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. Sunday 1 February 2015

  2. Jerez pre-season testing: Day 1 line-up 05:53

    Jerez pre-season testing: Day 1 line-up

    The opening day of pre-season testing at the Circuito de Jerez has arrived and, to keep you fully up to date with who is in...

    F1
  3. Video of the Day: Adding SF15-T's livery 05:02

    Video of the Day: Adding SF15-T's livery

    Watch a time-lapse video as Ferrari turns its nascent SF15-T into a fully liveried machine.

    F1
  4. Saturday 31 January 2015

  5. 18:40

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  6. Video: Mercedes previews 2015 fight 18:31

    Video: Mercedes previews 2015 fight

    Mercedes presents footage of its F1 W06 Hybrid as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg talk about where they will improve in 2015.

    F1
  7. 17:51

    Latest F1 photos: Preparations at Jerez

    F1
  8. Tost targets fifth place for Toro Rosso 17:42

    Tost targets fifth place for Toro Rosso

    Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost says that his squad should aim for a top five finish in this year's Constructors'...

    F1
  9. 16:48

    Photos: Toro Rosso reveals STR10

    F1
  10. Video: STR10 on track at Misano 16:46

    Video: STR10 on track at Misano

    Toro Rosso runs its new STR10 on track during a filming day at Misano.

    F1
  11. Jerez pre-season testing: The line-up 16:32

    Jerez pre-season testing: The line-up

    The opening pre-season test gets underway at the Circuito de Jerez on Sunday morning. As a preview to the gathering,...

    F1
  12. Toro Rosso presents STR10 in Jerez 16:27

    Toro Rosso presents STR10 in Jerez

    Rookie drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. have taken the wraps off of Toro Rosso's new Renault-powered STR10 in the...

    F1
  13. Preview: Formula 1 gears up for Jerez test 13:44

    Preview: Formula 1 gears up for Jerez test

    Just over two months after the chequered flag fell to bring the 2014 season to a close in Abu Dhabi, Formula 1 teams are...

    F1
  14. 'A lot of change' on Mercedes W06 – Lowe 13:16

    'A lot of change' on Mercedes W06 – Lowe

    Mercedes' Executive Director (technical) Paddy Lowe says the squad has found performance in "a number of areas" with its...

    F1
  15. Vettel appreciative of 'straightforward' Räikkönen 12:26

    Vettel appreciative of 'straightforward' Räikkönen

    New Ferrari recruit Sebastian Vettel says the 'straightforward' nature of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen should aid their r...

    F1
  16. Video: Daniel Ricciardo on 2015 season 11:18

    Video: Daniel Ricciardo on 2015 season

    Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo discusses his hopes for the new season as he tries to build on a successful 2014.

    F1
  17. Kobayashi moves to Super Formula for 2015 10:11

    Kobayashi moves to Super Formula for 2015

    Kamui Kobayashi will move to Japan's Super Formula championship for 2015 after leaving Formula 1. Kobayashi spent three...

    F1
  18. Hamilton: Mercedes can be even stronger 09:04

    Hamilton: Mercedes can be even stronger

    Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton says that Mercedes' rivals will find it tough to match the outfit in 2015 as "there...

    F1
  19. Video: Magnussen on 2015 expectations 08:33

    Video: Magnussen on 2015 expectations

    McLaren test and reserve driver Kevin Magnussen discusses his 2015 role and expectations.

    F1
  20. Magnussen's sights set on Formula 1 return 08:32

    Magnussen's sights set on Formula 1 return

    Kevin Magnussen says he will work hard to show his capability as a Formula 1 driver as he bids to return to a race seat for...

    F1
  21. Feature: Sauber's Nasr 'ready for the next step' 07:25

    Feature: Sauber's Nasr 'ready for the next step'

    Formula 1 welcomes three rookies in 2015 – Toro Rosso team-mates Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen, and Sauber driver F...

    F1
  22. Video of the Day: Interview with Sebastian Vettel 05:04

    Video of the Day: Interview with Sebastian Vettel

    Sebastian Vettel talks about his move from Red Bull to Ferrari and his hopes for the year ahead.

