Three-time F1 world champ Niki “the Rat” Lauda, never short of an opinion, recently told Austria’s Kleine Zeitung that Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has blown his chances of becoming world champion this year.
“You can write Vettel off,” Lauda said. “He has no chance. Even if he wins the other [title contenders] won’t just disappear.”
While Lauda has come out against team orders, he has also expressed the opinion that Red Bull should back the driver who is currently ahead in the points, Mark Webber. Lauda, like many other paddock pundits, seems to think that there isn’t much wrong with the concept of team orders as long as Ferrari isn’t the team using them.
Lauda also feels that the superiority of the Red Bull package might give Mark Webber the edge over current points leader, Fernando Alonso. “I’m still convinced that the two Red Bulls are three, four tenths faster than anyone else,” Lauda said. “With the clear advantage in a faster car can be a compensation for Webber.”
As far as pure driving ability is concerned, however, Lauda would place his bets on Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. It’s true, Alonso, always the crafty driver, has driven a near-perfect season, considering that his Ferrari hasn’t always been the class of the field. According to Lauda, “Alonso is the better driver who is in a league of his own.”
Of course, Formula 1 is never about driving ability alone. Many championship battles have ended up being more about engineering and design than the absolute pace of the drivers. The 2010 season has been relatively unique in the most recent era for having so many drivers on near parity in terms of competitiveness. Whether this season proves to be a contest between tech directors or drivers remains to be seen.