Alonso poised to wrap up title

Abu Dhabi GP pre-race analysis

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Abu Dhabi, 2010

The four-dimensional championship showdown in Abu Dhabi could be resolved in any number of ways.

But with a precious eight-point championship lead and his closest rival behind him on the grid, the cards are stacked in Fernando Alonso’s favour.

The start

The start is an important moment of any race but with a world championship hanging in the balance between four drivers, all of which start in the top five, the opening corners take on critical significance.

From the one F1 start here last year plus various GP2 races, starting off-line does not seem to too great a disadvantage at Yas Marina. Sergio Perez powered into the lead from second on the grid in Saturday’s GP2 feature race – a heartening sight for Lewis Hamilton, who starts there in the Grand Prix.

Most of Red Bull’s advantage over McLaren is in the last sector of the lap, so expect Hamilton to give pole sitter Sebastian Vettel a very hard time in the first few corners.

The McLaren may not have the straight-line speed advantage they enjoyed at the beginning of the season, but Vettel’s was the third-slowest car through the speed trap in qualifying, giving Hamilton a 3kph advantage.

There’s a clear difference in approach between Hamilton, second on the grid, and Alonso, third. Hamilton is ready to throw caution to the wind:

On the grid tomorrow, I don?t have to worry about who?s around me ?ǣ they all have to worry about who?s around them! I?ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. It?s the other drivers who?ll have to worry; I don?t have to be cautious at all in the race. Perhaps they need to think about that.

I?m not focusing on winning the drivers? title; I?m just focusing on winning this race.
Lewis Hamilton

Whereas Alonso knows he has to stay out of trouble:

Normally after the first ten or twenty meters you understand if you had a good or bad start.

If you are that good, you can think of attacking. If you feel that something is going wrong, you try to defend your position, so it will be a reaction or action that we need to take tomorrow after the first ten or twenty meters, but in general I think we will not win the championship in corner one. The only thing we can do is to lose it, so we will see.
Fernando Alonso

Even so, Hamilton has run in front of Alonso in both of the last two races – only to go off and lose the position.

Alonso has another McLaren to worry about behind him on the grid, in the form of a rejuvenated Jenson Button.

Alonso’s principle title rival Mark Webber hasn’t made the best getaways from the start line in recent races. Hamilton was able to get alongside him in turn one at Interlagos and has lost places on the first lap on several occasions this year.

It’s imperative for him that he avoids that happening tomorrow, as he would likely end up stuck behind Felipe Massa – which would be another blow for his ever-diminishing championship hopes.

Strategy

The Abu Dhabi pit lane, with its unique tunnel exit, is second only to Shanghai in terms of the amount of time the drivers lose making a stop. Coming into the pits costs them 20.5 seconds (according to Williams), plus the amount of time the car spends stationary.

That means the front runners could be left out a while until they have enough of a gap behind them to make a pit stop.

Webber’s best hope for improvement in the race could come from his strategy. Red Bull have excelled in this area this year – bringing him up to third at Singapore, for instance.

Ferrari’s poor pace on high fuel on Friday is likely to be less of a problem tomorrow now that the track surface has had chance to rubber in.

But it remains to be seen whether McLaren’s improved pace this weekend has been matched by improved tyre wear, which they struggled with at Interlagos.

As usual, everyone in the top ten is starting on the softer tyres, which this weekend are the super-softs.

The championship

Alonso may only be ahead of one of his championship rivals on the grid, but it’s the one that matters most – Mark Webber, who’s eight points behind him in the constructors’ championship.

That means that were the top five drivers to finish in the order they qualified, Alonso would be world champion.

The most realistic threat to Alonso’s title hopes heading into the race is likely to come from Vettel. If he wins the race, Alonso has to make sure he finishes in the top four.

Were he to fall to fifth – behind, say, Button and Webber – he would end the race level on points with Vettel, and lose the championship due to Vettel having more fourth place finishes.

In that case his new best friend could come into play – Lewis Hamilton, who may pose the biggest threat to Vettel on race day.

Of course Alonso only needs to gain one place on his starting position to be guaranteed the championship regardless of what happens to his rivals.

How do you think the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will unfold – and how will the championship be decided? Have your say in the comments.

Don’t forget to join us for live comments during the race here at F1 Fanatic to see the race unfold. We set started one hour before the Grand Prix gets underway.

And keep track of how the race finishing order could decide the destiny of the title using the Championship Calculator.

