It’s Abu Dhabi or bust for Fernando Alonso and his Formula One rivals.
Four men will fight out the drivers’ championship at next week’s season-ending race after Alonso finished behind winner Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber at Sao Paulo’s Interlagos circuit yesterday.
Ferrari’s Alonso will enter the Nov. 14 race in the United Arab Emirates with an eight-point lead over Webber and 15-point advantage over Vettel. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, 24 points behind Alonso, has an outside chance of winning the title. A victory is worth 25 points.
“It’s very open,” Alonso, a two-time world champion, said in a televised news conference. “We’ll need to be focused in what will be a stressful weekend.”
Vettel and Webber, both seeking their first championship in the elite auto-racing series, dominated the 71-lap race yesterday after passing pole position-sitter Nico Hulkenberg of Williams on the first lap.
While Alonso rose to third from fifth within seven laps, the Spaniard couldn’t make up ground on the leaders until a safety car was deployed when Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi smashed into a crash barrier on lap 51.
“Red Bull was far away,” said Alonso, 29, who won the series with Renault in 2005 and 2006. “It was a lonely race, trying to make up ground.”
Vettel, a 23-year-old German, eventually won by 4.2 seconds, while Alonso was 2.6 seconds behind Webber. Hamilton, 8 seconds further back in fourth, said he was powerless in his pursuit.
“You can’t win with a car that’s not fast enough,” Hamilton, the 2008 champion, told reporters. “I was even struggling to overtake the back-markers in a straight line.”
McLaren’s Jenson Button, last year’s champion with the Brawn team, finished fifth and can no longer retain the title.
“Lewis can still win the world championship, but the top three drivers will have to fare badly for it to happen,” said Button, whose chauffeur-driven car sped away after being approached near the circuit by armed muggers two days ago. “I’m out of it now.”
The Sao Paulo racetrack, which decided the last five drivers’ championships, yesterday resolved the constructors’ title as Red Bull took an unassailable lead over McLaren.
It’s the first title for the Milton Keynes, England-based team since energy drink maker Red Bull GmbH bought it from Ford Motor Co.’s Jaguar Racing in 2004. Team staff jumped for joy in the pit-lane as the race finished.
Red Bull has spent $675 million on the team, according to the accounts of Red Bull Technology Ltd. That’s helped it compete with Ferrari and McLaren, the oldest existing squads.
“In six years this team has come from a team that no-one took seriously, that everyone thought was a party team, to the 2010 Formula One constructors’ champions,” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said in a statement. “We finished ahead of teams with far more experience and heritage than ourselves, we took them on and we won.”
Webber, 34, said he can top off the season in Abu Dhabi. The Australian relinquished the championship lead to Alonso when he crashed into a wall two weeks ago in South Korea.
“I still have a big, big chance to pull it off,” Webber said.
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