Malaysia karma, Turkey reprisal, New-wing smack down—call it what you will but it is understandable why some press and blogs are pondering just how Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix wills tart and eventually end as Red Bull’s Mark Webber starts from Pole Position ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel.
The championship is narrowing down with 77 points between Vettel and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. If Vettel wins on Sunday and Alonso scores 9th or worse, the championship is over. Many are wondering just how Webber will play in to this equation and suggest he won’t yield, the team will let them race and perhaps Vettel will get his comeuppance. That all sounds like a gripping storyline but it’s wide of the mark.
Sebastian Vettel isn’t marking Webber on Sunday; he’s marking Alonso. Webber is a non-issue in the grand scheme of things beyond Vettel’s ego. If the young German just can’t handle the fact of being beaten by Webber in Japan, then he is not the champion we give him credit for. The goal is the title and it doesn’t have to be won on Sunday.
If Vettel finds himself behind Webber toward the end of the race and Alonso is 9th or worse, then Vettel can easily let the team worry about the task of radioing Webber and convincing him to pull over. That’s their problem, not Vettel’s.
Webber is on his final leg of a Formula 1 career. He’s driving for himself and there is little doubt he’d like to win in Suzuka. There is another side to that coin as well as he drives for the team and has been paid millions to do so. If he’s the man of integrity and beyond reproach that many make him out to be, then allowing Vettel to pass and take the lead with Alonso in 9th or worse would be what I would expect the Australian to do.
If he doesn’t, he’s not much different than Vettel in Malaysia in my mind. If he wanted to really throw egg in Vettel’s face, as well as the team, he would make that move and show that he places his integrity over personal greed and selfish ambitions. It would be a tangible example of how Vettel faced the same decision and chose the latter.
Even Alonso get’s the plot and isn’t worried that his teammate, Felipe Massa finished ahead of him in qualifying and he knows who his mark is for Sunday:
“We will race, try to score as many points as possible and try to finish in front of the Mercedes. That is a very important goal for us. If we can keep the championship open until India it will be OK, but it will not change too much for us.”
The reality is that this scenario will most likely not come to pass. Mark Webber is notorious for poor starts and will most likely concede the spot to Vettel before turn 1 which is a long way down the road from the start line. This will save Webber from having to make that kind of decision and it will relieve the team from uncomfortable radio messages to be played over and over again in the media. Even if Webber or Vettel are bullish and the two collide, Sebastian is still a clear leader in the title hunt. This weekend Vettel has an opportunity to show his maturity and rise above his petty issues with Webber. This is more about Sebastian’s mindset and maturity than Webber’s redemption or Vettel’s just deserts.
Sebastian Vettel has one goal. Maximizing points against Alonso. Fernando is the target and Vettel shouldn’t place the pressure on his shoulders that he must win the championship this weekend. As poor as Webber is at starts, Alonso is the opposite and will most likely be running in the top 5 on Sunday so this will neutralize Vettel’s chances anyway. Barring some collision or attrition, Vettel will most likely take his 4th championship bid another race weekend depriving Japan of the glory and the log cabin from steam cleaning on Monday morning.