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Formula 1 drivers' title is Red Bull's to lose

Brazilian Grand Prix in 90 seconds

By Mark Hughes
BBC F1 commentary box producer

The most realistic way for Mark Webber to overcome the numbers in his title fight with Fernando Alonso on Sunday is to head a Red Bull one-two in Abu Dhabi.

Even if Alonso was third, the Australian would still seal overall victory.

There are all sorts of permutations but this one does not stretch probability and is entirely conceivable.

The Red Bull RB6 is demonstrably the fastest car and has scored four one-twos already this season. Doing that a fifth time would allow the team to put destiny in its own hands.

But Alonso is adamant it was only the time he lost in getting past Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg early on in the race in Brazil that prevented him being able to get among the Red Bulls, that he believed the Ferrari was every bit as fast.


The Spaniard set a faster race lap than either Webber or Sebastian Vettel, who were only fourth and sixth respectively in the fastest race lap list, while Hamilton's McLaren set the fastest lap of all, with a time just four-thousandths better than Alonso's.

So is Alonso right? Did the Brazil result flatter the Red Bulls?

No, and it is hard not to detect a bit of title propaganda talk in Alonso's claims.

Alonso is quite right in saying he lost crucial amounts of time fighting his way up to third in the early laps but when he did get there his pace was still consistently 0.5s off that of the Red Bulls.

Despite Webber nursing an engine that was running too hot, they continued to pull away from the Ferrari.

The fast times of Alonso and Hamilton came after the late safety car, when the track and the tyres were in their prime condition.

By this time, the Red Bulls were cruising, just protecting position and that engine of Webber's.

McLaren took a nothing-to-lose opportunity of pitting Hamilton under the safety car for a fresh set of tyres. The combination of new tyres with a fully rubbered-in track is what took Hamilton to the race's fastest lap.

That Alonso all but matched that time on old tyres confirms that the Ferrari was actually quicker than the McLaren but there is nothing to suggest the Red Bulls could not have obliterated that time had they been pushing full-on when the track and tyres were at their peak.

Horner expects drivers to do the right thing in final race

Comparing pre- to post-safety car laps, it was notable that there was a big increase in the pace of even the cars that did not change tyres.

"I think everyone's tyres were overheating," explains McLaren's Paddy Lowe. "Then, under the safety car, they cooled back to their optimum temperatures and so had a lot more grip when they restarted."

Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima concurred.

"Yes, the tyres were suffering from heat degradation here," he said. "The track temperature was very high. The safety car speeds brought the rubber back to its peak working temperature, helped by the fact that the track temperature was falling during this time also."

There is nothing to suggest, in other words, that the two Red Bulls should not be the fastest two cars in Abu Dhabi. That one-two result is far from a straw-clinging exercise.

But if there is one thing that should be worrying the team, it is just what Hamilton might manage in Abu Dhabi.

He does not necessarily need to be in the absolute fastest car here to be the fastest. The track's layout last year allowed him to conjure some very special magic in qualifying.

If he can somehow win the race this time, then all bets are off and Red Bull are at the mercy of their fate.

Mark Hughes has been an F1 journalist for 10 years and is an award-winning author of several books

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see also
Vettel still in contention
08 Nov 10 |  Formula 1
A missed opportunity for Hamilton
25 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Button downbeat on title chances
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso wins as Red Bull implode
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Red Bull 'will not favour Webber'
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso cautious over title hopes
24 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Vettel beats Webber to Korea pole
23 Oct 10 |  Formula 1

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