Alonso versus Vettel starting in Korea with five to go
11 October, 2012
Oct.11 (Apex) Mathematically speaking eight drivers can win the 2012 Formula 1 world championship as 125 points are up for grabs in the five final races of the season, starting with the Korean Grand Prix.
But in truth, only two drivers head to Yeongam with a realistic chance of nabbing this year’s crown and as it stands the momentum is now with Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull who have won the last two rounds and had a clear edge on their rivals at Suzuka.
Despite this, Fernando Alonso heads the championship standings with 194 points to his name, four more than Vettel. The Spaniard has been reeled in after enjoying a handy championship lead after the mid-term break in September. A month onwards and things are looking precarious for the Maranello squad and its Spanish charger.
In four races Alonso has scored 30 points, while Vettel has bagged 68 and the tide is certainly shifting. Unless Ferrari can deliver a development break through to counter the leap taken by Red Bull in recent races, they may again fail at the finish line – as they did in 2010. However, one thing the reds can count on is their Spanish driver delivering against the odds, provided he can qualify out of the midfield war zone and avoid a first lap incident – two of which have cost him dearly in the last four races.
Thus the spotlight in Korea will be firmly trained on the dueling pair, who are also battling it out to be the first (of the two) to nab a third world title; for Vettel it will be his third in a row and for Alonso also his third to add to his back-to-back crowns of 2005 and 2006.
Although only Vettel and Alonso have won in Korea, it most certainly will not be a two man show at the third running of the Korean Grand Prix as the matter of the constructors’ championship is very much a contest with Red Bull leading from McLaren, with Ferrari very much in striking distance. This contest set to go down to the wire.
In fact the McLaren MP4-27 is, on paper, as quick if not quicker than Red Bull’s car, although the RB8 appeared to make a big step forward in the ongoing development war relative to its rivals, perhaps starting in Singapore but clearly in evidence at Suzuka. Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button have always been contenders this season, and at Yeongam they are certain be in the mix for a podium shot if not outright victory.
Vettel’s team mate Mark Webber should also be a contender as he finished on the podium there last year, and appears to enjoy the stiffer setup required for the mix of medium and high speed corners that characterises the Herman Tilke penned circuit.
Lotus seem to be slipping away from the top trio of teams, their E20 not an earth shattering piece of kit anymore. Irrespective of this, count on Kimi Rakkonen to keep chipping away and bagging the points. He stole the title in 2007, so knows the game plan. However a first win, since his comeback, to add to his career tally of 18 victories would be most welcome.
Romain Grosjean on the other hand is fighting for his reputation which is at an all time low after his ‘nutcase’ shunt in Suzuka, when memories of his Spa shenanigans and Monza ban were still fresh. Blisteringly quick at times, but at the same time destructively erratic – podiums are always possible for the Frenchman if he can stay out of trouble.
On the rebound, after his strong showing at Suzuka, is Felipe Massa who is most likely to tow the line and help Alonso’s championship campaign even if he has a win in his sights. But perhaps more importantly for all concerned is that the Brazilian can again contribute to his team’s constructors title ambitions, which until recently were a one (Spanish)man show.
Sauber and Williams have been enigmatic this year, at times devastatingly quick and super impressive, while at others simply out of contention – where they will be quick and where they won’t baffling to most, and perhaps even themselves.
The Swiss team arrive in Korea on a high after Kamui Kobayashi’s fine podium at Suzuka and if their car is on song at Yeongam then the Japanese driver and Sergio Perez (assuming that he keeps it on the black stuff) will be podium contenders come race day.
Pastor Maldonado is another one who is capable of extreme pace when in the zone, or total hooliganism when the red mist descends. Having said that, the Williams FW34 was not a front running package in Japan, but Yeongam may suit it’s favoured characteristics as it is a track similar to Circuit de Catalunya where the Venezuelan scored his first and only F1 win earlier this year.
On the other side of the garage, Bruno Senna is fighting for his career thanks to a mediocre season littered with tiny incidents and mediocre performances that have done the Brazilian no favours.
Arguably the saddest sight this year is Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg climbing into the woeful Mercedes W03, then giving it their all to try and eke out a decent result each weekend. Rosberg’s victory in China is a distant memory, while Schumacher was dealt a rough hand when expected to shine in one of the worst race cars on the F1 grid. A shame really.
So bring on Korea, because whatever the case, drama is guaranteed in the 16th episode of a riveting soap opera. To quote Alonso: “Now we start a sort of mini-championship, run over five grands prix!”
Subbed by AJN.