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F1: Red Bull's Driver Rivalry In Spotlight, McLaren Dropping Out Of Fight Photo:
Mike Stevens | Oct, 12 2010 | 1 Comment

With McLaren's charge fading and Fernando Alonso going it alone for Ferrari, the rivalry between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel will be in the spotlight during the now three-race run to the 2010 World Championship.

Red Bull's racing duo, although separated by 14 points, are right in the fight for the Drivers' Championship; an individual's prize that often sees teams back one driver over the other.

This year has seen Vettel and Webber swing between being the obviously favoured son to the downtrodden number two driver, but team boss Christian Horner has once again reinforced their status of equality.

With Alonso charging alone with the – albeit reluctant – support of Felipe Massa, the competitive rivalry between Webber and Vettel, and the fact the pair are obviously not friends, is a problem for Red Bull.

But boss Horner insists: "We are fortunate to have two level-headed and strong-willed drivers.

"And while that inevitably poses challenges at times, it is a luxury problem to have," he said.

It might be a luxury to have two competitive drivers in the running for the title, but with Ferrari's solitary Alonso chasing their heels, Red Bull runs the risk of losing by not focusing on a single driver.

"The dream scenario would be to be able to pull out a big enough gap to all those behind that it was just down to them on track," Horner admitted in Japan.

"But as a team we are trying our best to support both drivers equally and both drivers are very much still in this championship," he added.

John Watson, a former race winner with McLaren, thinks it is the potential trouble in the Red Bull camp and resultant Turkey-like situations that might keep McLaren in the title fight.

At Suzuka for example, Webber pulled out a further three points in his championship lead simply by finishing behind Vettel.

But he couldn't resist spoiling Vettel's perfect day by bettering the young German's coveted fastest race lap on the final tour.

"I couldn't let him have a full house," Webber said.

Noted BBC commentator Martin Brundle: "The team must have great angst with the risks of this unnecessary mind-game late in the race."

And Watson told the BBC's radio Five Live: "I'm concerned by the internal machinations between the Red Bull drivers.

"That's going to be the biggest ray of light for Hamilton and Button."



McLaren Duo Dropping Out Of 2010 Title Contention

With three races left to run in 2010, McLaren's title-winning rhetoric has turned a corner.

After Suzuka, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are now 28 and 31 points respectively behind the leader Mark Webber, moving Hamilton to admit that even a winning streak through to November's Abu Dhabi finale might not be enough now.

"Podiums won't do it," he said after a nightmare weekend in Japan, having nursed a second gearbox problem of the event to the chequered flag with an ear infection.

"Wins will get it if the others have problems. But if Red Bull finish all the races then it's a walkover," added Briton Hamilton.

Button is also downbeat about defending his World Championship after Japan.

"If we don't turn up in Korea with some good improvements to get us near the Red Bulls, it is almost impossible," he said.

"I would like to think we don't have to hope Red Bull crash or have reliability issues and we have a car to challenge them. But when they have the pace they had here, they can cruise it."

Closer to Webber's lead - and level-pegging with Sebastian Vettel's 14 point deficit - is Fernando Alonso, who remains confident of winning his first title at the wheel of a Ferrari.

"We are convinced that this was the worst track of the remaining races for us," said the Spaniard after finishing third in Japan.

"To be world champion I need one more win and two podiums," Alonso is quoted by La Stampa.

Also smiling after Suzuka is pole sitter and winner Vettel, despite admitting that his Australian teammate is now tantalisingly close to the title.

"His 14 point lead is of course an advantage," he said, referring to Webber.

"If he wins again, it will be difficult for all of us," German Vettel is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport.

"But anything can still happen."

The 23-year-old's confidence was boosted by the apparent ease with which he won in Japan.

"Without sounding arrogant," he said, "I would say I always had Mark under control.

"I could see him all the time," Vettel told Bild newspaper. "He was one, two or three seconds behind. Every time he came a bit closer, I went on the gas a bit more.

"It's looking okay. If I win the next three races, everything will be fine, so that must be my goal," he said.

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