Third championship title beckons for Alonso

Formula One World Championship, Rd 17, Korean Grand Prix, Race, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Sunday 24 October 2010.

Fernando Alonso after winning the Korean GP his fifth of the season so far

Oct.25 (Daniel Chalmers) After a thrilling race in Korea Fernando Alonso now has one hand on the championship trophy, and considering his and Ferrari’s current form he’s going to be hard to stop.

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari on the podium.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Bahrain Grand Prix, Race, Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain, Sunday 14 March 2010.

Win number one in Bahrain

What’s also become clearer looking at the points table is Red Bull need to focus on Webber to give themselves a realistic chance of beating him.

A wet race always had the potential to turn this incredibly tight title race upside down, and that’s exactly what happened. Mark Webber arrived in Korea 14 points ahead, and left 11 points down. That’s a swing of 25 points.

Whilst Sebastian Vettel was leading Alonso he was seven points clear in the championship table. After his Renault engine gave up on him he suddenly found himself 25 points adrift.

After Silverstone many considered Alonso to be out of contention for the title, when he was 47 points down on leader Hamilton.

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari on the podium.  Formula One World Championship, Rd 11, German Grand Prix, Race, Hockenheim, Germany, Sunday 25 July 2010.

Win number two in Germany

After a miserable race that weekend ruined by a drive-thru penalty Alonso never lost belief that he could be champion.

He told his team over the radio: “OK guys, keep your heads up. We will win the F1 championship.”

Since then Alonso has been the form man in Formula 1 winning four out of the last seven races, and delivering a few of the best performances of his career. He won two titanic battles with Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel in Monza and Singapore respectively.

Korea was another masterpiece by Fernando. The key to his victory was supreme management of his intermediate tyres. Whilst his rival’s tyres were going completely bald Fernando’s tyres remained in reasonably good shape.

Despite having less downforce (and a car that isn’t so effective in the wet) than the Red Bulls Alonso still kept relentless pressure on Vettel whilst brilliantly looking after his tyres. When Vettel’s engine failed he was there to pounce, and made light work of Hamilton leaving him for dead in the closing laps.

In tough conditions he didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon, whilst others lost their heads.

Win number three in Italy

Win number three in Italy

Now leading the championship by eleven points his destiny is in his own hands. One win and a sixth place in the last two races would guarantee him the title whatever closest rival Webber does.

When you consider Fernando’s current form, and the two tracks left in the 2010 season, it’s very hard to imagine the Spaniard throwing his third title away now.

Red Bull really needed to make the most of their 1-2 position in the Korean GP to extend their gap in the championship. Whilst they can be competitive in Brazil and Abu Dhabi these circuits present their problems.

Brazil should be a great track for Ferrari. They have won three out of the last four races there. Furthermore there is a strong chance that it will be a weak track for Red Bull, which gives Alonso a fighting chance to challenge for victory.

The RB6 will really struggle in the long full throttle drag up the hill which makes up sector 3 due to it’s straight-line speed disadvantage. Not only is it a long straight but the fact that it is uphill requires even more engine power.

Win number four in Singapore

Win number four in Singapore

They also have the long back straight in sector one to contend with. They should win back some time in sector two but overall this could very much be like Spa.

Another key advantage for Alonso could be the performance of Felipe Massa at his home track. Massa has always been inspired in front of his home fans and finds something extra no matter what his recent form has been like. Even when he drove for Sauber in 2004 he managed to qualify on the second row.

Felipe may be able to give Alonso a huge helping hand for the first time since that infamous race earlier in the season at Hockenheim.

If Alonso could win the race with Massa following home in second he will go to Abu Dhabi with at least a 21 point lead over Webber.

Fernando has engineered an amazing turnaround in the latter half of the season

Fernando has engineered an amazing turnaround in the latter half of the season

Abu Dhabi will also be fantastic for the F10. The circuit features several heavy braking zones. Stability under braking has been one of Ferrari’s biggest strengths in 2010.

The middle sector of the lap features two long straights where the RB6 will be exposed.

The rest of the circuit is quite twisty full of slow corners just like in Singapore where Ferrari really excelled. The F10 has proved to be quick in slow corners all season as we also saw in Monaco and in Montreal.

The other factor going strongly in Alonso’s favour is Red Bull’s constant refusal to back Webber. Therefore Vettel could take points off the Spaniard’s closest rival and make life easier for him.

For example what would happen if Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 in each of the two remaining races with Alonso third?

Alonso would still win the championship with Vettel and Webber both tied five points behind.

These results are certainly realistic given that Vettel has been the fastest driver in the Red Bull garage recently.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R25 and Flavio Briatore (ITA) Renault Team Principal in Parc Ferme. Formula One World Championship, Rd19,  Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai, China, 16 October 2005. BEST IMAGE

Fernando celebrates his first title win in 2005

This therefore shows that surely Red Bull has no choice but to back Webber otherwise they are pretty much ensuring Alonso is champion. Two Red Bull 1-2s with Mark in front would give the Aussie his first title.

If Red Bull had focused on Webber from Singapore onwards he would only be one point behind Alonso at the moment.

McLaren will also be pretty strong at the last two races due to the prominent feature of straights, but as long as Alonso keeps finishing on the podium Lewis Hamilton is too far back to cause any real headaches.

Alonso’s biggest risk of losing this title is by suffering a reliability failure or by making a silly mistake.

However at the moment Alonso seems like the calmest driver, and handling the pressure best out of all the title contenders. He is also demonstrating his superb consistency, which has been one of his trademarks throughout his career.

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault celebrates his second World Champion with the Renault team. Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006. DIGITAL IMAGE

Fernando celebrates his second title win in 2006

As we have seen recently with a car quick enough to challenge for wins Alonso always makes the most of the opportunity and grabs it with both hands.

Overall if Red Bull are to beat Alonso they are going to have to do it at two harder tracks, and surely focus on Webber.

The only other way (and the only way for Hamilton) is for Interlagos to suffer another wet weekend, or Alonso to uncharacteristically make a silly error or suffer bad luck.

Of course the season has been full of unexpected twists, so it could be that there is another big twist in the tail yet.

Hamilton insists the title is still open: “We will keep pushing and as you saw today anything can happen, we didn’t expect two Red Bulls to go out but that is how close this championship is. Fernando is quick but it is still open.”

If you are a betting man though Alonso is definitely the man to pile your money on right now.

  • Paul M

    Alonso is within touching distance of the title. He can win it in Brazil if:

    Alonso will be champion in Brazil if:

    Alonso wins the race
    • Webber is no higher than 5th

    Alonso finishes second
    • Webber is no higher than 8th
    • Hamilton is no higher than third

    Alonso finishes third
    • Webber is no higher than 10th
    • Hamilton is no higher than fourth

    Vettel and Hamilton can only stay in contention if
    • Alonso does not score 5 more points than Hamilton
    • Alonso fails to score and Vettel scores points

    Alonso only needs a win and 6th place over the last 2 races to win the title, regardless of what the other drivers do

  • http://Thailand Muddles

    Paul M, I am also a Paul M and appreciate your brilliant write up on who and where they may finish. Well done.