Yas Marina: Vettel and Alonso in the twilight zone

Yas Marina: Vettel and Alonso in the twilight zone

31 October 2012 – Formula 1 moves on to Abu Dhabi and we have just three races left to decide the destiny of the 2012 season. In India on Sunday, Sebastian Vettel proved how important qualifying pace is. At the same time, Fernando Alonso’s performance was more than enough to warn Red Bull that a single mistake will cost them…

It’s a curious scenario. We’ve got the best car of the year against the best driver of the year. That of course is only an opinion, but it’s based on the fact that Red Bull are now continuously locking out front rows and leading all laps of races, with Alonso achieving lightening starts and finishing ahead of where he qualifies.

The way to tell an amazing, all-round player apart from a great driver? They win races they shouldn’t win and finish ahead of drivers with superior equipment who really should be in front. That was certainly the case in Greater Noida, as Alonso jumped both McLarens and Mark Webber. Granted, the Aussie had a KERS problem, but the intelligence of Alonso sacrificed some qualifying speed by running a longer seventh gear which allowed him shoot past his rivals with so much more extra speed where it mattered: the DRS zone.

As great as the Spaniard is, there is only so long you can go before the better car will come out on top. We might keep witnessing superlative drives from Alonso like that of India, but eventually the races will run out and Vettel will be ahead. So how on earth can Ferrari beat Red Bull? Let’s face it: on raw pace, they will not. What they need is an out-of-the-ordinary set of circumstances to take advantage of. Vettel held up by a back-marker in qualifying, rain late in a race or a Red Bull technical problem. Of course, Red Bull knows that only too well and cannot afford to take liberties.

Motorsport can deliver the most spectacular of blows, regardless of its form. How many times have we seen an almost certain winner lose everything at the last moment? In MotoGP, all Valentino Rossi had to do was finish the Valencia Grand Prix of 2006…only to fall off his Yamaha and hand the title to Nicky Hayden. In the World Rally Championship, Carlos Sainz’s Toyota broke down half a kilometre from the end of the 1998 RAC Rally…gift-wrapping the crown for Tommi Mäkinen. My point? Things happen. Gremlins can always creep in. This is motor racing.

Last-minute disaster: Sainz loses WRC title in 1998
What did Sainz, Alonso’s compatriot, say when he lost that WRC title in ‘98? “It made me stronger.” The same could be said for Alonso when, as Ferrari made that terrible tactical error at the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix by shadowing Mark Webber’s strategy, they allowed Vettel to pick up his maiden championship. Without a shadow of a doubt, Alonso is now the strongest he has been. Ever.

So, we have a strange situation on our hands. Vettel knows that, should the weather stay dry and the car not fail, the trophy is his. Alonso knows that he is coming from behind and has to keep the pressure on. On the other hand, Fernando is well aware that he has the slower car and – if Vettel is to keep pulling away at the starts – that simply is not good enough. But – after Valencia and Monza – if the tiniest mishap does occur for the German, that red car will be in position to pick up the pieces.

Personally, my head tells me Vettel and my heart says Alonso. Based on technical details, Red Bull should win this. When you throw outside variables into the mix, Ferrari always seem to be better placed. One would be brave to make a prediction. In the cockpit, you can be sure that both men will be hearing every possible little noise they could and noticing even the smallest of bumps in the road. Everybody is on tenterhooks and the balance of this championship could still swing either way.

Yas Marina pole-sitters at a glance:
2011 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault
2010 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault
2009 Lewis Hamilton - McLaren-Mercedes

Yas Marina Grands Prix winners at a glance:
2011 Lewis Hamilton – McLaren-Mercedes
2010 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault
2009 Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The facts: Yas Marina Circuit
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Laps 55

Direction Anti-clockwise

Corners 21

Length 5.554 km / 3.451 mi

First championship race 2009

First winner Sebastian Vettel – Red Bull-Renault

Lap record 1:40.279 / S. Vettel / Red Bull-Renault / 2009

Local start time 5pm (GMT +4)

Slick Pirelli tyre compounds
Medium (white markings) & Soft (soft markings)

