The F1 championship battle moved into its acutely psychological phase on Sunday with Mark Webber going into the mandatory mid-season cost-saving factory ‘lock down’ on top of the world with four wins to his credit, twice the personal tally achieved so far by Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel or either Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button.
Webber drove a simply storming race to win in Hungary while his young Red Bull team-mate Vettel had any prospect of victory defused by a drive-through penalty imposed by dropping too far behind the safety car when it was deployed to clear debris from the track in the opening stages of the contest.
Vettel blamed his drive-through on the fact that he had suffered a glitch with his radio and had been ‘sleeping’ when the safety car came in. “It would have been a walk in the park without that,” he said wryly.
For his part, Webber admitted: “It was a bit of a gift for me today, but I haven’t had many so I will take it.” Ultimately Vettel may have more instinctive genius flowing from his finger tips than Webber, but the rugged Australian seems to get better with every racing mile which passes beneath the wheel of his Red Bull RB6.
He also has the innate toughness to deal with any mental mind games and could well parlay his modest four point championship lead over Lewis Hamilton into a title winning advantage when the teams re-convene for action at Spa at the end of the month.
Yet making an accurate call as to just how this title battle will ultimate unfold remains tantalisingly uncertain.
Alonso’s second place for Ferrari in Hungary keeps the twice champion still strongly in play while McLaren will assuredly recover from their dismal trip to Budapest which saw Hamilton succumb to a failed gearbox bearing and Jenson Button trail home a disappointed eighth.
So who will it be in the end? My money’s on a shoot-out between Webber and Alonso over the final three or four races. But I’m not bold enough to narrow the field to just one!