Championship down to wire as Alonso and Vettel jostle for title

By David Thomson on Sat, 24 Nov 2012

Back in early October, following the Japanese Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso predicted that the final five rounds of the F1 world championship would be a two-way mini-championship in their own right, as he and Sebastian Vettel jostled for the 2012 title.

So it has proved, right down to this weekend's final round in Brazil, where the title could still go either way.

The smart money, it would have to be said, now rests with Vettel: four rounds ago, it was he who trailed Alonso in the standings but now the tables are turned, to the extent that even if Alonso wins in Brazil, Vettel will secure the title so long as he finishes fourth or better.

Even if Vettel retires, Alonso needs to finish third or higher to take the crown.

Though I don't tend to pick favourites in F1 these days, I must admit that I am predicting Vettel will come out on top to win the crown. It is not just that he holds the points edge now.

He has also been the better of the pair over the final races of the season by a clear margin, with six podium finishes including four wins from the last six races. Alonso has managed five podium places in the same period, but the only time he has beaten Vettel was at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, when Vettel fought back from a rear-of-grid start to third.

Vettel's form of late has been so commanding that is easy to forget how poorly his 2012 title defence started: he made the podium once in the first eight races of the season (with a win in Bahrain), and only made the podium three times in the first 13 grands prix of the year. Many had written him off as a championship prospect at that point.

What a revival the latter part of the year has brought. It seems to me that earlier in the season Vettel was struggling to adjust to the reality that his Red Bull car was no longer by far and away the fastest machine on the track.

Back when it was, his main opposition was team-mate Mark Webber who, for all his fine qualities, was pushed relatively easily (if not willingly) into the role of a number two.

Getting the edge over rival teams, as opposed to rival team-mates, has proved much harder, and even yet Fernando Alonso and Ferrari may get the last laugh. Regardless, Vettel has matured hugely as a driver this year, and he is going to make a formidable opponent in the years ahead.

Changing tack completely, if you noticed an unusually large number of classic Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars on Dunedin streets last weekend, it was because the city was playing host to a New Zealand Rolls-Royce and Bentley Club southern region tour.

I was privileged to join the tour when it reached East Otago and take part in a programme that included dinners on the Friday and Saturday nights, a Saturday tour on the peninsula, and a Sunday morning visit to the car collection of a certain Mr Smith and a nearby collection of Rolls-Royce-powered military vehicles.

The tour brought some 45 members (some from as far afield as Australia) and 20-plus cars to Dunedin for the weekend. Despite the weather being less than ideal, those attending seemed to have a great time in Dunedin. I certainly enjoyed participating, though ultimate family bragging rights went to my 13-year-old son; never mind all those older cars, he got one up on his father by securing a ride in a current model Rolls-Royce Ghost.

David Thomson