Both Niki Lauda and Mark Webber believe that the battle for the 2012 F1 world championship will go down to the wire in Brazil – and the Australian reckons that could make life tough for his Red Bull team-mate.
While both still regard Sebastian Vettel as the favourite to lift the crown, his third in as many years, neither is prepared to write only remaining rival Fernando Alonso off completely. Ten points separate the two protagonists with two races, the US and Brazilian grands prix, remaining, after Alonso narrowed the deficit by finishing ahead of Vettel in Abu Dhabi, but Ferrari still appears to be trailing Red Bull in terms of pace and development.
Question marks were raised over RBR's focus after Vettel lost his Yas Marina qualifying times after being short-fuelled for his final run, but Lauda believes that that will act as a wake-up call, even if the German won't necessarily have enough in hand to win the championship at the USGP next weekend.
"Nothing has changed," Lauda told Austria's Osterreich
newspaper, “I believe Red Bull will have learned from its errors and now have everything technically perfect in the last two races. Then it will be up to Vettel - and he has the fastest car."
"Although [Alonso] does everything right, it's not enough, because Ferrari cannot compete with Red Bull."
Although Webber shares Lauda's view that Vettel remains the favourite to lift the crown, he is wary that Alonso is probably better equipped to deal with the sort of conditions Interlagos could provide for the finale.
"Sebastian needs dry weather there," the Australian told Austria's Servus TV
, "He can drive in the rain, but Fernando is very strong, and it can be wet
in Sao Paulo. There is always some drama.”
Vettel, meanwhile, quickly put last Saturday's drama behind him, producing a podium finish from the pit-lane, and remains confident of his own chances heading to the USGP at the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
“[Abu Dhabi] was a big chance to lose out a lot, but we didn't lose anything, so I'm very happy,” he admitted, “The guys are pushing 100 per cent, I feel very happy they're all behind me and I try to do my best for them. I think we have two more races ahead of us, and we're in the best possible position, so I think we're looking forward to the next race, [and] a new challenge.”