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125 comments on Alonso poised to wrap up title

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  1. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 13th November 2010, 19:45

    No idea how it’s going to turn out. None whatsoever.

    All that is written below this comment is idle speculation. None of us knows. That’s why it’s so exciting!

    • Agree. I tipped Vettel for pole, he just has that magical ability to do it when it matters.

      What a great story it would be if Webber were to win the Championship tomorrow. Or Hamilton, although I would be sad to see so many of the title contenders drop out of the race.
      Vettel winning it would be boring, if he would run from pole to finish in 1st position, but given Lewis is ready to go and Vettel will have to be a bit more carefull, so I count on them to have a bit of a scruff. Same goes for Button and Alonso.
      The first corner pile up with Webber coming through close to the lead might have some merits, especially if it would have Massa second and maybe Rubens or Jenson 3rd.
      Lets hope it will not be the anti-climax of last weeks race though.

      • Maciek said on 13th November 2010, 20:48

        Agreed that it would probably make for a boring race to have Vettel lead everyone home from the start, but it would certainly be a fitting touch on his championship, not least because it would be symbolic of his excellent driving…. when not having to overtake.

        • TommyC said on 14th November 2010, 7:26

          i do genuinely worry for vettel when he finds himself in a dreadfully uncompetitive car in the next few years.

      • Butterfly said on 14th November 2010, 9:11

        Yeah, you’d probably have that magical ability as well if you were driving the RB6.

        I guess talk is cheap for some people…

      • Tipping Seb for pole this year has been easier to predict that last nights boxing.

    • Ideas: none. Hopes: one. Go Fernando!!!

  2. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th November 2010, 19:49

    I hope for a Hamilton win. Anything else would be a bonus.

    May the champion be the best.

    • Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 13th November 2010, 19:52

      May the champion be the best.

      That’s a given I think. Whoever wins the title will deserve it IMO.

      (Before a member of the seven-point brigade steps in to refute this comment, my opinion of your opinion can’t be expressed in accordance with Keith’s comments policy. So let’s not bother, ‘kay?)

      • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 13th November 2010, 20:07

        I’m glad you saw the meaning behind my strange wording :)

        F1 is F1. If the title is lost by Webber by 6 points or Hamilton by 1, then that’s their teams’ fault for not being brave enough to use team orders too.

        • Aren’t team orders banned? ;)

          There are team orders and then there are ‘team orders’.

          I don’t want to have the feeling that someone’s trying to fool me again.

        • In fact, if Alonso wins by more than 7 points, Hockenheim team orders will be redundant in hindsight, and a win needlessly taken away from Massa. So actually, Ferrari is vindicated if Alonso wins by 7 points or less.

        • “brave enough to use team orders” ? Hahahaaaah :-) It’s like “brave enough to eat chocolate” :-)

          Brave enough to really race to the end sounds much more deserving respect, no?

          I’m Alonso fan, but this team spoils him with such tactics/antics.

      • David BR said on 13th November 2010, 20:11

        Well, now you mention it…
        Actually I think Alonso has shown determination, skill and consistency to get to so close to the championship. Still doesn’t take away the fact it’d be better if he did win by a 8+ advantage.

        I’m with Icthyes, hoping against all odds for a Hamilton win and some major problems for his rivals. But whatever, the race should be phenomenal!

      • the seven-point brigade

        Thats a good one!

        If Alonso does win, he’ll deserve it.

        He has been the better driver at Ferrari. Sure, the team orders thing left a sour taste but the received their punishment if you can call it that, but that is the end of it.

        Red Bull and Mclaren are right to let their drivers race. But it may, in the end, cost them dear.

        Ferrari have been ruthless in their quest for victory this season. I reckon this could be their year.

        I personally want Webber to win, but Alonso has been Mr. Consistency for the last few races. He knows exactly what he has to do and appears to be doing it without any help from his teammate.

        • pSynrg said on 14th November 2010, 10:11

          The point really though is the actual punishment at the time is nothing compared to how F1 history will view this.

          Take Schuey as the prime example. For all his amazing achievements what gets brought up more often than not are the negatives in his illustrious career.

          Alonso is forever similarly tainted. Not that he gives a chuff :) If he wins this one his brilliant speed and consistency in the second half of the season will always be overshadowed by the Hockenheim incident.

      • My opinion of Ferrari fans who only thinks that it is ok given Ferrari did it would also run afoul of the same rules.

