Seb's first 'match point' of 2012
IN HOT PURSUIT: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel tried his best to hunt down Ferrari's Fernando Alonso in the 2012 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and, despite starting the race stone last, the German retains a 10-point championship lead. Image: AFP
ABU DHABI, UAE - Depending on who he spoke to after Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso insisted his glass was either "half full" or "completely full".
Whichever, the Spaniard's public optimism and fighting spirit could not be higher, but he did confess to at least some disappointment after the sweaty race at Yas Marina.
ALONSO REMAINS DEFIANT
The Ferrari driver said: "It's true that with Sebastian (Vettel) starting last there was an opportunity to reduce the gap more significantly."
Indeed, while mid-race calculations had Alonso theoretically back in the lead of the championship, Red Bull's Vettel - having started in the pits lane - ultimately finished an astounding third.
So, he only lost three points to Alonso, with the gap now 10 with two races to go.
Alonso, reverting to his favourite Samurai quotations, remains defiant. He wrote on Facebook: "A Samurai works without hesitation, without fatigue or the slightest discouragement until the goal is complete."
Whatever, he might be forgiven for feeling slightly discouraged after Vettel fought through the field early on and then had to do it all again after crashing through a polystyrene trackside marker while behind the pace car and returning to the pits.
Lewis Hamilton, who was leading in his McLaren until it broke down, said: "I got to watch the (rest of the) race and it was incredible how Sebastian came up from the pits lane. "He must be the luckiest person in F1."
Hamilton was referring to how the deployments of the safety car minimised the damage to Vettel's disrupted charge through the pack.
"Vettel got lucky with the second safety car," agreed Hamilton's McLaren team mate, Jenson Button. "He did very well on the prime tyres, the car is quick, but if he didn't have those two safety cars he wouldn't have been up there."
'WHY NOT GAME, SET, MATCH?'
Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali was quoted by Tuttosport as saying: "Vettel had a great race but he was lucky with the two safety cars."
Red Bull figures, however, unashamedly extolled Vettel's drive with team boss Christian Horner saying: "I think any doubts anyone has about his ability to fight were ended today."
Helmut Marko added: "Sensational, incredible. I can't remember anything like that from the past 20, 30 years," he told German TV.
Whatever the analysis, Vettel has achieved his first "match point" of the 2012 championship, meaning that if he scores 15 points more than Alonso in Austin, he will secure the title with the Brazilian finale to spare.
A non-score for Alonso in Austin, for example, will mean Vettel can wrap up his third consecutive Drivers' crown with a podium finish.
"First we want to exhale and relax for a few days before we focus again," Vettel told F1's official website, "and yes, if the chance is there, why not make it game, set, match?"