Formula One title becomes a straight shoot-out
Four successive wins, coupled with two DNF’s for Alonso in the last five races, have seen the Spaniard’s world championship lead of some 40 points wiped out, and Vettel goes into the last three races of the season with a 13 point lead.
Vettel was never really challenged in India, and Fernando Alonso can take some solace to the fact that he jumped both McLaren’s and MArk Webber to take second place and prevent Vettel from building a more commanding lead.
Of the remaining three races, Vettel took pole in the two that were on the calendar last year, only for a first lap puncture in Abu Dhabi and a convenient mechanical fault allowed Mark Webber to take his sole win in Brazil last year. The Austin, Texas race is unknown territory for all the teams and Alonso knows this will be his best chance to claim an elusive race win and 25 world championship points.
Lewis Hamilton struggled with a faulty car in Korea and was fortunate to leave with a point that the 27-year-old admitted effectively rules him out of the championship race. Kimi Raikonen is third in the standings, without winning a race, but it looks like a straight shoot-out between Vettel and Alonso.
Should one of the two win the world championship it would see them become the youngest ever triple world champion in the sport, further incentive if needed for two of the finest drivers in the current field.
That it has taken until Korea for Alonso to be toppled from the lead of the drivers’ championship is a testament to the remarkable job that Fernando Alonso has done in a clearly below-par car. Ferrari have landed pole position in just two grand prix this year, with Fernando converting one into a win, but at no point has the Ferrari looked the most competitive car on the grid.
Pundits and former professionals seem to be in unison when championing the 31-year-old from Oviedo as the most talented current driver and his win in the second race of the season, a rain-hit Bahrain GP, was astounding from a car that seemed at least a second of the pace in the opener in Melbourne.
I would argue that McLaren have had the strongest car over the course of 2012, so their slip to third in the constructors’ championship after Korea indicates that the Woking outfit have had a season to forget. Driver error, reliability, pit stops and first lap incidents have cost McLaren more than most teams and this inconsistency might have played a part in Lewis Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes.
Red Bull haven’t be far off the pace all year but have made significant progress developing the car and having dominated the last three races, the money is on Vettel to deliver a third successive title at just 25. Red Bull bossed the Singaporean, Japanese and Korean events in 2011, so the upsurge in performance from the RB8 is no major surprise. How Ferrari respond in the next four races will be crucial.
Vettel collected all three ‘stats’ from the Indian grand prix last year; pole position, the race win and fastest lap and would appear to be in good shape for the next race. He is way out as favourite at 6/5. Securing a third consecutive title will make him only the third man in Formula One history to win three or more back-to-back, after Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher.
Either Alonso or Vettel will be deserving three time world champions but after holding on for so long, it will take some recovery for Ferrari to wrestle the initiative back from Red Bull. They are clearly two of the fastest drivers in the sport, both men have held the record for the youngest driver to win a grand prix, Alonso in 2003 before Vettel toppled him in 2008. The straight shoot-out between the two promises to be an enthralling end to the season.
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