Former Renault boss Flavio Briatore says he is puzzled by Red Bull's decision not to back Mark Webber in this year's championship.
The Australian has been ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel in the standings since the 10th round of the championship at Silverstone, and he is currently leading by 11 points from Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
Vettel, who finished ahead of Webber in the previous race in Singapore, is now 21 points behind Webber with four races to go. Briatore says it is "incomprehensible" that Vettel is not supporting Webber.
"I don't understand many things. Vettel has taken points away from Webber in Singapore, thus giving a present to Ferrari," Briatore was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport. "Despite the fact that Mark was not on the ball in the last race and even fumbled the start, I find what's happening incomprehensible. Unless Red Bull, which has a big points gap, is aiming for the Constructors' Championship only."
The Italian reckons Webber is the surprise of the year even if he doesn't take the title.
"A great man, a fair sportsman, a fine racing driver," he said of Webber. "No matter how it ends up, the surprise of the year is him. No one put him among the favorites, but I did, as I've known his qualities and tenacity for years. He's made good use of every chance. I expect him to be on the attack this weekend in Japan already."
Briatore believes, however, that Alonso is the best driver on the grid.
"He's the strongest, someone who knows how to take the team in the right direction. Without him Renault would not have taken two titles," he said. "Alonso is the world-class racing driver we know, and Ferrari has demonstrated to be a great team in the last two races. Fernando contributed with his speed and his class, but the men in the garage added their ability in the pit stops. And the engineers have brought car developments that worked."
He also suggested Alonso's teammate Felipe Massa should accept a number two role to the Spaniard.
"Felipe is good and quick, but he must understand that he has a special driver next to him. If I were in his shoes I'd take it easy."
Briatore also said Lewis Hamilton has made costly mistakes that have ruled him out of the championship fight.
"Hamilton did it all by himself – his overtaking attempt on Webber at Singapore couldn't end up any other way. Two retirements in two races are heavy: it's not conceivable to throw away a season in this way.
"It's the second time it happened, because he also made decisive mistakes in 2007. Had he kept calm and waited, he'd still be in the fight now. Button? I can't see how he can get back in the fight."