How quickly it all changes… With only two races remaining in this stunning Formula 1 season, the pendulum has swung once more in favour of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Victory in Yeongam at the inaugural Korean Grand Prix gave the Spaniard a late lead in the World Championship standings, despite being virtually out of it following July’s British Grand Prix. Six podiums in seven races (including four victories) have taken Alonso passed both Red Bull drivers and the McLaren pair.
Alonso’s eleven point lead over Red Bull’s Mark Webber means the Ferrari will be declared Champion if he wins and Webber finishes fifth or lower. In short, Webber needs to win or finish ahead of Alonso at Interlagos to press into a fight at the Abu Dhabi finale.
The run-in is somewhat confused as the second Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton are only 25 and 21 points behind respectively. While still in contention, they need top results and for that Alonso/Webber pairing to fall by the wayside. Jenson Button meanwhile, is simply far too far behind to mount a realistic challenge. His gap to Alonso is 42 points and with only 50 available, he may suddenly find himself in support mode if he is one place ahead of Hamilton.
This is also going to be a hugely important race for Felipe Massa. The Brazilian has taken a huge amount of criticism from the Brazilian media since he stepped aside for Alonso at the Hockenheimring. A solid victory would go some way to silencing some critics, but should he be leading and find Alonso on his tail, team orders may destroy the spirit 29-year-old and ultimately decide his future – if it hasn’t been decided already.
With the title battle as close as it is, this may be the first title not decided at Interlagos since Michael Schumacher took his seventh and final crown in 2004. As for Interlagos itself, mixed weather conditions are expected at the weekend, so if that comes true, expect a fabulous race at one of the world’s finest circuits.
Webber won the 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix in difficult conditions and followed that up with 2nd at Abu Dhabi – he will have to do the same this time around if he wants the World Championship.
There are not too many other stories on the horizon. Renault’s Vitaly Petrov needs a good performance – and that does not include crashing while running 7th – and Williams’ Nico Hulkenberg could do with some points now that GP2 Champion Pastor Maldonado is foreclosing on his race seat for 2011.
Also, Hispania’s good result in Korea puts them further ahead of Virgin in the new team’s stakes, meaning Virgin will almost certainly have to go for a 13th place to finish ahead of the Spanish squad in the Constructor’s Championship.