        Given your track record on these forums, we can safely put you among those.

    • MercedesBeanz said on 13th November 2010, 21:43

      I hope so too, but I think its going to be Vettel and his “magical” abilities who wins the title. Its what uncle bernie would have wanted ;)

  3. I only hope that the drivers championship isn’t decided in the same way that the result of the German GP was decided.

    • I second that. At least the grid positions do not indicate a race constellation where that would immediately become a consideration. But, as I’m sure it’s been said at every press conference this weekend, “we will have to wait and see what happens.”

    • I’ve tried several simulation starts on ‘F1 2010′. Out of 5 attempts, Alonso never made it passed the 1st corner on 3 occasions. LOL

      Lewis lead out of the first corner 3 out of 5. Vettel twice.

    • It could be that the 2 incidents cancel each other out though, and we end up with the points gap that we should have had all along?

  4. The best strategy for RB could be some slow but deffensive start laps from VET. It could be caothic. It will give chances to WEB and BUT for overtake ALO. But at the same time some chances for HAM. Does VET knows to drive this way?

    • David BR said on 13th November 2010, 20:14

      Does VET knows to drive this way?

      Very good at being slow when there’s a safety car in front of him!

    • Vettel is an on-off switch.

    • David BR said on 14th November 2010, 0:30

      Actually I’m wondering. Is Red Bull’s best chance of a champion Webber or Vettel? I’m sure this was a key question in the Red Bull garage as they worked out their strategy after qualifying. A bit bizarre but maybe Webber actually needs to help Vettel and not the opposite. Webber finishing two ahead of Alonso looks very difficult. If Vettel wins, Alonso needs to finish 5th. And this is where it gets interesting. They can count on Hamilton chasing Vettel and probably on Alonso letting both go: he can’t risk being chased closely by either and is unlikely to escape into the sunset. That leaves two more needed to push Alonso down to fifth. Presuming Webber regains the Red Bull pace in the actual race, he has every chance of hassling Alonso, either getting past or forcing an incident. Button is well placed in 4th and could have a strong race. He looks in the right frame of mind. Their only unknown is Button getting and staying ahead of Alonso. So how can Red Bull help achieve that?

    • Overtake Alonso? The man drives a Ferrari almost as wide as the track. Goodluck making a move stick on him.

  5. AsHamilton only has one goal, hopefully no more timid driving from him. I expect him to lay a front tire on Vettel at the first turn, if he is not by him already, and to let chips fall where they may. Seeing Hamilton in his full on bezerk mode will be a treat, providing the car has the lungs to keep up with Vettel in the long runs. For once I want to see Button just go after alonso instead of trying to noodle some kind of lame strategerie.

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 13th November 2010, 23:21

      Button is definitely going to use strategy to try and jump cars tomorrow. Fernando would keep him behind with ease.

      • I dunno, first of all theres the start, anything can happen there. And secondly Buttons actually a pretty good overtaker when hes in the right frame of mind (admittedly he’s usually too careful). Its the last race of the year and he’s out of the championship, sounds like the time when he might be?

  6. Hamilton going all out eh? You know what would be ironic in that case: Hamilton going off somewhere in the first 5 laps because he overdrives it. And all the other championship contenders later ending their race because of mechanical troubles.

    But that’s just one possible scenario out of god knows how many.

  7. I haven’t been so excited about a race for a long time. Bahrain this year comes closest, but unlike Bahrain, I believe this one might turn out to be a classic.

    Hamilton seems to have the pace and determination to win this and I hope he does. His situation might look disastrous, but if one considers the pressure on all the other three contenders, his chances are not that bad. Alonso has to stay out of trouble, which, especially in this race, might be thwarted on the first couple of laps – be it through being taken out or being too cautious resulting in losing many positions. Also, let us not forget his engine situation. Vettel, in theory, is in a better situation than Hamilton, but realistically he also needs to win; unlike the Brit, however, he still has a chance of becoming world champion even if he were not to win this race, which mounts additional pressure on him. Vettel has shown that in tense situations he can he loose his head. Finally, Webber does not seem to manage the pressure well and might easily drop to sixth or worse, which would put him behind Hamilton in the championship if he were to win. Considering how appalling his starts have been this season, I would not be at all surprised if Webber would have to fight his way back to the front, risking of a DNF either through a collision or the RB6′s unreliability.

