A tough time for Lewis on Sunday, but tough times might be ahead for Fernando...
Martin Brundle on why there still might be some twists and turns in the title race, why he was so impressed with Jenson, Pastor and Lewis this weekend, and why Mercedes have a big decision ahead...
Last Updated: September 25, 2012 12:07pm
Some would no doubt disagree, not least Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, but I think most Formula One fans took a body blow along with Lewis Hamilton when his transmission failed on Sunday. Unless something remarkable happens it really took the sting out of the championship battle leaving Hamilton the equivalent of just over two race victories behind. It also handed more points to Alonso.
Don't get me wrong, in many ways I hope Alonso takes the title, he fully deserves to and it will be a spectacularly impressive feat which will cement his position as one of the truly greats. I just want to see a glorious multi-faceted battle to the bitter end.
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We may well still enjoy that, Fernando looked pretty perplexed on the podium as well he might given that Vettel is two points closer to him with six races to go than he was back in 2010 when he stole the championship from under Alonso's nose. There is a key difference though; in that epic season Red Bull had a more dominant car whereas it seems as if McLaren may have a small advantage in these closing stages.
With three pairs of back to backs remaining, some of which are tough races often affected by weather and Austin Texas being completely unknown, the championship could turn on its head. If Vettel was to go on a winning streak, or possibly still even Hamilton, Alonso needs to be pumping in a podium every race. This means he needs a faster car to secure it.
I was particulalrly impressed with Hamilton's pole lap. Carefully preparing the tyres on the out lap he never once let the car slide or the rear wheels spin in a beautifully controlled but pacey qualy lap. Lewis has really added precision and control to his normally flamboyant driving style and it's paying dividends.
Stand out performances came from Pastor Maldonado and Paul Di Resta. Pastor takes a fair hiding for his crazy stuff but he was outstanding in Singapore even after a poor start. He deserved better and still remains pointless since his great Barcelona victory.
Jenson Button had a fine weekend too, he has the maturity to pace his own race and not get caught up in other people's. It never ceases to impress me how calm he is on the grid when he's gently scoring points off me. A man on top of his game.
I think many of the F1 drivers must watch the desperadoes in the GP2 races. Those young men are just a wire fence and a computer turnstile away from Formula One and having invested their heart and soul and a lot of somebody else's money they are desperate to make that final step. For them every square centimetre of the race track, and often beyond, are bona fide overtaking opportunities and the F1 boys are following suit now. I loved all that action over the Anderson Bridge and into the turn 13 hairpin left, among many other places.
Pirelli tyres and DRS rear wings have definitely opened the drivers' minds to overtaking too. Beefier suspension gives them more confidence to go barging in although front wings remain as fragile and critical as ever, usually coinciding with puncturing the opposition's rear tyre.
The stewards came down pretty hard on Mark Webber for his overtake on Kobayashi just off the track and taking away his hard earned championship point. But with painted lines for kerbs and copious run-offs this is the only way to control the situation. I just hope the Stewards are able to be consistent.
Michael Schumacher's ten place grid penalty for heavily rear-ending another car for the third time is very embarrassing for him.
We all thought Jean Eric Vergne was going to strangle him rather than hug him after the incident, the youngest driver shovelled off the track by the oldest. It was a big impact and demonstrated a sizeable misjudgement. If Mercedes don't get Hamilton, and I don't believe they will from my detective work, then they have a big decision to make regarding Michael. It won't be easy and they need to be poaching a Di Resta, Perez, Hulkenberg or suchlike in a hurry.
I think we will see more races in the Middle East and Asia becoming night races. It works so well for atmosphere and spectacle but they'll have to go some to beat the Singapore cityscape. It was though interesting to see the GP2 race in brilliant sunshine, the typical warts and all of temporary street circuit were very evident. It's great news that they have extended the contract for a further five years, although I have no idea how Bernie Ecclestone keeps so many balls up in the air at once as he's negotiating multiple big value deals. And I've never rung him yet when he didn't call back before the end of the day. What a mind he continues to have and I sense he's getting ever tougher rather than mellower with age.
Heads down now for the last six races scattered across the globe. Vettel looked in a trance as he headed to the car two and a half hours before winning his second consecutive Singapore Grand Prix. It's going to be a tough few weeks for Alonso.