Despite the unexpected swing of power in the F1 world championship standings after a dramatic Korean Grand Prix, it is unlikely that the destiny of either the team or driver titles will be sorted before the season finale in Abu Dhabi next month.
That is the consensus view of the three team principals still involved in the fight, even though Ferrari's Fernando Alonso snatched an eleven-point advantage with his victory in the inaugural Korean race. The Spaniard was perfectly placed to take advantage of Red Bull Racing's first double DNF of the season, overturning the 14-point deficit with which he started the race as Mark Webber crashed out and engine failure accounted for Sebastian Vettel with ten laps remaining.
Webber remains second in the standings despite his error on only the second lap of racing on the rain-soaked Yeongam circuit, while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton has moved back into third place after claiming the runners-up spot behind former nemesis Alonso. The Briton is 21 points out of the lead, while Vettel slipped fully 25 points behind Alonso after failing to add to his tally on Sunday. McLaren's Jenson Button, who struggled to twelfth place, remains in contention, but needs a dramatic turn of events in both remaining rounds to overcome an increased 42-point deficit.
Mathematically, Alonso could wrap up a third world title in Brazil next time out should his rivals stumble, but the Spaniard refuses to accept the favourite tag [HERE
] and his Ferrari team believes that the battle will be taken to the final round at Abu Dhabi's stunning Yas Marina circuit, which was denied the showdown in 2009.
"I don't think [a win in Brazil will be enough] to be honest," team boss Stefano Domenicali insisted, "I would love it if you were right, but I don't think so. Now is the time to be humble and prepare [for] the race in the best way we can. We cannot afford to have any kind of problem. The key of the end of the season will be reliability and to keep concentration to the end. [Red Bull] have a fantastic car but, despite this fantastic car, we are there, fighting, and we will fight up to the last corner of the last race."
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, shell-shocked by his team's first failure to add to its constructors' championship tally this year, shared Domenicali's view that the title race would not reach an end until the last moments of the season.
"This championship, I believe, will go down to the last lap in Abu Dhabi," Horner told Reuters
reporters in Korea, "There is still only a race win between Sebastian in fourth and Alonso in the lead, and how many times have we seen the championship go to and fro this year? It's impossible to have a crystal ball and predict what will happen in Brazil and Abu Dhabi."
Even though Hamilton really needs his rivals to slip up if he is to repeat his 2008 title, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh shared the view that nothing would be over until the final round. Hamilton, of course, won his first crown on the last corner of the last lap of the season at Interlagos.
"Brazil is a great circuit and always produces a great race, but there is little doubt now the championship decider is going to be in Abu Dhabi."
Button's title success in Brazil last season meant that the inaugural Abu Dhabi race was left with little racing of significance as it hosted the final round, where Vettel headed a Red Bull 1-2, with the new world champion completing the podium after hounding Webber all the way to the line. Hamilton had been leading, but retired with mechanical problems.