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Saturday 16 December 2017

Alonso in driving seat but rivals unfazed

Fernando Alonso could take his third Formula One title in Brazil next week but neither Ferrari nor his rivals expect that to happen after a weekend win in South Korea that owed more to luck than strategy.

Even if the Spaniard won both his previous titles with Renault at Interlagos, and the last five championships have been settled in Sao Paulo, this year's battle is set to be a cliffhanger right to the finale in Abu Dhabi.

"This championship I believe will go down to the last lap in Abu Dhabi," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said after the race.

His two drivers, Australian Mark Webber and Germany's Sebastian Vettel, failed to finish at the new and hastily completed Yeongam circuit some 400km southwest of the capital Seoul.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali also expected a tough fight over the last two races, while McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh agreed: "There is little doubt now the championship decider is going to be in Abu Dhabi."

Webber had started the day as overall leader but handed the initiative to Vettel when he crashed out -- only for the German to suffer engine failure nine laps from the end while leading.

That left Alonso to collect the winner's 25 points and surge 11 points clear of Webber, who won in Brazil last year.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is third and 21 points off the lead while Vettel is four further back.

Alonso had said after he finished 14th at the British Grand Prix in July, that he could still win the championship.

That sounded overly optimistic to some at the time but results since then have more than proved his point.

Ferrari, who decided to make Alonso the focus of their title challenge when they invoked 'team orders' at a controversial German Grand Prix in July, will remain focused on improving the car and keeping level-headed.

"The key of the end of the season will be reliability," said Domenicali.

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