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James Allen on a crucial week for F1

James Allen on a crucial week for F1 - Feature - F1 | ITV Sport

Tuesday, 07 September 2010 16:14

It’s a potentially decisive week ahead for the course of this year’s championship.

Tomorrow we have the FIA World Motor Sport Council meeting to decide whether Ferrari should face any additional punishment for breaking the rules on team orders in the German Grand Prix.

Then on Sunday the Italian Grand Prix at Monza provides the drivers who lost ground in Spa to get back on terms or potentially lose contact with the championship leaders.

So it’s a big week for Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

At Spa we saw Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber, the two drivers who have performed best over the course of this season, again bagging the points, while their three rivals came away empty-handed.

If any of those three fail to bag some serious points this weekend then their task will start to look difficult.

McLaren showed in 2007 that they were willing to let their drivers fight to the finish for the title, even if it meant that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was able to steal the championship from them.

I’ve no reason to believe that they will approach things any differently this time.

Red Bull have never won the title and have clearly thrown the kitchen sink at winning it this season.

That is their main objective and their development rate shows that, even if it costs them in competitiveness next season.

Certain factions within the company would probably prefer Vettel to be the one leading the challenge and so will be reluctant to back Webber.

But to lose the championship now, having had such a dominant car, would be criminal – so backing one driver would make sense, once we get to the final three races, most likely.

The gaps now are looking quite large: Alonso is 41 points off the lead, Button 35 and Vettel 31.

Of course with the new points system, Button is only a win and a podium away, but in this tightly contested season, where finishing every race is vital, that is still quite a gap and you get the feeling that unless things change dramatically in Monza, Webber and Hamilton will fight for this championship.

Talking to my friends among neutral engineers, they feel that this is Webber’s championship to lose now, given how strong his car is and the rate of development from Red Bull we have seen this season.

Hamilton has been the driver of the season, outperforming his car on many occasions.

But for him to win the title, McLaren will need to come up with some exciting developments over and above what Red Bull have in the pipeline, and I wonder whether they have enough firepower left.

The McLaren car looked quick at Spa and much is being made of these new flexi tests on front wings and floors, which may or may not slow down the Red Bull cars.

Monza won’t tell us much as the downforce effect of flexi-wings is less in evidence there anyway, plus it’s likely to be one of Red Bull’s weaker circuits.

But we’ll definitely see in Singapore whether Red Bull’s competitiveness has been harmed by the new FIA tests.

We have some races coming up where anything can happen, particularly Singapore and Brazil.

We are long overdue a wet race in Singapore, given the time of year and the climate out there, while Brazil is never straightforward.

Finally tomorrow’s WMSC hearing could knock the stuffing out of Alonso and Ferrari’s world championship campaign.

Proving that they did break the rules on team orders will not be easy, as telling Massa that Alonso is faster is not the same as telling him to move over.

Apparently he was given a similar message in Australia and nothing happened.

My gut feeling is that Alonso will still be in the hunt after tomorrow; Ferrari will be fined more and possibly lose team points from the German GP.

But that’s not the most important thing about the WMSC hearing.

What we need is some clarification on when it’s okay to play team tactics, because in the closing stages of a championship switches of order have happened many times since the team orders rule has been around and no one got punished.

It’s the wrong rule for the sport and it needs to be changed and clarified.
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