Alonso: Would 2010 championship be legitimate ?

At the start of the Korean Grand Prix, I was navigating some mixed emotions. A dry race with Red Bull’s Mark Webber in second—on the dirty line and with a history of poor starts—had a air of real drama as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was in third and poised to make a real charge at the title. The Safety Car start had eliminated any possibility of such drama presenting itself for history’s scrutinizing or at least that what I was thinking.

As the race unfolded Mark Webber provided his own version of drama by making an error and clouting the wall but not before collecting Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg in the process. The championship was further upset by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel suffering a mechanical failure in the waning laps of the race handing the victory to Alonso and keeping McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in the hunt.

Unfortunately for Red Bull, their worst nightmare came true. A dual DNF is no way to leave a race weekend and while one could forgive Vettel’s incident as no-fault-of-his-own, the championship leader has some serious questions to ask himself on the plane ride home. Red Bull may be their own worst enemy this year and it’s these teething pains that build character and perseverance…just ask McLaren.

As I lay down for an hour or two of sleep, I recall the harsh questioning Alonso faced from the goading media after Hockenheim; “If you win the title by a few points, do you feel it is a legitimate championship” after the team orders incident? Alonso’s answer was a cool “yes”. It will take some convincing to stave off the anti-Ferrari/Alonso detractors. They will suggest the penalties were not stiff enough after Hockenheim and that the title, if won, will be bogus.

A title, if won by Alonso, will be as legitimate as any other title ever won. It is a team sport and as the irreproachable and erudite journalist Nigel Roebuck says; “F1 is for grown-ups too”. Alonso has offered a stunning exercise in tire conservation, pace and skill in Korea. He has displayed a cool, calm approach to the culminating portion of the F1 season. He has been methodical, even clinical, in his approach and unlike the other four contenders for the crown; he’s managed to craft a consistent performance, cool head and team politics into a real, tangible chance at winning the 2010 title.

Careful of not putting all my eggs in one basket. As today proves, anything can happen and Webber will be determined to resurrect his lead in Brazil while Sebastian Vettel is electric with the notion of world champion. The cat among the pigeons is always Lewis Hamilton and the light switch is rarely off in the house of his massive pace and skill. In short, it’s still all there to play for.

If Fernando achieves the 2010 World Driver’s Championship, it will be an interesting study of the enigma that is Alonso. It will challenge the conventional notions that Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel or Robert Kubica are the best drivers on the grid and that the youth movement has rendered the elder statesmen ineffective. Alonso isn’t finished with F1 yet and he may wring its neck until it finally admits that this Spaniard is every bit as skilled as his forbearers replete with the controversy, politics and passion that has presented a yellow stain on the white linen of career achievements. As a Schumacher fan, I am fine with the off-white wedding of Alonso and the history of Formula 1.

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