    Furthermore, Button could spell trouble for the Red Bulls and Alonso. He starts in fourth, and like Hamilton, he might gain a place on the fist lap, which would allow McLaren to dictate the race from there. Hamilton thus is the only contender who has a team mate that could realistically help him.

    Most importantly, however, is the fact that Hamilton has, as he says, nothing to lose. All the other contenders either have to finish high or cannot afford any mistakes. Because they all still have a realistic chance of becoming champion, the likelihood of them failing is higher than ever. All this is not to say that Hamilton’s chances are great, but the small chance he still has paradoxically lies in his unlikeliness to win.

    • David BR said on 13th November 2010, 20:45

      If Hamilton takes first place near the start and Button holds position, or even takes Alonso (who could be expected to back off under a heavy challenge), then the chances for Lewis increase. Alonso pursued by Webber, Button maybe holding them both back and allowing Rosberg and Schumacher to snap at their heels, Hamilton off into the distance with Vettel, but counting on more reliability problems for the latter.

      Of course it will be nothing like that!

    • MercedesBeanz said on 13th November 2010, 21:46

      Great post Victor, I hope you’re right :)

    • xabregas said on 14th November 2010, 0:28

      You forgot something, the last 2 races hamilton lost 2 positions because someone put pressure on him and he was in better position then for the championship.
      I believe he´s going for it, but the others aren´t rookies at all, especially Alonso.
      Don´t get me wrong, i would take Hamilton for the win and if nothing out of extraordinary happens he may have a shot at least till the end of sector 2 but after that, then better say goodbye to Vettel.

  8. matt88 (@matt88) said on 13th November 2010, 20:34

    too many scenarios, i’ll surely have a lot of nightmares tonight.

  9. Dennoow said on 13th November 2010, 20:38

    I expect Alonso to drive very conservative and consistent. I think he’s not going to get in trouble tomorrow and he’s going to win the championship if his engine doesn’t blow up. I expect Hamilton and Vettel to go at it like wild dogs chasing each other, Button won’t be able to get past Alonso, Webber will probably lose a place to Massa and as he gets stuck, he will make a mistake. I expect him to do as bad as Australia this year, where he was absolutely terrible. It’s not that I don’t want him to win, it’s just that he somehow doesn’t seem confident. He’s struggling with his car and he’s no Alonso or Hamilton, who can get to the front driving a tricycle if they have to. I just can’t see him get to the front. It’s a hard circuit to overtake, he’s not a very good overtaker so his best chance is at the start, but he’s not a very good starter either!!! So I can’t see him getting past Alonso. I also think Alonso won’t make mistakes. Vettel and Hamilton should be exciting to watch! Let’s hope neither of them crashes out.

    • “Vettel and Hamilton should be exciting to watch! Let’s hope neither of them crashes out.”

      That statement pretty much sums up these two for me.

      • Yes it will be knives-out between those two. I will have to close my eyes if Hamilton comes onto the back straight right behind Vettel on the first lap. You have a guy who likes to brake late and who thinks he can pass anyone anywhere, and a guy who gets a little bit mental in tight fights.

  10. kbdavies said on 13th November 2010, 20:55

    “Even so, Hamilton has run in front of Alonso in both of the last two races – only to go off and lose the position.”

    A bit unfair this statement – given that the McLaren just did not have the downforce under braking and in the corners to compete with the Ferrari. It is a testament to Lewis that he managed to keep Alonso behind him for as long as he did. Remember, Schumacher just breezed past Button. That’s how bad the MacLaren’s were!

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 13th November 2010, 21:50

      It is a testament to Lewis that he managed to keep Alonso behind him for as long as he did.

      For a couple of corners of the restart?

      • MacademiaNut said on 14th November 2010, 0:59

        What do you expect, no downforce and not-up-to-heat tyres?

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 14th November 2010, 1:57

          Umm, I kinda think that saying “It is a testament to Lewis that he managed to keep Alonso behind him for as long as he did” suggests that Hamilton held off Fernando for a long time. A few corners isn’t much at all. Anyone would have buckled around that stage, so this was definately not a testament to any quality shown by Lewis Hamilton.

    • That’s true. McLaren is not the best car.
      I think Alonso and Hamilton have been the best drivers this year because they could get a pole without the best car proving they add something else to the car.

    • Oliver said on 14th November 2010, 9:42

      Apart from the lack of downforce, what was really hindering the Mclarens was locking brakes. Both drivers complained of locking brakes all race, Hamilton managed to find a way to drive around it eventually, but it caught him out immediately after the restart.

