F1: 2 races to go, 2 drivers in the hunt for glory

After a surprisingly fascinating Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, two questions now remain.

After a surprisingly fascinating Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, two questions now remain. Will Sebastian Vettel score big in Austin and take the title in the USA, or will Fernando Alonso bite back in the Texan desert and take the championship down to the wire?

As one of the newer tracks on the calendar, Abu Dhabi doesn’t have much or a reputation for exciting races. Since its first grand prix in 2009, races have been fairly non-eventful affairs with many wins coming from pole to flag, and the only excitement in 2010 being whether Alonso would get past Petrov’s Renault and secure the championship. He didn’t.
This year’s race saw drama from qualifying, when Vettel was put to the back of the grid after failing to have enough fuel at the end of the final qualifying session for a sample. With the championship leader at the back of the grid, and a speedy Hamilton at the front, it was shaping up to be a spicy race.

Hamilton got a great start, maintaining his lead, while Alonso jumped Button to move up to fifth, then overtook Webber in a ballsy move to take fourth. Raikkonen, meanwhile, had a brilliant start and moved into second, at one point challenging Hamilton for the lead. There was overtaking throughout the race, both with DRS and without, and Vettel showed his championship-winning skills by making his way through the field at a fairly rapid pace. Of course, luck had its part, a well-timed safety car after his second pitstop certainly helped his cause. His crash through a polystyrene board while behind Daniel Ricciardo was nothing short of spectacular, especially as he managed to hold it together and get back on the tarmac.

Hamilton’s eventual car failure on lap 20 was disappointing for him, but led to the Iceman’s first victory since returning to Formula 1, proving he still has the skills and determination to win after his break from the sport. Despite Raikkonen saying the win means more to the team than to him, he will surely be happy to have one more win in one season than Michael Schumacher has scored in three since their respective returns to F1.

Alonso meanwhile will be disappointed he was unable to gain more from a race where Vettel started from the pitlane. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. He ended the race second, and cut a mere three points into Vettel’s lead, after Vettel overtook Button on fresher tyres in the final laps of the race to finish third.

It means the championship goes into the final two races with a two horse race for overall victory. Alonso is ten points behind Vettel, while Red Bull has an 82 point lead in the constructors over Ferrari. To win the championship in Austin, Texas, Vettel needs to win the race and for Alonso to finish lower than fifth. Even if Alonso does not finish the race, Vettel still needs to finish first or second to win. To keep the championship alive, Alonso needs to either beat Vettel, and eke into his lead, or finish higher than sixth with Vettel ahead.

So we go into the penultimate race of the season with the chance of crowning the 2012 world champion. Texas will be an odyssey for all the teams as it hosts its first F1 race on a circuit which many drivers have already claimed will be an exciting one. Vettel will be hoping his Red Bull remains as quick as ever, while Alonso will be hoping that like everything else in Texas, his points are big. Vettel certainly has the advantage, but never discount the Spanish bull.