So then there were two? If anyone else other than Sebastian Vettel is now set to challenge Fernando Alonso for the title it will take something quite exceptional to happen tomorrow. Then again, this is the season for all things exceptional.
After some kerfuffle with the stewards and a ‘self-explanatory’ ticking off nobody can quite explain, Seb will start on pole for tomorrow morning’s Japanese Grand Prix. Frankly the way the Red Bull RB8 and the Red Bull team worked today (Mark Webber starts alongside), it’s hard to imagine they won’t finish that way, though we don’t expect Webber to make it easy.
Jenson Button — who so clearly loves Suzuka and Japan — would love to take the fight to the Red Bulls, but a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change (the team found the same problem in JB’s box that knocked Lewis out in Singapore) means his third place in Q3 doesn’t count for much. He starts eighth. Lewis Hamilton meanwhile starts ninth and looked oddly un-committed, or was that just us looking for something that wasn’t there?
Keeping the McLarens from the Red Bulls will be a fired-up Kamui Kobayashi, Romain Grosjean (yeah, keep an eye on that on lap one), Perez, Alonso and Raikkonen, all of whom have plenty to fight for. It won’t be easy for those McLarens to make up for too many lost points tomorrow.
The question is, where will Fernando finish? We’re thinking a podium is out of reach so Vettel should be able to narrow the lead to significantly less than one race win. The lead is 29 points right now, it’s 25 for a win remember, then 18, 15, 12, 10, and 8 for sixth; ‘Nando won’t be outside the top six.
We’ve watched both Sky and the BBC’s interviews with Lewis this morning and frankly we’re not buying the ‘Doing a Rossi’ angle. Neither Mercedes made Q3 again this morning although Michael Schumacher once again out-qualified Nico Rosberg.
They just don’t look like a team that know how to make the car go faster. Ducati have been stuck in a similar groove in MotoGP and Vale’ rapidly lost the taste for not winning. We don’t think it’s about money either, mind you. We’ll be back here tomorrow morning with what the Sunday Afternoon Club does make of the affair, but we won’t post anything on the race until after the BBC’s coverage is over, so don’t fear any spoilers on TopGear.com.