      This was the same problem both cars suffered in Korea.

  11. I hope Vettel moves out of the way for Webber to win, that would not only be hilarious but also quite fitting really and touching in light of what Horner has been saying (if he is indeed genuine).

  12. I hope a great race tomorrow, will see if mclaren have the pace to win, it depends in the stint of option tyres i think

  13. Adrian said on 13th November 2010, 21:33

    I think they should make this an endurance race instead….just keep them running until 3 of the 4 championship contenders’ cars break and then finish the race there…

  14. I see a crucial role for Massa. He usually starts very well, his main task tomorrow will be to pass Webber and keep him behind as long as possible, slowing him down as well. This way half of the battle will be won for Fernando and make his race much easier.
    So Webber has an extremely difficult task tomorrow to do a really good start, but he will remember Massa start in Suzuka for sure.

    Fernando will try to defend his position, avoid any fights and just keep the tempo, save engine and tyres. I think he will fend off Button without major problem. The first corner will be most crucial for him.

    Vettel and Hamilton cannot do too much except just trying to win, if I am not mistaken.
    Button may try to pass Alonso to slow him down and create a train of cars in hope that Alonso will become a victim of someone’s mistake. I just hope he won’t make accident with him, it would be controversial.

    • David BR said on 13th November 2010, 22:00

      You’re right. Massa’s main or single brief will be to try to contain Webber from the start. If he gets past him and holds him back until at least the first pits, Alonso will be 3/4 there. And I can see Button’s brief as somewhat similar: get past Alonso and hold everyone else back, putting Webber and Alonso under pressure from other drivers. Alonso is in a good position and a very vulnerable one. If he gets a superb start into first place, say, he’ll be under intense pressure from Vettel and Hamilton. So presumably he’ll sit back to avoid any clashes. Tucked behind Hamilton and then Vettel with the three front runners ahead of the rest must be Alonso’s ideal. But if Button passes him, he comes under pressure from Webber. For me the crux to the race – forgetting the potential mayhem off the grid – is the pace difference between Button and Alonso. If Button matches or betters him, the pressure on Alonso will increase hugely.

      • exactly – ALO will be content to defend his 3rd, letting HAM and VET be busy by themselves, instead of him.
        Imho Button can’t do a lot of harm to ALO, knowing that ALO is one of fastest on the long straight. He effectively could keep pushing ALO to force him defend himself, thus provoking driving error or engine failure.
        But then there is still Vettel.

    • That’s about right. Ha, you think Massa’s Suzuka attack on Luizzi was a test launch for tomorrow? If Massa harpoons Webber Keith’s server will explode.

      Webber will be quick in the race and if Alonso falls behind both Button and Webber the math gets dangerous for him. He will have to rely on Massa to protect him from the Mercedes if they get feisty.

      Basically, Alonso is the only one who will not be trying on a touch of the crazees tomorrow and being the only sane person in the asylum is not a safe position.

      • Massa will resolutely attack Webber during the start because otherwise Webber could be too quick for him to be caught.
        And Massa lose nothing if he has an accident, contrary to Webber who loses everything.
        If Massa overtake Webber during the start, he has enough speed on the straight to fend off Mark and red bull’s higher speed in slow corners won’t allow for overtaking there.
        Tomorrow I will watch how Massa starts.

      • Now this morning I’ve concluded that only Vettel is most possible threat to ALO to grab the title. Mark’s chances are actually doomed.

        Vettel has a pole and is likely to win. He will then need Alonso to be on 5th or lower.
        And here comes Mark to help that happen.

        Assuming Button will take over Alonso in the first corner – which is possible because Alonso must avoid any trouble unlike Button – then Vettel only needs also Mark to pass Fernando.
        This should be possible by pit stop strategy.

        Conclusion – Mark will receive team orders to help Vettel become a champion as soon as he passes Fernando. Mark himself is lost. Only some kind of accident to other contenders or a super start could save him.

        So the key to the outcome of the race will be whether during the start Massa passes Webber or contrary. Can’t wait to see.

  15. Imagine this: Hamilton and Vettel fight too hard as they need to win and crashes. Alonso leads Webber after the pitstops, but with 2 laps to go Alonso loses power with an engine failure and as Webber is about to overtake him Alonso does a “Schumacher 1994″ (takes both out). Alonso is the immediate champion but is later disqualified so Webber takes the title.

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