If a situation arises where a position swap will allow one of their drivers – regardless of who – to remain in the title hunt, it has to be done.
Just because it’s a long shot for anyone else to win the title, doesn’t mean something won’t happen. If something were to happen to Seb – and god forbid it doesn’t – that sidelined him for the season, with such a small margin to play with it would make total sense for the team put all their effort into one driver. They’d be battling against Alonso, Massa, Webber and whoever else would stand in for Vettel. Having your team mate added to that mix is an unnecessary yet controllable situation.
At the moment, with Button ahead in the standings and momentum, it would make the most sense to pick him. If Lewis were in the same situation, he’d be picked. It doesn’t mean that one driver has a higher status in the team than the other, it means that driver is more likely to secure a better result for the team given the situation. They’re called team orders, not driver orders, because they’re for the benefit of the team. Ferrari would do it, I’m pretty sure Red Bull would do it, and even though McLaren have this image of being ‘fair’, they’re a racing team with the goal of winning, and they’d do it too.
Would they use team orders to ensure a driver gets second in the championship? Probably not. The reward is lower and would be a PR disaster. If they did it, would I understand? Yes.