I expect Red Bull’s dominance to continue for the next few races. They’ve won before at both Abu Dhabi and Interlagos, and should win again this year if everything goes to plan, while Circuit of the Americas, with all its high-downforce corners and hairpins, looks like it would suit the RB8 very well. Ferrari may be able to bridge the performance gap somewhat with more updates, but it’s likely that Newey and company will still be one step ahead in car development…
The keywords in that paragraph were “if everything goes to plan“. For all we know, Red Bull could make a rare tactical error, or experience an unexpected loss of pace. Vettel could make a tiny slip-up. McLaren could come into play as an influencing third party. The “reliability ninja” could strike anyone. Knowing him, at the first chance he gets, Alonso will pounce and make the most of the situation.
Does Alonso have a realistic chance? Just did some rough arithmetic, correct me if I’m wrong, but mathematically speaking:
Suppose Vettel wins at Abu Dhabi (he looked set to do that last year if had not been for that puncture). If Alonso finishes 2nd, Vettel’s lead in the standings grows to 20 points. In this scenario, Vettel needs to outscore Alonso by 6 points – for example, another Vettel-1st, Alonso-2nd finish – to secure the championship in Austin.
Conversely, if Vettel records a DNF and Alonso wins at Yas Marina, the standings shift to a 12 point lead in Alonso’s favor. Alonso then needs to outscore Vettel by 7 points per race for the remainder of the season to win the title.