DRS zones
Detection 1: Before Turn 7 hairpin
Activation 1: Halfway down straight after Turn 7
Detection 2: After Turn 9
Activation 2: Straight which runs to Turn 11

FIA driver steward
Derek Warwick

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Circuit changes for 2012
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
- Higher kerbs, similar to those on the apexes of Turns 8 and 9, have been installed on the apexes of Turns 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 18 and 19.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Gregory Haines
GPUpdate.net Editor

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Wednesday 1 April 2015

  2. 18:23

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  3. Gasly gets Toro Rosso test chance 18:05

    Gasly gets Toro Rosso test chance

    Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly will drive for Toro Rosso at the post-Spanish Grand Prix test. Toro Rosso confirmed Gasly's…

    F1
  4. F1 engine allocation set to be increased 15:36

    F1 engine allocation set to be increased

    Formula 1 drivers are set to see their engine allowance increased from four units to five for the rest of the 2015 season…

    F1
  5. Video: Porsche showcases 919 Hybrid 12:03

    Video: Porsche showcases 919 Hybrid

    Porsche showcases the 919 Hybrid that will contest this year's World Endurance Championship, including the prestigious 24 Hours…

    Misc
  6. Feature: Hülkenberg on his Le Mans adventure 11:47

    Feature: Hülkenberg on his Le Mans adventure

    Nico Hülkenberg will live the dream of most racing drivers when he competes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche this year.…

    F1
  7. 07:32

    Gallery: Best photos from the Malaysian GP

    F1
  8. Mark Sutton: Story Behind the Shot - Malaysia 07:14

    Mark Sutton: Story Behind the Shot - Malaysia

    Especially for lovers of motorsport photography, GPUpdate.net's race-by-race series, Story Behind the Shot, continues throughout…

    F1
  9. Video of the Day: Vettel's radio message 05:08

    Video of the Day: Vettel's radio message

    Listen to Sebastian Vettel's radio transmission as he celebrates victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    F1
  10. Tuesday 31 March 2015

  11. Video: Domenicali on future of formula racing 15:07

    Video: Domenicali on future of formula racing

    Stefano Domenicali, President of the FIA Single-Seater Commission, discusses the future of formula racing.

    F1
  12. Unchanged grid for Long Beach ePrix 12:30

    Unchanged grid for Long Beach ePrix

    For the first time this season, Formula E's 20-strong grid will remain unchanged between races. Scott Speed, who narrowly…

    FE
  13. Feature: Malaysian GP's key questions 12:07

    Feature: Malaysian GP's key questions

    Prior to last weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, GPUpdate.net posed five key questions for the second round of the season at the…

    F1
  14. Five F1 teams confirmed for Goodwood 10:48

    Five F1 teams confirmed for Goodwood

    Five Formula 1 teams have been confirmed for this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed. World Champion team Mercedes, Williams…

    F1
  15. Rossi to star at Goodwood Festival of Speed 10:21

    Rossi to star at Goodwood Festival of Speed

    Valentino Rossi will make his first appearance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this year. The MotoGP legend will attend the…

    MotoGP
  16. Record-breaking Márquez targets Austin recovery 09:02

    Record-breaking Márquez targets Austin recovery

    World Champion Marc Márquez says he and Repsol Honda can recover at the next round of the MotoGP season at the Circuit of the…

    MotoGP
  17. Video of the Day: Rosberg's Sepang blog 05:16

    Video of the Day: Rosberg's Sepang blog

    A downbeat Nico Rosberg discusses the Malaysian Grand Prix as he reflects on his podium place at Sepang.

    F1
  18. Monday 30 March 2015

  19. Malaysian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers 16:44

    Malaysian Grand Prix: Winners and Losers

    Sebastian Vettel surged clear to return Ferrari to the top step at the Malaysian Grand Prix as Mercedes was beaten for the first…

    F1
  20. Sauber rues 'missed opportunity' for points 14:29

    Sauber rues 'missed opportunity' for points

    Sauber Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn says her squad missed out on an opportunity to add more points to its tally as neither…

    F1
  21. Renault heartened by Ferrari success 12:41

    Renault heartened by Ferrari success

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says that the company must keep pushing as Ferrari's victory in the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  22. Video: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg highlights 11:38

    Video: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg highlights

    Watch highlights from the IndyCar season opener at St. Petersburg as Juan Pablo Montoya took the win.

