And so it comes to this: Two races in eight days to decide the outcome of the 2012 world championship. It’s been a long road to this point, but which of the two drivers has done a better job? Here we present an analysis of what has led us to this point.
The margin between them is small at 10 points. But it will be all over this weekend if Vettel wins with Alonso 5th or lower. It can also be settled if Vettel is 2nd with Alonso 9th or lower or if Vettel is 3rd and Alonso is out of the points.
Experience this season with Red Bull’s alternator problems and the two start line accidents in Spa and Suzuka which cost Alonso so dearly, tell us that there are no foregone conclusions. This is motor racing and anything can happen.
A few weeks ago we looked at the battle between Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel for the right to be the only three times world champion in the field next season.
There’s a good, comprehensive piece this week by Andrew Benson on the BBC F1 Website looking at which of the two drivers in contention for the world championship this weekend is the more deserving of the crown and that is worth some consideration at this stage.
Today 1978 world champion Mario Andretti, who serves as an ambassador of the new US Grand Prix at Austin, has commented on both Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel
“I have a very high opinion of Fernando and I often send him messages. He is a driver to appreciate for his determination and intelligence. For Ferrari he’s been doing the impossible. It will not be easy for him to take points off Vettel, but I’m not giving up.”
Meanwhile of Vettel he says, I’ve met him, he’s a great kid and a top class driver. He will be one of the greats.”
Ferrari has not won a race or been on pole since Germany in July. It may be too little too late, but Ferrari has been straight line aero testing this week with Jules Bianchi in Spain, trying out revised versions of solutions which were seen in Abu Dhabi as well as other new ideas, no doubt.
Ferrari’s development has been its Achilles Heel this season; the car has been through some positive development stages, but the team was unable to sustain the rapid growth which Red Bull managed to bring through, largely due to inefficiencies in the wind tunnel at Maranello, following its upgrade from 50% to 60%. This painful infrastructure upgrade is one which has also cost Mercedes this season, although they hope that the pain is now behind them as they seek to build Lewis Hamilton a winning car for next year.
No doubt if Red Bull wins both titles there will be dark murmurings in the aftermath about them spending far more money than the others to achieve it. And it is a great shame for the sport that the teams have failed to police a cost controls.
Both men have driven superbly – as have Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen – but we should consider two areas in particular: car pace relative to the fastest qualifier and results relative to qualifying position.
Who had the faster car this year?
In terms of pure car pace, if we look at the fastest lap from both drivers in qualifying at the 18 rounds so far, Vettel has had the faster car on 12 occasions.
Taking an average of the gap to pole for the 18 races, Vettel has been 0.43s off pole while Alonso has been 0.6s off. So the big picture is that the Red Bull hasn’t been that much faster a car this year.
However, in the five races since Monza, Vettel has had an average qualifying advantage over Alonso of 0.5 secs.
Looking at the season as a whole, Vettel has had an advantage of 0.26 secs, factoring in the days when Alonso was faster.
Breaking that down further; of the races that Vettel has had the faster car he has been on average 0.57secs faster in qualifying.
Of the six races where Alonso had the faster car he has qualified 0.358 secs faster than Vettel.
Who has done a better job in races?
Looking next at how they converted their qualifying positions into results, Vettel converted pole into a win on three out of five occasions. He made up places from his grid slot on eight occasions, gaining a total of 22 places from his grid slot in races where he started behind pole. (Plus in Abu Dhabi he made up another 22 places after being forced to start from the pit lane).
He lost places from his grid slot on two occasions (3 places in Canada and Germany), then had two technical retirements and a collision in Malaysia.
Alonso, in contrast, made up places on 12 occasions, gaining a total of 48 places in races where he started behind pole. He also had two DNFs and two races (Canada and GB) where he lost places from his starting slot. He had two poles and converted one to a win.
Alonso’s average gain of four places compared to Vettel’s 2.75 places gained is one of the main reasons why Alonso is even in the championship hunt today.
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