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Gloves are off in race to the title

WHAT a couple of races we have coming up in the US and Brazil to decide the winner of this year's drivers' title. Sebastian Vettel, in my view, is the marginal favourite, and I say that without any bias given my connection to Red Bull. He has to be. Not only does he hold a 10-point advantage over Alonso, Red Bull has generally had the faster car all year.

But it is only marginal. Fernando Alonso is a teak-tough competitor and I have a feeling these last two races could get a bit dirty; a bit more ''street''. The Spaniard is as streetwise as they come. Fernando wants to go to war, wants this to become a battle of wits as much as machines. He is trying to unsettle Seb, while at the same time exuding confidence and serenity. He has even taken to quoting samurai philosophy in his post-race interviews.

There is another reason Fernando may feel encouraged. The return to form of Lewis Hamilton and McLaren in Abu Dhabi means Red Bull is no longer guaranteed pole. We don't know whether that will still be the case in Austin next week, since the formula one circus has never been there before, but we do know that Seb's success in recent races has been based on him getting out in front and controlling the race. If he is further back, not only does he risk getting caught up in an incident, he is also more vulnerable to attacks from drivers using DRS.

One thing is for sure, whichever of them prevails he will have earned the right to be called a triple world champion: Fernando for having maximised every single opportunity available to him this year, for making virtually no errors, for consistently outperforming the car, for never giving up; and Seb, for withstanding the pressure Fernando is applying by the bucketload and for proving himself time and again.

Sunday's race was a prime example. To be relegated to the back of the grid, through no fault of your own, with all your detractors saying you can't race and it's all about the car, and then to battle back and finish on the podium, is pretty special.

I'm not buying this ''he got lucky'' baloney. Yes, things fell nicely for Seb with the two safety cars. But Jenson Button had similar fortune in Canada last year and everyone agreed his was a brilliant drive. Seb had such a positive mindset on Sunday, he was so aggressive, it was a case of luck favouring the brave. Nor am I buying this argument that it was unfair because Red Bull was able to make substantial changes to the car's set-up after qualifying. The rules are the same for everyone.


It was no surprise that the top four places all went to world champions. Had Lewis not retired it would have been five world champions in the top five. The cream, as ever in formula one, rises to the top.

The race for the drivers' title could hardly be closer or more tantalisingly poised.

My money is on Seb, but only just.