Should Mark Webber be the Number-1 Driver for Red Bull?
In 2010, fans of Formula One Racing have been treated to one of the great competitions in the history of the sport. Red Bull team leaders Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were locked in a friendly intra-team rivalry over who would be number-one driver on the team, and both racers have gone up against challengers from the outside, including Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, McLaren’s Jenson Button, and McLaren-Mercedes’s Lewis Hamilton, all of whom could render the Webber/Vettel conflict more-or-less moot.
Even with all the competition, Red Bull have dominated many of the races this season, winning 14 out of the 17 poles so far, but Alonso in particular is beginning to show some signs of fight, especially after the Korean Grand Prix in which he won his fourth of the past seven races. The Spanish Alonso has done this with a reliable number-two man in the person of Felipe Massa, and this team synergy could continue to give them an advantage as the determination of this year’s champion approaches.
Both Webber and Vettel have voices in their favor, with some arguing that the younger Vettel is the clear leader and deserves to be the number-one driver on Red Bull even over the veteran Webber. However, others cite this experience as the main reason why Webber should get the spot. People in this camp argue that team principal Christian Horner should set aside his sense of diplomacy and take leadership. But in spite of this outside pressure, Horner has repeatedly stated that he will not choose a number one, and that he and his staff will not back one racer over the other.
At this point in the season, it’s getting more and more difficult for Horner not to choose one racer over the other. Webber has emerged as the clear leader among the two, and while both still trail Alonso in total points, Webber is fourteen points ahead of Vettel and thus has a much greater chance of catching up and taking the crown. Given that this is Webber’s best chance yet to become champion for the first time in his career, it’s almost criminal for Horner to deny him this opportunity. Vettel still has many years ahead of him to win, and Webber may be past his peak years.
But the coach is sticking to his guns. There’s a good chance that team staff are anxious to push Vettel to the forefront, which would be a step toward the team’s future, but it’s hard to deny the season that Webber has been having.
As for Webber himself, he recently contributed an editorial to the Herald Sun in which he said that he would be going for the title without concern for team rules. He argued that after narrowing the margin between him and Fernando, it’s his right to go for the championship. Vettel, for his part, has not indicated if he will do anything to help his teammate win.
Earlier this year, allegations of rule-breaking dogged the Ferrari team when coaches deliberately encouraged team member Massa to make way for Alonso, a violation of sport rules. Webber, Vettel, and their team have mostly declined to comment on this incident, but both have emphasized that their team does not resort to measures like this, and Vettel will not be deliberately helping his teammate.
In the end, anything can happen in the final race in Abu Dhabi. Alonso is still the heavy favorite, but Webber has been gaining momentum and could make a push. And let’s not forget that there are plenty of other racers still within striking distance of the lead, which could make these last days of the season very interesting.