Former multiple grand prix-winner turned BBC F1
pundit David Coulthard has expressed his opinion that whoever ultimately claims the drivers' crown this season will be 'perhaps the most deserving [world champion] of all time given the unprecedented levels of competition and pressure' in 2010 – and Fernando Alonso, he reckons, is now the favourite.
Having revealed his conviction post-Silverstone – a calamitous, point-less outing that saw him slip to some 47 markers adrift of the lead in the title standings, equivalent to almost two race victories – that he was 'more convinced than before that we will win the championship', many took Alonso's statement with more than a hefty pinch of salt. Just look where he is now.
Whilst many have questioned the Spaniard's ethics and some – ex-FIA President Max Mosley amongst them [see separate story – click here
] – contend that should he go on to lift the F1 2010 laurels by fewer than the seven points he inherited thanks to the team orders controversy at Hockenheim, his success will be 'devalued', Coulthard argues that if Alonso does claim a third drivers' trophy this season, it will be fully-merited off the back of a superb recent run that has seen him triumph three times in the last four grands prix.
“Fernando returned to the summit of the championship for the first time since the opening two races of the year,” the Scot wrote in his column for The Daily Telegraph
, conceding that whilst the Korean winner is 'a man of few words...what he does say is usually worth listening to'. “He is the man with the momentum and, on the same basis that I backed Mark Webber to win the title before Korea, is now my favourite to claim the world title in Abu Dhabi.
“When the cars are so evenly-matched, you have to back the man in possession – especially when that man is a two-time world champion, and arguably the finest driver of his generation. Fernando, for me and for most of the guys out there, has been the benchmark in the post-Schumacher era.
“I was no fan of his tactics in 2007 and would like to think that even he is ashamed of what happened in qualifying in Budapest that year when he blocked Lewis [Hamilton], but on-track I have always known him to be hard but fair. Relentless is probably the best word for him. There is a cold, calculating quality to his brilliance. Off the track, as we know, he will stop at practically nothing to secure an advantage.
“People are sure to bang on about the seven points he won in Germany when Felipe Massa pulled over for him. Get over it. I have said it before and I will say it again – every team has imposed team orders and will do so again to one extent or another. Do you notice any team principals bleating about those seven points? No – people in glass houses don't throw stones.”
Logically-speaking, whilst Hamilton remains in the running for glory as does – albeit even more tenuously – McLaren-Mercedes team-mate, countryman and title-winning successor Jenson Button, in all likelihood it is now only either Webber or Sebastian Vettel who can deny Alonso the prize.
The Australian may end up paying a heavy price for his Korean error, whilst the German could well be left counting the cost of his cruel engine failure in the same race that scuppered a certain victory – but erstwhile Red Bull Racing star and ongoing team consultant Coulthard insists neither can be discounted.