For contenders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso the situation is reminiscent of the championship contest between them in Abu Dhabi season finale two years ago.
Then Alonso went into the final race 15 points ahead of Vettel. But it was Vettel who emerged on top.
This time it is Vettel who holds a 13-point lead over Alonso heading into the final round. But there is another significant difference.
On that occasion Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton were also capable of winning the title. Webber went into that race eight points behind Alonso, and the Ferrari driver’s preoccupation with beating him ended up losing him the title to Vettel.
But there will be no split focus for either driver this time. Here’s what they need to do to win the title:
How Sebastian Vettel can become champion
The most straightforward way for Vettel to win the title is to finish in the top four. After that it gets complicated.
- If Vettel finishes fourth or higher he is world champion regardless of where Alonso finishes
- If Vettel finishes fifth, sixth or seventh and Alonso finishes second or lower, Vettel is champion
- If Vettel finishes eighth or ninth and Alonso finishes third or lower, Vettel is champion
- If Vettel finishes tenth or fails to score and Alonso finishes fourth or lower, Vettel is champion
Out of the 19 races so far this year 15 produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Vettel champion.
How Fernando Alonso can become champion
Alonso can only win the championship by finishing on the podium. He has done so in 12 of the 19 races so far, and the last four in a row. Here’s how he can win the title if he does:
- If Alonso wins and Vettel is fifth or lower, Alonso is champion
- If Alonso finishes second and Vettel is eighth or lower, Alonso is champion
- If Alonso finishes third and Vettel is tenth or does not score, Alonso is champion
Out of the 19 races so far this year four produced results which, if replicated this weekend, would make Alonso champion.
Unusual ways for the title to be decided
In these circumstances the maximum points available for a driver will be 12.5 for a win, which would be insufficient for Alonso to overcome Vettel’s 13-point lead. Therefore, a half-points race will automatically mean Vettel wins the championship.
In 2003 the Brazilian Grand Prix (pictured) was red-flagged and the result declared after 54 laps – the minimum needed to achieve 75% race distance. There was some confusion over which lap the race had ended on resulting in victory being awarded to Kimi Raikkonen at first, then transferred to Giancarlo Fisichella.
Under a new rule introduced this year races must be stopped four hours after they begin, regardless of whether they are suspended.
If the pair end the season tied on points Vettel will win the championship because whatever happens he will have won more races than Alonso.
Neither the drivers’ nor the constructors’ championships have ever ended with two competitors tied on points. The narrowest winning margin ever was Niki Lauda’s 1984 drivers’ title victory by half a point ahead of McLaren team mate Alain Prost.
Over to you
Before the last race, two-thirds of readers tipped Vettel to win the title. Have you changed your mind since then?
Vote for who you think will be champion below and have your say in the comments:
Who will win the 2012 F1 drivers' title?
- Sebastian Vettel (66%)
- Fernando Alonso (34%)
Total Voters: 235
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Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty images