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. does anyone here have a time machine!!! pLEEEASE TAKE TO 5pm Abu Dhabi time, i cant wait. i have exams i cant study. i am running all over the house.i cant eat,i cant sleep.i been visiting f1 fanatic every 30 mins,the list goeeess onnn and on and on…. I CANT TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!

    • Alex Bkk said on 14th November 2010, 7:52

      7 hours and counting jake. tick tick tick tick…bwahahahaha

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 14th November 2010, 8:59

      I know what you mean, Jake – the anticipation is killing me.

      • Daffid said on 14th November 2010, 11:26

        Really? I feel the build up is the same as Haye v Harrison. An enormous amount of waffle leading to a brief, boring and very foregone conclusion. Unless Alonso’s engine goes, he takes the title. Those 7 points wrecked this season and Brazil and now Abu Dhabi seem like a damp squib waiting to happen. Ending the season on a dry track where it’s impossible to overtake is not exactly setting it up for a classic. I hope I’m wrong, but I think it’s going to be a dull procession and a disappointed Vettel. the others have already blown it

        • Alex Bkk said on 14th November 2010, 11:48

          Daffid I’ve been following F1 for longer than I can remember… a lot I can’t remember, but this season has been crazy, and the last race we could still have 4 possible winners… I can’t see Ham or Massa or Button backing off or giving a break. They have nothing to lose, but Webber Vettel and Alonso do. I think and hope that we are going to see a real classic.

          There is also a slight possibility of rain… hold your breath M8!

          • Daffid said on 14th November 2010, 12:02

            Alex I really hope you’re right! :)

            But I suspect Vettel will sail round to a win with Hamilton never able to pass.
            Alonso will easily keep Button behind him
            Webber might sneak Button in the pit-stops
            But that’s it.
            Win for Vettel, title for Alonso and an absolute snooze.
            The odds on a Hamilton or Webber title are tiny now. And even if Alonso slips to 5th, he’ll have Massa safe behind him and still win, it would need a pit-stop disaster for him to lose.
            The most likely excitement is Vettel and Hamilton taking each other off which makes the title even more certain.

            But I hope by saying all this I’m totally jinxing my prediction and it won’t go like this at all…. come on lads, get stuck in!!

          • Daffid said on 14th November 2010, 14:45

            Never been so happy to be wrong :)

            Although I was very close, except for Ferrari forgetting there was other teams on the track.
            Lol

  2. F1Fan said on 14th November 2010, 6:48

    Three or four races ago I said that Webber had absolutely no chance of winning this title, that he would find a way to blow the once fairly healthy lead that he had, and I said that was because he is a mediocre driver. That’s a fact, and recent events are yet another proof of it. He is just not that good. He is occasionally fast, and occasionally error-free, which is occasionally good enough to grab pole or win a race. But it is nowhere near enough to win a championship, at least not in F1. So while I really do like the man as a person, I do not regard him as a top-level driver … because he is not.

    Vettel would be a worthy champion. Alonso would be a worthy champion. Even Lewis would be a worthy champion, in case all of the unexpected things happen during the race today. I would have no problem w/ any of these three winning it all.

    And to that end, something tells me that when it’s all said and done, some small German town (Heppenheim) will be getting ready for a parade.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th November 2010, 9:32

      I like how people would rather the guy favoured by his team and have the dominant car tuned to his liking win than the guy who punches above his weight.

      Unless performing to within 3 old points of Fernando Alonso is now considered a small achievement.

      • Alex Bkk said on 14th November 2010, 9:43

        lol… when you said old points my mind went straight to the old 9 for 1st, 6 for second and … with points for 2 finishes dropped.

        You still have time to do the math and really create some new insane scenarios!

  3. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 14th November 2010, 11:16

    I don’t know if I will be able to stand watching the start! I am going to be so nervous!

  4. Zindon said on 14th November 2010, 11:38

    Keith, I think you mean “principal title rival”, rather than principle.

  5. Button will play a big role today if he can get ahead of Alonso at the start. And who knows what could happen if Webber can get ahead of Alonso too.

  6. hartry said on 14th November 2010, 11:48

    How about this, running order on the last lap:
    HAM, VET, WEB, BUT, ALO. Alonso is set to win the championship on points from Vettel. But then Hamilton develops an ‘issue’ allowing Vettel through, problem mysteriously disappears as soon as Vettel is past, Hamilton finishes second but Vettel, winning the race, seals the championship from Alonso on 4th place finishes.

    ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’

  7. Not much mention of Massa so far in any of the possible scenarios….

  8. Alex Bkk said on 14th November 2010, 11:53

    Please please please launch the live blog Keith…the race starts in an hour! I’m going nuts!

  9. BillHicks said on 14th November 2010, 12:30

    Ferrari are cheats, and we all know it… besides, the fizzy drinks boys are the better constructors, and that’s official!

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