James Allen's Singapore GP verdict - Feature - F1 | ITV Sport
Sunday, 26 September 2010 18:34
With his second win from pole in two races Fernando Alonso has stormed back into contention for this year’s world championship.
I asked him in the post-race TV interview if we should all put our money on him now and it’s starting to look like a smart bet.
The championship is still Mark Webber’s to lose, given that he still has an 11-point advantage and his car is still the fastest out there – but Ferrari have impressed everyone with the way they’ve come back in recent weeks and Alonso is on top of his game.
If you go back to Germany, Alonso has scored 93 points in the five races since then, and that is despite not scoring in Spa.
That isn’t the strongest five-race run we’ve seen this season – Lewis Hamilton scored 98 between Turkey and Germany – but it shows that Ferrari is peaking at the right time, as the championship enters what Sir Alex Ferguson would call “squeaky bum time”.
Today Alonso wasn’t allowed any respite by Sebastian Vettel.
The winning margin was just 0.2s and in the second half of the race in particular – the half that was played out on the hard tyres – Vettel was faster.
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali said this evening that the race was actually won in Saturday’s qualifying session, when Alonso took the pole by less than 0.1s from Vettel.
If you were being tough about it, Vettel actually gave Alonso the pole by dropping two-tenths in the middle sector when he brushed the barrier, but Alonso’s challenge this weekend was relentless.
This really is quite a comeback.
Don’t forget that Alonso has been criticised for making too many mistakes and the team has done a great job to bounce back from the dark days around the time of Turkey when the technical department seemed to be losing its way with the F-duct rear wing and no blown diffuser.
Since they got the diffuser on the car in Valencia and then refined those two components over the next two races, Ferrari have been the closest challengers to Red Bull and Alonso has shown the leadership from the cockpit that the team hired him for last year.
The other great talking point today was the incident between Hamilton and Webber, which put Lewis out of the race.
The incident happened because Webber got boxed in behind Lucas di Grassi’s Virgin Racing car in turn 5, which cost him momentum.
Hamilton got alongside, on the outside, and was ahead as they turned into the left-handed turn seven, but Webber braked late and held his line.
As we saw in Istanbul, he is not going to give anything away this year because this is his best chance of winning a title and he may not have the chance again.
McLaren feel that Webber was fortunate not to be penalised for the incident.
But the stewards this year have been taking quite a lenient view of “racing incidents” where drivers have been trying to pass and no clear blame can be apportioned.
I think this is a positive thing for the sport – it has encouraged drivers to ‘have a go’ and that is what the public want to see, especially when there is a lot at stake, as there is for the title contenders.
The general view is that the stewards got this one right, painful as it might seem to Hamilton.
It has dropped him down to third in the championship, 20 points behind Webber.
McLaren should be strong in Suzuka, but Red Bull ought to be stronger still.
Korea (if it goes ahead) and Abu Dhabi look like they might be good for McLaren too, so all is not lost for Hamilton.
It was important for Webber to keep his points loss to Vettel down to just three today. That means he is still 21 points clear of his team-mate.
Red Bull aren’t going to take sides and favour one driver over another for a while yet, but Webber need to keep this kind of margin to have a chance of getting his way.
I still think Vettel will win a couple more races.
If he hadn’t made a mistake in qualifying he would have won this weekend and I think he’s the man to beat in Suzuka.