    F1
  23. Friday 30 January 2015

  24. Ricciardo to debut Red Bull RB11 in Jerez 19:51

    Ricciardo to debut Red Bull RB11 in Jerez

    Red Bull has confirmed that Daniel Ricciardo will debut the squad's new Renault-powered RB11 at Jerez on Sunday. The...

    F1
  25. Ferrari confident over improved power unit 15:48

    Ferrari confident over improved power unit

    Ferrari Technical Director James Allison says that a significant amount of the squad's efforts over the winter period have...

    F1
  26. Filippi joins CFH for road/street courses 14:58

    Filippi joins CFH for road/street courses

    CFH Racing has confirmed that Italian driver Luca Filippi will race for the squad in the 10 road/street courses in this...

    Indy
  27. Video: Interview with Maurizio Arrivabene 12:14

    Video: Interview with Maurizio Arrivabene

    Newly-appointed Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene previews the new Formula 1 season.

    F1
  28. Arrivabene: No 'magic' for Ferrari revival 12:11

    Arrivabene: No 'magic' for Ferrari revival

    Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene says that nobody has the magic to suddenly improve Ferrari's performances, though...

    F1
  29. Video: Ferrari showcases SF15-T 11:39

    Video: Ferrari showcases SF15-T

    Take a tour of the new Ferrari SF15-T, which will be used by the team in this year's championship.

    F1
  30. Vettel sure Ferrari heading in right direction 11:32

    Vettel sure Ferrari heading in right direction

    Sebastian Vettel says he is sure Ferrari is heading in the right direction but urged caution at the unveiling of the squad's...

    F1
  31. 11:17

    Photos: Ferrari unveils new SF15-T

    F1
  32. Ferrari reveals SF15-T in online launch 11:04

    Ferrari reveals SF15-T in online launch

    Ferrari has become the latest squad to unveil its 2015 challenger after presenting its SF15-T, which will be raced by World...

    F1
  33. 09:40

    Photos: Sauber presents C34 in Hinwil

    F1
  34. Ericsson, Nasr aim to return Sauber to points 09:20

    Ericsson, Nasr aim to return Sauber to points

    Sauber duo Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr say that their aim this year is to return the Swiss team to the points-paying...

    F1
  35. Sauber unveils striking new C34 09:05

    Sauber unveils striking new C34

    Sauber has presented its new-look C34 during an online launch, ahead of the car's public debut in Spain this weekend, as it...

    F1
  36. IndyCar Brasília season opener cancelled 07:25

    IndyCar Brasília season opener cancelled

    IndyCar has announced that its planned season opener in Brazil in March has been cancelled, although no reason has been...

    Indy
  37. Video: Boullier on McLaren-Honda reunion 07:24

    Video: Boullier on McLaren-Honda reunion

    McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier talks about McLaren's latest engine partnership with Honda.

    F1
  38. Boullier: McLaren restructure starting to pay off 07:23

    Boullier: McLaren restructure starting to pay off

    McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier believes that the recent structural changes at the team are showing signs of paying...

    F1
  39. FIA President Todt awarded Palme d'or 05:34

    FIA President Todt awarded Palme d'or

    FIA President Jean Todt has been awarded the International Automobile Festival's Palme d'or for his achievements in...

    F1
  40. Video of the Day: Ferrari working on SF15-T 05:07

    Video of the Day: Ferrari working on SF15-T

    Watch Ferrari staff members working on the new SF15-T, which will be unveiled on Friday morning.

    F1
  41. Thursday 29 January 2015

  42. Mercedes completes F1 W06 shakedown 16:07

    Mercedes completes F1 W06 shakedown

    Mercedes has released pictures of its new Formula 1 challenger, the F1 W06 Hybrid, after shaking it down at an icy...

    F1
  43. Button: McLaren motivation higher than ever 13:35

    Button: McLaren motivation higher than ever

    Jenson Button says McLaren's motivation to succeed is higher than ever ahead of the 2015 season. McLaren released...

    F1
  44. Alonso admits pre-season 'won't be easy' 12:46

    Alonso admits pre-season 'won't be easy'

    Fernando Alonso has admitted that McLaren's pre-season "won't be easy", as the team embarks on its latest engine partnership...

    F1
more news