Formula One: Awesome foursome play it cool for final
As the four world championship contenders appeared before the press in Abu Dhabi yesterday, you'd have thought none of them was particularly bothered about winning the title on Sunday afternoon.
Each of them was at pains to play down their inner emotions, in a unique game of one-upmanship.
Of course there have been tight title fights that have gone down to the wire, but never in F1 history have four potential winners lined up to do battle in the final race.
Lewis Hamilton was the coolest, perhaps because he has the slimmest chance of success with a 24-point deficit to leader Fernando Alonso, and only 25 up for grabs.
“For me, I have nothing to lose,” he suggested. “The guys in front of me have everything to lose, so for me I am going to be flat-out as always. They have got generally faster cars than me but that doesn't mean that we cannot fight for a win.
“Obviously I have to win this race. That's what we plan to do.”
Sebastian Vettel thinks he is in a similar situation.
“It's pretty easy. Some 40 years ago a Formula One driver said that in these races the only tactic is to go flat out.
“The approach hasn't changed for the last couple of races and, for myself at least, it will not change here. It is a long weekend and we try to do our best and ideally try to put us in a similar situation as in Korea and the last race, and then we see.”
Alonso, and Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber, who earlier in the week registered complete lack of comprehension when his team owner Dietrich Mateschitz suggested that he would rather see Alonso win than impose team orders on either of his drivers.
Webber, nevertheless, was commendably nonchalant, and avoided stirring things up.
“We'll see how the weekend shapes up but Fernando is in the best position. Then it goes a little bit down after that. So, looking forward to it. It should be good.”
“I think we will still see how Friday goes, how Saturday goes as to how we approach the race on Sunday. I think it will depend on how the weekend is going.
We will change the tactics depending on how competitive we are or which positions we are.”
If the Brazilian GP result is repeated — Vettel, Webber, Alonso — the $64m question is whether Vettel voluntarily moves over in the closing stages to let his team-mate win both race and title.
Doing so would make him a worldwide hero of some sporting magnitude and it is impossible to believe that the thought has not occurred to him.
But he is only likely to do so if the race is set in stone and yesterday he delighted in teasing his audience about his likely behaviour in such a scenario.
“Last year was a very tricky session here I remember, so there are lots of things to do, things that we should spend our energy on, more important than what happens on Sunday.
“To answer the question: if the situation occurs, then I think we know that we're driving for the team, we have had some occasions this year where we got close and it didn't look too good, so I think the main target is not to repeat that. And the rest we will see.”
How the Formula One title will be decided
With four drivers in the hunt for this season's Formula One world title for the first time in the sport's history, the permutations as to who can become the winner are numerous.
Fernando Alonso currently leads Mark Webber by eight points, with Sebastian Vettel 15 points adrift and Lewis Hamilton 24 down.
A number of options are open to Alonso, whilst Webber has to finish in the top five to stand any chance of victory, Vettel in the top two, and nothing less than victory will do for Hamilton.
On that basis, we bring you all the potential permutations ahead of Sunday's final-race showdown in Abu Dhabi.
Fernando Alonso (246 points)
If Alonso finishes in the top two he will be champion for a third time regardless of where his three rivals finish.
If Webber wins, Alonso must finish second.
If Webber is second, and as long as Vettel does not win, Alonso must finish at least fifth.
If Webber finishes third, and as long as Vettel does not win, Alonso must finish at least sixth.
If Webber finishes fourth, and as long as Vettel does not win, Alonso must finish at least eighth.
If Webber finishes fifth, and as long as Vettel is not in the top two, Alonso must finish at least ninth.
If Vettel wins, Alonso must finish at least fourth.
If Vettel finishes second, and as long as Webber is not first, third or fourth, Alonso must finish at least eighth.
Mark Webber (238 points)
Webber has to finish in the top five to have any chance of taking the title.
If Webber wins, Alonso cannot finish any higher than third.
If Webber is second, Alonso cannot finish any higher than sixth and Vettel must not win.
If Webber is third, Alonso cannot finish any higher than fifth and Vettel must not win.
If Webber is fourth, Alonso cannot finish any higher than ninth and Vettel must not win.
If Webber is fifth, Alonso cannot finish any higher than 10th and Vettel must not be in the top two.
Sebastian Vettel (231 points)
Vettel has to finish in the top two to have any chance of taking the title.
If Vettel wins, Alonso cannot finish any higher than fifth.
If Vettel finishes second, Alonso cannot finish any higher than ninth and Webber no higher than fifth.
Lewis Hamilton (222 points)
Hamilton has to win, hope Alonso does not score, with Webber no higher than sixth and Vettel no higher than third.
Finally, how about this for a scenario? Vettel wins, Webber is second and Alonso fifth, ensuring they all finish tied on points.
With Vettel and Alonso then tied on five wins apiece to Webber's four, Vettel would take the title on countback by virtue of more fourth-placed finishes over Alonso.