Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso must be doing something right. His remarkable driving talent aside, Alonso has had the stars align precisely for him in three of the last four races. Even in Japan, where Red Bull Renault’s Sebastian Vettel took both the pole and the victory, Alonso managed to grab a third place finish. The Spaniard has only one DNF to his credit this entire season, and re-affirmed himself as a serious contender for the 2010 F1 Championship by winning a rain soaked, crash filled Korean Grand Prix. McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton finished second, followed by Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in third.
It certainly didn’t look like things were going Alonso’s way until late in the race. Vettel captured the pole (his 9th of the season) and ran, unchallenged, in the lead until lap 46. Exiting a corner, Vettel’s car slowed as if he’d missed a gear, allowing second place Alonso to pass. Seconds later, Vettel’s Renault engine exploded in spectacular fashion, spraying debris and oil across the track. Vettel’s shot at taking the championship points lead away from teammate Mark Webber was over; finishing in 17th position, Vettel now slips to fourth in the championship standings. Realistically he is the lowest ranked driver with a real shot at winning the title, although Jenson Button could repeat if he wins the final two races and the top four drivers finish fourth or worse. Not damn likely.
Vettel’s DNF was good news for teammate Mark Webber, who crashed on lap 18 and collected the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in the process. It was also good news for McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, whose second place finish kept him alive in the championship hunt. With two races left, only twenty five points separate the leader (Alonso, with 231 points) from the fourth place contender (Vettel, with 206 points). The Red Bull cars have been fastest in late season races, giving a slight advantage to Vettel and Webber (currently second, with 220 points). Hamilton, in third position with 210 points, is still very much in contention for the title, but my pick is Alonso. We already know he’s good, and Korea showed that he’s damn lucky, too.