Vettel wins in India but Alonso takes plaudits to keep title challenge alive
22:30 GMT, 28 October 2012
Hands up, we British journalists did our share of turning Fernando Alonso into a pantomime villain when he and Lewis Hamilton spent a vicious year together at McLaren.
Team-mates Hardly. Alonso, rattled by his upstart rival, was full of tantrums and truculence. So he deserved most of this approbation he got. But today we can lavish him with praise.
No, Ferrari’s honoured son did not win Sunday’s Indian Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel, in serene command of his superior Red Bull, did that, opening up his lead at the top of the championship to 13 points with three races remaining. But Alonso, the runner-up, is surely still the man who deserves the world title.
Main man: Fernando Alonso celebrates finishing second in the Indian Grand Prix
Some in the sport argue that whoever wins the championship is inevitably the best driver. Not always. Vettel’s car, designed by the master, Adrian Newey, is clearly the fastest. A measure of that is that Red Bull have locked out the front row of the grid in the last three qualifying sessions.
So once Vettel had navigated the first corner in the lead on Sunday, he had a clear road to victory. The German accomplished the feat faultlessly, making him the first driver since Ayrton Senna in 1989 to lead every lap for three consecutive races.
No 1: Sebastian Vettel won again
Vettel is a brilliant driver but the
argument for Alonso is simply that he is surpassing the equipment he is
sitting in with a skill and tenacity currently unmatched. Those
qualities took him up the field from sixth on the grid — a reflection of
Ferrari’s true one-lap pace.
He wrestled his way past both British drivers and zipped by Vettel’s team-mate Mark Webber, who was suffering from an intermittent KERS system that finally stopped working altogether and meant he finished third.
What is at stake is important. Both Vettel and Alonso are double world champions in search of the third title that confers legendary status.
Another rightful rival for the laurels of their era, Lewis Hamilton, the British driver Alonso recently credited with being able to win races in a sub-standard car, made his views clear.
‘It’s not for me to say but if I was watching TV I think this year Fernando has driven so well; more so than anyone else here,’ said the McLaren man, whose fourth, a place ahead of team-mate Jenson Button, means he must win the last three races to stand even a theoretical chance of the title.
‘Sebastian has stepped up a lot at the end of the year with the improvements on his car. But Fernando is still pushing. Today he just drove phenomenally well and he’s holding on, still. For me, he really is a three or four-time world champion.’
So what are we to make of stories that Vettel has agreed to join Ferrari for 2014 ‘Bull**** on the BBC website,’ said Vettel’s team principal, Christian Horner. Vettel also used the bovine and manure terminology.
Fighting back: Alonso overtook both McLaren drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in India
One theory says that Vettel is going nowhere: Ferrari favour an outright No 1 driver and Alonso is that man.
Yet the source in this instance is Italian and so far impeccable in such matters. Sportsmail sources suggest Vettel has signed some sort of agreement, with ifs and buts.
For now Alonso, though trailing in the table, is Ferrari’s jewel in the smog.