Pit Stop

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 November, 2010, 12:00am

Brazil may have made its choice of president last Sunday, but this Sunday Sao Paulo will help choose the 2010 Formula One world champion. There are two races to go in this longest of seasons. It is still too tight to call, which is marvellous for the millions of fans trying to work out what time to sit down and watch the only race taking place in the Americas. All five contenders can still win, but the Korean Grand Prix, for all its shambolic elements, certainly made matters a little clearer.

Firstly, Jenson Button is going to need a biblical plague to descend on his rivals if he is to win back-to-back championships. Korea might have been a no-finish for the Red Bulls, but Button was a no-points 12th.

McLaren say that while there is a mathematical chance of the Briton winning they will support him equally, but surely in private they will put their not inconsiderable resources squarely behind Lewis Hamilton. He was second in Korea, but still 21 points off the pace and seems a long shot.

It must be a grim, nervy time for the whole of the Red Bull team at the moment. To have two DNF's last time out was nothing short of a disaster, but a championship is won over a season, not just one race. That has been their problem all season. The team have led 60 per cent of race laps this season and bossed qualifying, but they have not been as impressive as they should be on the lap that really matters - the last one.

When Sebastian Vettel's engine went up in smoke in Korea it was a good metaphor for his title hopes. He now lies a race win - 25 points - behind the championship leader.

If Vettel does not prevail this season he knows time and youth are on his side, but Mark Webber knows that this is his big chance. It was driver error that finished his race last time out and that would have upset him a great deal. To his credit he fronted up to the media and admitted his mistake. It is mental tenacity that has got him this far, and it might still get him over the line.

He knows the task. To win the next two races. If he can do that, no one else matters; he will be home and dry. Weighing on his mind will be the fragile nature of the car and the fact that any racing misfortune will end his challenge.

The problem for Webber et al is Fernando Alonso, who looks in ominous form. He hit the front with perfect timing and the wind is in his sails. He has the advantage of being Ferrari's undisputed number one driver and we have witnessed the ruthlessness that has put him in that position. As he told the press recently, it is better to be ahead than behind, and you can take it as read that he will do all that is necessary to keep it that way.

If I were pressed for a prediction, my heart would say Webber, but my head would say Alonso. He is the only man who can win it this weekend, but let's hope for the sake of the season that it goes all the way to Abu Dhabi. If Alonso wins by a narrow margin, the US$100,000 fine for the team-orders episode (some would say scandal) will seem a very small price to pay indeed.

Whatever happens in the next two races, let's hope we are not subjected to a Formula One pantomime via radio again.

In Korea, TV viewers were subjected to an artificial dialogue between pit wall and drivers. They were not really talking to each other; they were sending not-too-subtle messages to Charlie Whiting, the race director.

As the rain teemed down and drivers followed the safety car, Hamilton was asked by McLaren what he thought of the conditions. Needing points, he was keen to go racing. Red Bull's drivers funnily enough were not so keen.

It was a similarly silly charade at the end. As it got darker, the Red Bulls were asked about conditions again. They thought it was time to stop the race (if only they could have). Again, McLaren asked Hamilton. By his reply you would have thought it was bright sunshine. It insulted the viewers' intelligence, and it certainly was a ridiculously clumsy way to try to make a point to Whiting.


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Pit Stop

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