October, 11 2012
The Formula 1 Championship reaches a critical juncture at this weekend’s Grand Prix of Korea at Yeongam, with just four points separating leader Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel - two drivers who are experiencing very different fortunes of late.
The luckless Ferrari driver has been snarled up in two first-lap collisions in Belgium and Japan, in each case being forced to retire, pointless. Despite taking two third-place podiums in Italy and Singapore, Alonso has lost ground to Vettel. And a lot of it.
Conversely, the German has been on blistering form, winning both flyaways so far and a second in Belgium. So much so, that the Red Bull driver has clawed back 38 title points – no mean feat at this stage in the championship.
It would seem that Vettel is in the ascendancy, and given that the German won in Korea last time out, many feel he is now favorite to prolong this winning streak and land a third consecutive championship.
Not so for Red Bull Racing team boss, Christian Horner, who rules out such talk, warning of a late season rally from Ferrari but also a last-ditch challenge from McLaren or Lotus.
“Never say never - especially this year,” Horner said, referring to the incident-packed season so far. “I think before the summer break Fernando had a significant lead, and since then we were second in Spa. We were unlucky in Monza but we should have scored reasonable points.
“We won in Singapore and we won here [Suzuka], so we have managed to eat into that gap. And hopefully we have some circuits coming up that should suit the characteristics of our package in the remaining races.”
He added: "We have seen McLaren have had a really strong streak of performances and let's not underestimate them either. We certainly don't.”
In the mid-table fight for team points, Sahara Force India driver Paul di Resta has vowed to be on the top of his game in order to claw back ground in what is left of the 2012 season on their main rival, Sauber.
No easy task, especially after the Swiss team increased its lead over Force India to 35 points at Suzuka, when Kamui Kobayashi secured third in the Japanese Grand Prix.
But while there is still a statistical possibility of playing catch-up, Di Resta remains confident.
“Mathematically it is realistic to take the fight to Sauber, but to get ahead of them we will need to be in the points at all the remaining races,” the young Scot said.
“Sauber were on the podium again in Japan, which makes our task even more difficult, but we are hopeful that the tracks coming up will be more suited to us - certainly compared to Suzuka. To beat them we will need to be on top of all the issues we had in Japan.”