Lewis Hamilton's moment at the start of lap 35 in Sunday's Korean Grand Prix could prove crucial in his bid to win the 2010 F1 world championship, according to former driver Martin Brundle.
The Briton, now a member of the BBC
's broadcast team, believes that, without the error on cold tyres after the race's third and final safety car period, Hamilton would have been in position to capitalise on Sebastian Vettel's engine failure ten laps from home, and put himself even more firmly back into the title fight.
Although second place allowed the 2008 champion to close to within 21 points of new leader Fernando Alonso - having been 28 points behind Mark Webber at the start of the weekend - the Spaniard's victory in Yeongam allowed him to open out a significant advantage at the top of the standings. A Hamilton victory, with Alonso second, would have still elevated the Briton only to third in the table, but at a deficit of just seven points to the Ferrari driver's total of 224, whose lead over Webber would be a mere four points. Ironically, Vettel would also have been better off, trailing Alonso by 18 points rather than 25, while Jenson Button would have been 35 points off the lead rather than 42.
"Should Lewis Hamilton have won the Korean Grand Prix? He may well have done had he not braked a little too late into turn one at the final safety car restart and run wide," Brundle wrote in his regular column for the BBC
, "That gave Fernando Alonso back the second place he had lost because of a slow pit-stop for intermediate tyres and meant the Ferrari driver, not Hamilton, took the lead when the Renault engine in Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull broke on lap 44.
"It's true that Alonso was faster than Hamilton at the end of the race, when the McLaren's tyres were more heavily worn, but, until then, Hamilton had largely matched Vettel and Alonso for pace, and McLaren had the better strategy having pitted Hamilton a lap earlier than his main rivals.
"Had Hamilton won, that would have meant a net 14-point turnaround for him against Alonso and he would have been right in the heart of the championship battle, instead of 21 points adrift as he is now. This left McLaren slightly flat despite Hamilton's strong second place."
Brundle believes that Alonso's victory may very well be the final stepping stone on the way to a third title many thought impossible after he was given back-to-back drive-thru' penalties in Valencia and at Silverstone.
"Vettel was immense, although Alonso increasingly had him covered, and, for all the laps Vettel led, the Spaniard was the class act of the day," he insisted, "Alonso stayed out of trouble, kept the car on the black bits, and nursed his long-serving intermediate tyres far better than anyone else.
"It was a champion's drive from the man who back in July, when 47 points adrift, declared he was confident he could still win the championship. This was Alonso's third victory in four races, and his sixth podium in the last seven races. He is on a major roll and will now take some stopping."