Team orders. It was the most commonly used phrase throughout the F1 world in the week lead up to Abu Dhabi. Thankfully it will not be the phrase which the 2010 season will be remembered for.
With Fernando Alonso the overwhelming favourite – requiring just a top two finish to guarantee the title – many have questioned whether he would deserve it after the Hockenheim team orders scandal back in July.
Unlike the Scuderia, In Brazil Red Bull refused to swap their two drivers and give Mark Webber the win, even though it would have put him just a single point behind the Spaniard.
At various points during the season the team rivalry looked to boil over in particular during the Turkish and British GPs as the team appeared to favour Sebastien Vettel.
To blame Mark Webber for the coming together in Istanbul did not reflect the opinion of most neutrals.
Similarly to take Webber’s new front-wing off his car and give it to Vettel after he damaged his before qualifying at Silverstone, because Vettel marginally had the better championship position, led to his infamous outburst after winning as ‘Not being bad for a number two driver.”
Rivalry between teammates is common place. It is natural but Red Bull did not help themselves. All year pundits, fellow team principals and fans have said Red Bull needed to choose which driver to back.
Given that the other two title contenders were Alonso and Lewis Hamilton prompted inevitable comparisons to the 2007 season. The pair fell-out after Alonso perceived McLaren favoured Hamilton and their inability to keep the rivalry under control allowed Kimi Raikkonen to steal the title for Ferrari at the final race in Brazil.
However when it came to the season’s climax the team and its drivers behaved impeccably and they got their reward.
It would have been ‘easy’ to have asked Vettel to allow Webber past in the penultimate race. Realistically that was the best way for the team to maximise their chance of capturing the Drivers’ Championship to go along with their Constructors’ Championship.
Had Alonso won the title because they did not implement the switch then the post-season analysis would have been very different.
Red Bull had the quickest car all year. Their dominance in qualifying proves that with 15 pole positions from 19 race weekends.
But race days did not prove to be as dominant and a number of human and mechanical errors almost let their rivals in.
Vettel in particular bore the brunt of Red Bull’s unreliability. Bahrain and Australia were costly to the start of his title bid but his engine failure in Korea looked to have done irreparable damage. It is to the young German’s credit that despite the blow-up he clawed back the 25-point deficit on Alonso in the last two events.
Credit must go to the whole of Adrian Newey’s team for designing such a magnificent car. For a private team to defeat the mighty manufacturers of Ferrari and McLaren is an outstanding achievement.
It should not be forgotten either that both of Red Bull’s competitors had a head-start in designing this year’s car because they were not in the 2009 title hunt.
It is difficult to quantify Christian Horner’s role since the team’s evolution from the Jaguar team in 2005. With David Coulthard and Christian Klien at the wheel the team established itself as a solid midfield runner. The leap they have made in such a short space of time is nothing short of spectacular.
Next year will be another massive test for the team. Mercedes – who took-over the defunct Brawn team – highlighted this year how difficult it is to produce back-to-back titles.
It is a fantastic achievement and thoroughly deserved.
Who will win in 2011? Might as well pick a name out of a hat…