A common enemy in Mark Winterbottom is what has both sides of the Red Bull garage striving for a one-two championship finish this weekend in Sydney says car No.1 engineer Mark Dutton.
While Dutto would obviously prefer to be drinking from the winner’s trophy this Sunday afternoon, the four-time championship-winning engineer says that, regardless of popular opinion, both sides of the garage will be working in unison to assure a Red Bull Racing Australia lock out this weekend.
“Both sides of the garage are 100 per cent for each other,” Dutto says.
“The tension hasn’t escalated or anything like that. It’s healthy competition and I think part of what has us so tight as a team and bringing us closer than anything is having a common enemy in Frosty. He’s been involved in incidents with both sides of the garage this year and more than anything we don’t want to see him win the championship at our expense.
“It’s also the only position you want to be in as a team – fighting for one-two.”
That’s not to say J-Dub and Lowndesy have been instructed to take it easy on each other. In fact, according to Dutto it’s quite the opposite should the championship battle come down to the final lap on Sunday and either driver is on the tail of the other.
“There are several factors in making a championship-winning passing move if we are behind,” he explains.
“First thing you do is assess where Winterbottom is. If he’s behind, then a move is on. Now, Jamie is reluctant to do a passing move that will take almost anyone out let alone Craig. Even if he was told to take Craig out, which would obviously never happen, he wouldn’t do it. So the move has to be seriously on for Jamie to contemplate that. He’ll still make the passing move, he just won’t do it if it means a possibility of taking Craig out.”
It’s a bitter sweet reality for Red Bull Racing Australia. Should the championship battle between Lowndesy, J-Dub and Frosty remain as tight or closer after Saturday’s race, Sunday’s 250km epic will be as demanding on the drivers’ consciences as their bodies.
Last weekend at Phillip Island it was J-Dub chasing Lowndesy for the lead but this Saturday, the roles have been reversed – an ever so slight relief for Dutto.
“And because of that the mindset is a little bit different this week when you’re leading the points,” Dutto says.
“When you’re behind, you know you have a harder task because you have to finish in front of your rivals. When you’re behind, six points is a lot but when you’re in front, 20 points feels like nothing.
“We were lucky to avoid any real drama in a crazy Phillip Island round. But 20 points is nothing, especially at Homebush. For entertainment purposes and for V8s as sport, it’s the perfect place for the finale and for the championship battle to play out. It’s horrifying for us because it’s so high risk, but it’s going to be quite a spectacle.
“But the advantage of being in front is that if you are one position or so behind you don’t have to make the move to win the championship.”
But to win the championship one must first finish the race. And having suffered countless dramas on the streets of Homebush, Dutto is adamant that this weekend the No.1 and No.888 cars will be better prepared than any other on the grid.
“It’s such a long race so it’s a matter of track speed and handling what are the most aggressive kerbs of all circuits,” Dutto continues.
“We’ve been in good positions before in Sydney but then had a wheel hanging off the car from the aggressive kerbs. But we believe we have stronger componentry this year and stronger than anybody else’s out there. We’re in a good position that the componentry we’ve chosen is the best for this track and the conditions.
“Having a not-working car is not an option.”
And now more than ever, J-Dub and Dutto can’t afford to have a fifth consecutive bad run in Sydney.
“We’ve basically had a nightmare run at Sydney – we’ve caused red flags in practice and been excluded from qualifying, we’ve had mechanical issues and shunted into the same wall a couple of times,” he says.
“It hasn’t been a happy hunting ground but last year, we led for a lot of the race Sunday and showed some really good speed there.
“And I know one thing for sure. If it starts raining and Jamie’s in contention to wrap up the championship, I’ll be pulling him in for wets to avoid the kind of drama of Saturday, 2010 – that was the worst. And it was my fault.
“This weekend we get a chance to make up for it.”
Of course, race one 2010 was the infamous aquaplane disaster when championship rivals Whincup, Courtney and Winterbottom all hit the wall on slicks while battling for the lead in pouring rain. DJR had Courtney’s car back on the track first which effectively gave him the championship (see our chat with car No.1 mechanic Gooey, who was on the dark side in 2010). J-Dub had suggested wets to Dutto before the safety car restart but the team decided to take a gamble.
Hence Dutto not leaving any stone unturned in an effort to right his wrong.
It proves he is human afterall…