, a fantastic company, and I have no doubt both of them will do their best, not only for themselves, but for the team.
“Nobody has a crystal ball, and nobody can foresee what will happen next weekend, but you only have to look at the characters of the individuals who drive for us to recognise they will do their best to ensure the best team results.”
It is a bold tactical strategy indeed, with the clear inference behind it being that should Webber be the only one of the two in a position to defeat Alonso in Abu Dhabi but require Vettel's help in order to do so, then the Australian will need to rely upon the German's good nature and willingness to support him – on the basis of the pair's distinctly prickly relationship this year, exchanged insults and the events that have passed between them, arguably not something that can be taken for granted.