Top three fight for crown in Abu Dhabi
Alonso, Webber and Vettel only drivers with realistic chance in finale to thrilling season
Saturday 13 November 2010
Fernando Alonso: 246pts
It has been an interesting journey for the Spaniard, who took a trip into a wilderness in the years after his two world titles with Renault in 2005 and '06.
The tremors of his unhappy 2007 season with McLaren still reverberate below the surface of F1, both at McLaren and within the Alonso camp, and the controversy of Singapore when Nelson Pique Jnr deliberately crashed allowing Alonso to win the race, is still also there in the background to haunt him. But his career with Ferrari began brilliantly with victory first time out in Bahrain, echoing the achievements of Nigel Mansell and Kimi Raikkonen on their debuts with the Prancing Horse.
The Spaniard is renowned for his mental resilience, although Hamilton put that to the test when they were team-mates at McLaren and rattled him on several occasions. While not universally popular with his peers, Alonso is recognised as one of the top three in the game and there is nobody in the paddock who doesn't have significant respect for his abilities behind the wheel and to absorb the sort of criticism aimed at him after the team orders stunt in Germany.
After his fine start to the season Ferrari's performance slumped until a lucky second place in Spain, and there were accidents (highly unusual for Alonso), notably the costly shunt during Saturday practice which so compromised his race in Monaco, and another when he was running well down in the rain in Belgium after an early attack by Rubens Barrichello.
Team strategy cost him a possible win in Canada, and his own folly in passing Robert Kubica illegally in Britain and then not handing the place back cost him dear. Then came the controversial victory gifted to him by reluctant team-mate Felipe Massa in Germany, two excellent wins in Italy and Singapore – the first dominant, the second canny – and another well-judged, albeit fortunate, triumph in the rain in Korea. Since that gaffe in Spa, the Spaniard has amassed 105 points, the highest total by far for the five races, and that's what has set up his tilt at a third title.
What Alonso must do: Second place will do it, regardless of which Red Bull might win. Simple as that. But if he is third and Webber beats Vettel, it is all over for the Spaniard.
Mark Webber: 238pts
Webber's season began poorly but it is testament to the "old-timer" (he is 34) that he fought back and is now in with a shout, possibly his only shout, of winning the world title. To that end it would be a crying shame if he were to be denied by his team-mate Sebastian Vettel, whom Red Bull seem to favour so much. Webber has done remarkably well to (largely) keep his counsel.
The Australian is a fitness addict who is getting a huge buzz this year out of taking on and beating the cream of the crop who are in some cases more than 10 years his junior. Mentally very strong, he is about as unstarry as they get. While recovering from a badly broken leg last winter he was far more concerned for the quadriplegic in the next bed. He's also a huge fan of all types of sport, particularly speedway and MotoGP, and has a far bigger view of the world than most of his rivals put together.
He made a poor start to the season with eighth in Bahrain and ninth in Australia. But second to Vettel in Malaysia got him going and he followed up with a dominant win in Spain that reminded everyone that successes in Germany and Brazil in 2009 had been far from fluke results. He followed that with a wonderful win in Monaco, and suddenly the Australian was the man to beat. A gearbox change before the start compromised his race in Canada. He finished fifth, then had that spectacular backflip shunt over Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus in Valencia. He bounced back from that, and a controversial moment when team-mate Vettel was given his new front wing for qualifying, to dominate the British GP and take his third win of the season. Germany brought only sixth, but Hungary yielded another excellent win as Vettel, by his own admission, "fell asleep" during a safety car stint.
There haven't been any wins since then, and starting problems beyond his control hurt him in Belgium before he recovered to second, Italy gave him only sixth, Singapore third and Japan second before a mistake on a damp track in Korea cost him his long-held points lead. He bounced back with second, despite an overheating engine, last week in Brazil.
What Webber must do: Assuming that Alonso finishes no higher than third, victory will do the trick for Webber regardless of where Vettel finishes. If he wins with Alonso second, it's all over for the Australian.
Sebastian Vettel: 231pts
After dominating the Bahrain and Australian grands prix (before suffering technical problems in both), Vettel seemed a shoo-in for the 2010 world title. But he has taken his eye off the ball at crucial moments and now finds himself in the unenviable position of having to possibly let his team-mate through to take the crown that should have been his.
It is no laughing matter for the German but he is normally the joker in the F1 pack, a young guy whose smile is still schoolboyish and who makes no secret of his love of British comedy such as Monty Python and Little Britain.
Red Bull love him, though the depth of the management's infatuation grates in some areas of the team (including Webber) where he is known as "Princess Petal". He can be impetuous and can get edgy and crotchety when things go wrong, but fundamentally he's a likeable guy who adores racing.
A spark plug problem, of all things, dropped him to third in the opening race, and then brake problems took him out in the second. He won convincingly in Malaysia, before sixth in China was followed by a beaten but troubled third in Spain and second in Monaco. A mistake in turning in too sharply and colliding with team-mate Webber as he overtook him in Turkey was much publicised and took him a while to get his head around. Then came fourth in Canada, a second win in Valencia, a poor seventh in Britain, and a distant third in Germany. It seemed inconceivable that the man in the best car was being left behind by a man more than 10 years his senior. Webber dished out another beating in Hungary.
In Belgium he made another mistake and speared into Jenson Button's McLaren after losing control behind it on a damp track. A long talk with himself saw him revitalised for the remainder of the year, with fourth in Italy, second in Singapore, and wins in Japan and Brazil book-ending engine failure while leading in Korea.
What Vettel must do: He needs to win. But if Alonso is third, even victory won't seal the championship for the German, who needs Alonso to finish sixth or lower. If Webber finishes second to him, Vettel would be level on points but would claim the title with five wins to four.
And, it could happen...Lewis Hamilton: 222pts
Hamilton is hugely popular with fans of racing across the world, who love a pure racer that never gives up. As long as he has a chance to win, he keeps at it, and has an awesome ability not just to overtake but to drag a performance from his equipment that it doesn't always want to give.
What Hamilton must do: He must win, but also rely on Alonso, Webber and Vettel all failing to score points. In that highly unlikely eventuality, he would take the title by a single point from the Spaniard.
Points on offer
Lewis Hamilton: 222 points
Fernando Alonso: 246 points
Mark Webber: 238 points
Sebastian Vettel: 231 points
Formula One's scoring system for 2010 means that the points available for a podium finish are as follows:
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