Red Bull's Vettel firmly in the saddle

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 19, 2012 09:33 hrs

There is every possibility that we will see a repeat of the 2007 and 2008 finales when the Formula One drivers championship was decided in Brazil with Raikkonen and Hamilton winning by just one point. This season has seen a strong surge by Vettel whose three consecutive wins going into the India GP has put him in front, though by only six points ahead of Alonso.

While the race at the Buddh International Circuit next weekend is bound to be very critical for both Vettel and Alonso, it is more than likely that the battle would go down to the wire, as it also did in 2010 when the German won the first of his two titles, pipping the Spanish ace. My money would be on Vettel and Red Bull to pull it off for the third year in a row.

Vettel has had a rather disappointing first half of 10 races with just one win and two podium finishes while picking up nil points in two other outings. As against this, Alonso had three wins and three podium while finishing in the point-scoring positions in every other race. It seemed then that Ferrari was back to its winning ways, but such thoughts proved rather premature as Alonso slipped in the second half with no wins in six races thus far.

In the event, with four more rounds left, Vettel, who is only 25, appears set to achieve a rare hat-trick of title triumphs, something that only Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio have done in Formula One history.

Much of Red Bull's resurgence after a tentative start to the season could be attributed to a reworked RB8 that was short on reliability and couldn't match the power of the Ferraris and the McLarens. The credit for Red Bull's second half surge could also be credited to race engineer Adrian Newey who has been the brain behind the Austrian team's and Vettel's success in the past two years. It wouldn't surprise none should the 53-year old Englishman picks up another constructor's title this season.

In fact, the debate has already begun in some quarters over Vettel's status vis-a-vis Formula 1 greats and I tend to agree with Sir Jackie Stewart's views that the young German has had the advantage of being in a strong team and a reliable machine that seems to be getting better in the homestretch of a 20-race season.

Yet, the fact remains that the early part of this year, Vettel was down in the dumps, but fought his way back to the top with some truly magnificent drives. Also, back in 2007, when he was pulled out of Formula Renault to replace an injured Kubica in the BMW Sauber team, Vettel scored his first championship points with an eighth place finish when only 19. It was then that he showcased his undoubted talent that eventually won him a seat at Red Bull.

Presently, the attention is firmly on Vettel who returns to India where last year he scored an impressive win, his 11th of the season. With the German in such a flow, Alonso's task is so much more difficult as he finds himself in a catch-up mode. Further, the Spaniard was rather unlucky that his early momentum was cut short by first lap incidents in Belgium and Japan just as he was looking to consolidate his championship position.

Despite these setbacks, Alonso cannot be written off and that is something Vettel is only too aware of. Through the season, the Spaniard with nine podium finishes, has always looked a potential championship winner and given his track record, you can't put anything past him, though he can ill-afford to drop too many points in the remainder of the season.

Thus, going into the India GP, there is plenty to look forward to, though I feel that the track with its super-fast back straight and flat-out corners suit Vettel and Red Bull while Alonso and Ferrari have their task cut out to stay on pace.

For the likes of Raikkonen, Hamilton and Webber, it is a huge ask to get back into title contention, much less win it with Vettel and Alonso well clear of the field. Some close racing up and down the grid should make for riveting viewing at the BIC.

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