Prancing Horse eager to halt Red Bull's charge to F1 title

Ferrari's Alonso still won't abandon hope in his F1 title fight with Vettel

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 November, 2012, 2:45am

Abu Dhabi has long harboured ambitions to bring cultural brands to its corner of the United Arab Emirates. The Guggenheim museum and the Louvre are both coming to an island off the capital. Despite delays as a result of the global financial crisis, the Louvre is set to open in 2015 and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi in 2017. Both are on Saadiyat Island, and along with a plethora of other museums, clubs, marinas and reserves, it highlights the emirate's desire to be taken seriously - and to have it all instantly.

If you like your entertainment a little less highbrow and a lot more noisy, head a short way down the E12 highway to Yas Island. There you will find Ferrari World. I have to confess I have never been there, but my petrol-head friends who live in the UAE cannot get enough of the place. From looking at the four-wheel thoroughbreds in the Galleria Ferrari, to screaming their heads off on the roller coaster, it's their kind of theme park.

Yas Island is, of course, the location of this weekend's grand prix, and the Ferrari team arrive needing a boost in their home from home.

The championship race may have resembled the roller-coaster ride at Ferrari World at times, but with three races to go it would seem increasingly like an unhappy ending for the prancing horse. Sebastian Vettel's win in India means the Red Bull driver has outscored Fernando Alonso by 100 points to 48 in the last four races. He now leads the championship by 13 points. The momentum is undoubtedly with Red Bull. But you can never write off Ferrari.

Certainly Alonso is in a defiant mood. "Nothing changes in one race" he said. "There are 75 points [still available] and we are 13 behind and we need to improve". Improvement is the key for the race in Abu Dhabi. The Spaniard says some new parts are needed in the pits if he is to have any chance.

When Alonso was ahead in the championship, limiting the damage might have been enough. Even with a car that is not the best on the grid, he has ground out results because he is the best driver on the grid. This time, he has to take the fight to Red Bull, which is why he is praying for a better car.

I'm not sure his confidence will be boosted by the comments of his boss, Stefano Dominicali. He says there is no point crying over not having the best car. In fact the Italian is upbeat. "I have said to my team, 'Listen, in the 1982 World Cup of football, our team were not the strongest, but we won the title.'" Some might call it a rallying cry; others clutching at straws.

Going into last weekend's race, Alonso was telling anyone who would listen that he was still 100 per cent certain he would be champion in 2012. Perhaps he feels he can will his way to the title. Cold facts would suggest otherwise. His rival, Vettel, has equalled Ayrton Senna's record of leading every lap of a race for three consecutive grands prix.

And yet, this is sport, where anything can happen. Formula One, sadly, is not as unpredictable as it once was, but there is still plenty of scope for the unexpected to happen. Just looking back to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2011 might give Ferrari a reason to dream.

Certainly Vettel wrapped up a customary pole position with Alonso back in fifth, but come race day the German lasted just the single lap. All it would take is a mechanical mishap, or getting too close to Romain Grosjean on the first lap, to ruin Vettel's day - and season.

You would certainly put your money on a third successive title for Vettel and Red Bull, but do not rule out a surprise that would send the Tifosi onto the Ferrari World roller coasters with a smile on their faces.