    Indy
  23. Wolff: Ferrari victory 'good' for Formula 1 11:22

    Wolff: Ferrari victory 'good' for Formula 1

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes that Sebastian Vettel's triumph at the Malaysian Grand Prix is positive for Formula 1, as…

    F1
  24. Ericsson believes seventh was possible 10:50

    Ericsson believes seventh was possible

    Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson believes that seventh place was possible for the squad in Malaysia, had he not spun out of…

    F1
  25. Rossi revels in 'one of the best races' 09:12

    Rossi revels in 'one of the best races'

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi described his victory in the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar as one of the best races of his…

    MotoGP
  26. Arrivabene urges Ferrari to maintain progress 08:30

    Arrivabene urges Ferrari to maintain progress

    Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene says the squad must remain realistic, despite claiming its first victory in almost…

    F1
  27. Video of the Day: Get ready for Long Beach 05:17

    Video of the Day: Get ready for Long Beach

    Formula E stays in the United States for round six of its inaugural season – the Long Beach ePrix.

    FE
  28. 01:23

    Championship standings after Malaysia

    F1
  29. Sunday 29 March 2015

  30. Montoya outduels Power to take St. Pete victory 23:16

    Montoya outduels Power to take St. Pete victory

    Juan Pablo Montoya held off team-mate and pole-sitter Will Power to win the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St.…

    Indy
  31. Pedrosa reveals arm injury, considering future 22:30

    Pedrosa reveals arm injury, considering future

    Honda's Dani Pedrosa says he is considering his options after revealing that he has been suffering with an arm problem for over…

    MotoGP
  32. Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller 19:51

    Rossi beats Dovizioso in Qatar thriller

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi claimed victory in the opening round of the MotoGP season in Qatar as he beat Ducati's Andrea…

    MotoGP
  33. Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap 17:06

    Video: Will Power's record St. Pete lap

    Enjoy Will Power's record pole-winning lap for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

    Indy
  34. 16:02

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday at Sepang

    F1
  35. Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture 15:20

    Räikkönen achieves 'maximum' after puncture

    Kimi Räikkönen says fourth position was the best result possible after he sustained a puncture during the early stages of the…

    F1
  36. McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise' 13:41

    McLaren drivers say pace 'a nice surprise'

    Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button say that McLaren-Honda's raw pace during the Malaysian Grand Prix came as "a nice…

    F1
  37. Verstappen delighted with maiden points 12:59

    Verstappen delighted with maiden points

    Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen expressed his satisfaction after becoming the youngest ever points scorer in Formula 1…

    F1
  38. Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work' 12:44

    Ferrari Chairman hails 'incredibly hard work'

    Sergio Marchionne praised the "incredibly hard work" of his Ferrari team after Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Malaysian…

    F1
  39. Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident 12:12

    Kvyat: Hülkenberg clash a racing incident

    Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat played down his contact with Force India rival Nico Hülkenberg during the Malaysian Grand Prix, which…

    F1
  40. Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang 12:09

    Brake issues hampers Maldonado at Sepang

    Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado was forced to retire from the Malaysian Grand Prix with a brake issue, as his and the squad's…

    F1
  41. Rosberg wants improved communication 12:05

    Rosberg wants improved communication

    Nico Rosberg has urged Mercedes to improve communication after he came home a distant third in the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  42. Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish 11:54

    Merhi elated by maiden Formula 1 finish

    Formula 1 debutant Roberto Merhi expressed his joy after he was able to finish his first ever race in the sport as he came home…

    F1
  43. Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today 11:42

    Hamilton: Ferrari too fast for us today

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted that Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were simply "too fast" to deal with during the Malaysian Grand…

    F1
  44. Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018 11:22

    Sepang extends Formula 1 deal to 2018

    Sepang will continue to play host to the Malaysian Grand Prix after organisers agreed a new deal to remain on the Formula 1…

    F1
more news