Although he hasn’t won since Hungary two months ago, the Australian has maintained a subtle lead in the title hut thanks to bringing his Red Bull home, when in not in a position to win; however it must be said that Webber was lucky to get away with his clash with McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on the streets of Singapore.
Hamilton himself is now 20 points behind Webber with fellow title contenders Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel close behind, but as we saw at Monza, the Championship run-in can change in a flash with one odd race. Right now, Hamilton, Vettel and Button need some bad luck to fall the way of Alonso and Webber should they want to stay with the front pair.
Both Vettel and Button are in need of victories – Vettel last picked up a full rack of points since the European Grand Prix in June, while Button has not been victorious at a Grand Prix since April’s foray to Shanghai. Now as the Japanese Grand Prix fast approaches, 20-odd points may not be an insurmountable obstacle to overcome, but the challenge will become ever steeper should the trailing trio leave Suzuka with that gap still in place.
There is also the small matter of the South Korea Grand Prix in just over two weeks. The circuit has still to be sign off for race-worthiness, although the final layer of tarmac was laid a few days ago, but should that race be cancelled due to an ill-prepared track, then that will leave only two races left for the title fight.
Two drivers not battling for the World Championship are Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) and Sakon Yamamoto (Hispania). This will be Kobayashi’s first racing visit to Suzuka in Formula 1 (he drove on Friday morning at the race last year); however Yamamoto drove at the circuit three years ago. Both drivers will be aiming to make a big impression amongst their home crowds.