This weekend, for the first time in F1 history, four drivers will go into the last race of the season still able to win the championship.
Between them we have a clear favourite, a delicate intra-team battle, and the longest of long shots.
As Fernando Alonso has been fond of saying this year, “we’ll do the maths in Abu Dhabi”.
Now the final race is upon us – so here’s how the numbers that will decide the destiny of the 2010 championship add up.
As Alonso acknowledged in the build-up to the race, if he finishes in first or second place he will win the championship regardless of where anyone else finishes. In that sense, his destiny is in his hands.
But what’s really interesting is what happens if he finishes in third place behind the Red Bulls:
Vettel-Webber-Alonso – precisely the finishing order we saw at Interlagos – would make Alonso champion.
But Webber-Vettel-Alonso would make Webber champion. The question then becomes whether Vettel will act as king-maker if he’s leading the race ahead of Webber and Alonso, and crown his team mate champion by letting him pass.
Had they got behind Webber’s title bid following the World Motor Sport Council’s decision not to strip Alonso of any points after Ferrari’s use of illegal team orders at Hockenheim, he would be going into this race with a nine-point lead instead of an eight-point deficit.
To win the championship this weekend Webber must finish in the top five. Assuming he does that, whether he wins the championship or not depends where Alonso finishes.
Realistically, to win the championship this weekend Sebastian Vettel not only has to win the race but he needs someone other than his team mate between him and Alonso.
Vettel is guaranteed the championship if he wins and Alonso finishes fifth or lower – regardless of where Webber finishes.
Intriguingly, Vettel first followed by Webber with Alonso fifth puts all three on 256 points – with Vettel winning by dint of having one more fourth-place finish than Alonso.
Thanks to everyone who worked that out on the championship calculator and pointed it out to me!
Prayers, voodoo dolls, a rain dance – Lewis Hamilton needs to try everything he can think of to win the championship from 24 points down.
If he did it would surely be an even bigger upset than the dramatic final laps of his 2008 championship victory.
Hamilton can only win the championship this weekend if he wins the race. On top of that he needs Vettel to finish no higher than third, Webber no higher than sixth and Alonso outside the top ten.
Better luck next year, then.
Keep an eye on how the championship points look during the race with the Championship Calculator. You can find a handy link to it at the very top-right of the page.
2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Image © Red Bull/Getty images