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

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 13th November 2010, 22:32

    I wouldn’t go getting too comfortable just yet. There’s still a long way to go. I’m predicting a tussle into the first corner that is going to take someone out of the championship.

    • Alexi (@alexi) said on 14th November 2010, 0:00

      You are right. Bye Hamilton! Ask Macca for a more resistant car next time.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 14th November 2010, 0:30

        I figure if anyone is going to rumble, it will be Hamilton, Alonso and Button. Hamilton will want to defend his position to stay in touch with Vettel and keep his championship hopes alive. Alonso will want P2 because he needs P2 to be champion, and he’s never been the type to settle for anything less than the best position he can get. Button, on the other hand, is out of the title fight, but will be in the thick of the racing, and like Hamilton, he’s on the dirty side. As for Webber, he’s far enough back that he should be able to skirt danger if it’s close at hand. The most likely combination I’m predicting is an Alonso-Hamilton tangle. It will probably put both drivers out.

        • Sidney Vianna said on 14th November 2010, 2:08

          Yep. Hamilton and Alonso will tangle, as well as Massa and Webber, leaving Seb free to win the race and the championship.

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 14th November 2010, 6:49

            I think that if Alonso has one weakness, it’s that he pushes when it would be smarter to hold formation. He won’t settle for second-best, and if the first five drivers finished as they qualified, he’d still be the champion – but he’d rather win the race to win the championship. And that could be his undoing. Of course, it requires Hamilton or Button to be equally-stubborn (probably in the first two laps).

            If Alonso has a second weakness, it’s that he’s an ends-justify-the-means kind of guy (after all, he saw no problems with the way he won in Singapore 2008 or Germany 2010). If winning the championship means he has to get a little rough with someone, he will. He won’t be afraid going into the first corner, and he won’t back down for anyone. Combined, the two – being rough and being stubborn – could hurt. Knowing Alonso, his tactics off the line will be to pin Hamilton to the inner wall, cut him off into the first corner and take second. If he wants to stand a chance at catching Vettel (probably in the pits), he cannot afford to get caught up by Hamilton for even so much as a lap. Of course, Hamilton’s tactics will be to cut right to take the racing line (and the grippy side of the circuit) into the first corner to save some speed … and the two will probably be dangerously close to one another going into the first corner.

  2. HounslowBusGarage said on 13th November 2010, 22:47

    No matter what, that clip of HAM attcking the TV camera on top of the bollard is going to be a classic.

  3. Alex Bkk said on 13th November 2010, 23:01

    “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.”

    Does it get any crazier than having scenarios that come down to the most 4th place wins?

    It’s 5:30 am… I wake up and run downstairs to read this blog and Tweets! It’s going to be a very, very, very long day!

    No matter who wins the WDC… no one can say it’s been a dull F1 season!

  4. SoerenKaae (@soerenkaae) said on 13th November 2010, 23:13

    Mark Webber, who’s eight points behind him in the constructors’ championship.

    since when did these two guys start building F1 cars?

  5. I know said earlier in the season that I’d be happy with an Alonso victory, but well, turns out that I won’t be afterall (even though he is my favourite driver). At least I don’t have to worry about being a high state of tension all day now, Webber put me out of my misery early :(

  6. To finish first… first you have to finish. There’a good 200 miles of racing to do year.

  7. Sporadic said on 14th November 2010, 0:03

    I’m eagerly waiting for vettel’s radio transmission while in the lead — guy’s what’s the championship situation looking like :) so he’ll know what to execute

  8. It will be Alonso, I dont like him or big red but hey lets face it, he did not win it, Red Bull lost it why, becuase they raced fair and said no to team orders.

  9. judo chop said on 14th November 2010, 1:53

    Title’s Alonso’s unless his engine blows. It’s a shame Webbers reckless driving has cost Hamilton so many points in Oz and Singapore as it would’ve been a nearly a straight fight to the finish.

  10. Gotta say I’m a little surprised Hamilton wasn’t penalised for the Massa incident, especially considering he’d been given a caution earlier this weekend.

  11. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 14th November 2010, 2:06

    ” On the grid tomorrow, I don’t have to worry about who’s around me – 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.”

    Have to be comment of the day. My heart is biting very fast since last night not sure why, seems like I am more tense than the F1 drivers.I think what Alonso will do is to sir behind Hamilton & Vettel & watch them fight for the lead as needs to win maximum,cruse to 3rd & win the title.Webber is in very very bad situation he might be having a sleepless night.Alonso shouldn’t have trouble he just needs to stay out of trouble & finish on the podium,Ferrari needs Massa to back him up.

  12. Blake Merriam said on 14th November 2010, 2:12

    Recalling when Shumacher’s engine blew up in 2006 in Japan giving Alonso the win and, in essence, the title.

  13. Jon E said on 14th November 2010, 2:47

    It seems to me that since the German GP Massa manages to be out of position to help Alonso out. I think it that Alonso’s main danger is engine, then Button taking him on strategy and VET winning.
    Could be spiced up if HAM fails to pass VET on first lap and cooks his tyres following too close then pitting early and steaming back up the field with red mist in his helmet. Also the Merc boys could give Alonso some stress if they manage a long first stint and hold up him up after his after first stop. Lets hope the VET does not drive into anyone.
    Fancy HAM to win, Alonso WDC and the RB boys to hold station as overtaking is something that seems to happen to them more ofter than the other way round (#poles >> #wins).
    Don’t see how HAM could get a grid penalty as Massa not on fast lap and HAM took avoiding action at risk of damage to his car. HAM was to blame for the incident, but it was of absolutely no consequence and should not affect the race.

  14. Jon E said on 14th November 2010, 3:08

    Also I don’t understand why people are using the word “consistency” in connection with Alonso’s up and down season. Yes he’s back on form, but that’s not consistency.

    Just hope that WDC not won by a driver who gained from mid season team orders or one who is just a qualifying specialist in a car that has had a second on the rest of the field almost all year (Alonso, Hamilton and Button would have wrapped it up long ago in that car).
    Oh well, rant over, all been said b4, and I’ll probably just have to live with the disappointment :o(

    All the 4 contenders have made mistakes this year and the winner will just as deserving as many WDCs.

  15. nannini said on 14th November 2010, 3:18

    Wonder if Robert is gonna throw a spanner among the pidgeons if the options go off quick and he starts on primes, which he should.

    • i’m afraid no. he really struggled to make a single clean lap in Q, I’m afraid he will keep struggling to just defend his position. Pity ending of otherwise brilliant season considering possibilities available.

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