History favours Alonso in title battle
|By Alan Baldwin||Monday, October 8th 2007, 09:57 GMT|
Fernando Alonso has history on his side, even if the Spaniard suspects McLaren team bosses are against him in his battle to win a third Formula One championship in a row.
Teammate Lewis Hamilton remains the title favourite despite a Chinese Grand Prix that dealt the 22-year-old rookie his first retirement of the season after leading from pole position.
The Briton's agonising slip, while limping back on worn tyres, into the gravel trap at the pitlane entry transformed what had looked like a cruise to the championship into a three-way fight down to the wire.
Hamilton will now head for the final race in Brazil on October 21 with 107 points to Alonso's 103 and 100 for Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen.
"You can't go through life without making mistakes, I'm over it. I know the team is working very hard to make sure we can bounce back in Brazil," said Hamilton, who can still become the first rookie champion as well as the youngest.
"But don't worry there's still one race to go in Brazil, I can still do it."
Alonso, who finished second on Sunday behind Raikkonen, sounded less optimistic about his chances after an angry weekend in which he aimed some heavy criticism at his team.
"Hopefully I can do a good race (in Brazil) but for the championship, I still need something really dramatic if I want to win. With a normal race, it will be impossible," he said.
History suggests there is a better chance of that happening than he imagines.
The last time three drivers were in with a chance of the title at the last race was 1986, when Hamilton's compatriot Nigel Mansell led Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Nelson Piquet before the Adelaide finale.
Prost won the title after Mansell's tyre exploded.
Of the eight occasions since 1950 on which the title battle has gone down to the wire as a three-way fight, only three have seen the driver leading the championship before the final race go on to become champion.
In four of those showdowns, the glory has ultimately gone to the man who had been in second place.
Alonso has won both his previous titles, with Renault, at Interlagos while Hamilton has no previous knowledge of the circuit - although that is no big obstacle since he has won three times this year at unfamiliar tracks.
It is easier to hunt than be hunted, however, and Hamilton will have to live with the torment of Shanghai for the next two weeks before he has a chance to put matters right.
Mental strength and resilience will be crucial against two experienced rivals who will feel they have nothing to lose and will be trying to exploit every psychological advantage as the deciding day approaches.
Hamilton knows a win at Interlagos ends all argument but fourth place would also be enough if Raikkonen were to lead Ferrari to a one-two finish.
Both Hamilton and Alonso, who may be leaving the team after Brazil, expect McLaren to give them equal cars and treatment. But there can be little doubt about who the team would rather see win their first title since 1999.
"We weren't racing Kimi, we were basically racing Fernando," McLaren boss Ron Dennis said on Sunday in explaining the team's delay to bring Hamilton in for new tyres.