Before last night’s Japanese Grand Prix, we reckoned only Sebastian Vettel could stop Fernando Alonso from taking this year’s crown. But after the race, it looks like only ‘Nando can stop Seb from stealing the title and making it three in a row for the 25-year old German.
Alonso’s lead is now just four points but Red Bull have all the momentum. Did you hear how many times Vettel was told to slow down? Ferrari’s engineering team misfired when it first conceived the F2012, but somehow Alonso’s chops and lady luck kept it hidden until now. The luck turned today and the SuperSpaniard is now faced with trying to win the world title with the third or possibly fourth fastest car on the track. Hmmm.
Red Bull would appear to have the fastest, McLaren next up (though not today) and then you choose between Lotus, Sauber and Ferrari. The last two made the podium today, the Lotus didn’t, but in the hands of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean Lotus made all the news today and possibly decided the fate of the world championship.
Raikkonen tagged Fernando Alonso going into the first corner and the subsequent puncture, spin and retirement meant a loss of a possible, probable 18 points considering Massa’s second place from tenth on the grid. Romain Grosjean meanwhile did much the same on Mark Webber and got himself dubbed “a first lap nutcase” and – probably – the cold shoulder from the rest of the paddock.
We’ve been on RoGro’s side before; we’re not any longer. It doesn’t matter that Webber was out of position or not. The fact remains it’s part of the job to get the car back around to the start line in one piece and most of the other 23 can do it. Well maybe not Bruno Senna, who again made contact at the first corner. It was kind of scary when, later in the race, Bruno lined him up for a pass around the outside of 130R.
McLaren, who might have thought they were still in the title fight, could only manage fourth and fifth from eighth and ninth on the grid today. Apart from one move fresh out of the pits on Raikkonen, Lewis looked like he phoned it in. We’ve got a theory on that, but it’s a bit of a soap opera so we’ll come back to it. Patience, Sunday Afternooners. Button meanwhile, with an iffy gearbox, was closing down on Kamui Kobayashi for third place and, for once, we’re grateful he didn’t pull it off.
In fact, Kobayashi’s podium finish to the audible delight of the crowd was the best story of the day. We’re guessing Pirelli tyres are the reason we don’t see so much of the old Tokyo Drift King Kamui these days, but he’s still an adorable little bugger, so let’s hope today’s drive is enough to keep him in a seat next year.
Top 10 then; Seb’, Felipe Massa (on the podium for the first time in almost two seasons), Kamui, Jenson, Lewis, Kimi, Nico Hulkenberg (who monstered team-mate Paul Di Resta in their internecine battle for Ferrari’s attention), Pastor Maldonado (who’ll enjoy the stewards’ spotlight being focused on Grosjean and not him for once) and comeback kid Mark Webber.
And the Championship. Alonso 194, Vettel 190. Then some others.