The pressure is on Sebastian Vettel to finish the job and take the title in this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix — but is he now mature enough to cope with the pressure?
It's just a race. Another race. That's what Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso will be thinking ahead of the championship showdown in Sao Paolo.
Yes, it is. In simple numbers, points are worth the same whenever they're won, but clearly when the amount available goes down their relevance seems to rise more and more.
Now, just 25 are left on offer and it's all in Vettel's hands. At worst, if Alonso wins, all Vettel needs to do is finish fourth to take the title.
But with alternator issues giving Red Bull concerns over reliability — something they hope will be resolved with a new version for this race — Christian Horner's heel will be shaking up and down on the pit wall all weekend and the pressure on Vettel inside the cockpit will be immense.
Last weekend, Alonso gave an insight into his own current mental state and how Vettel might be feeling, when he admitted he was "much more relaxed and much more focused" than he was when he won his last title at a far younger age in 2006.
Back then, he was fighting Michael Schumacher at the same circuit where this weekend's showdown will play out. He admitted it was an "intense" weekend and that it was hard for him to focus and hard for him to sleep.
In contrast, when he was battling for the 2010 title, he said he was far more calm and mature, resulting in much better preparation and a much more positive approach.
Now, he said, handling a title showdown comes naturally to him: "It's the fourth time we have been fighting for the championship up to the last race and you really feel the difference.
Much more focused, concentrated, trying to do the job and understanding that if you do everything perfectly you have a chance; if you make a mistake you will lose the chance."
Vettel is well experienced himself — he has two titles to his name, one taken in dominant fashion and the other hard-fought. But many still question his maturity, including most recently former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve, who said Vettel reacted "like a baby" to any problems that get in his way
That is far from the opinion on the inside, however, and Red Bull is confident Vettel can focus on the positive part of Alonso's statement — appreciating that he must focus on doing everything perfectly and leave the rest to fate.
They clearly have the best car on the grid, Vettel has good form in Brazil, and those mistakes that were a natural part of the learning curve have, it seems, been ironed out much more this season.
Team boss Christian Horner believes two-time title winner and now F1 centurion Vettel has evolved both on and off the track this season. But he would say that.
Perhaps a better indicator came last week from Cyril Abiteboul, now boss of Caterham but for much of the season the lead man at Red Bull's engine suppliers Renault.
Renault, he admitted, have not made this season easy for Vettel or Red Bull, and a couple of crucial failures from their side have certainly made things more difficult than they could have been.
But Abiteboul revealed: "Even at the difficult moments, he' (Vettel) has shown a great respect for everyone and all the parties involved, and I think that as such he has demonstrated his stature that he's clearly a grown-up."
Confidence breeds confidence, and the reliability issues will surely play in the back of the mind all weekend.
But remember, all Vettel needs to do is finish fourth — and that's if Alonso wins. If Alonso is second, Vettel only needs to come home seventh, and if the Ferrari man is third then ninth will do.
Surely, then, only a car failure can stop him now — or perhaps the influence of a rainstorm that could turn things into a lottery.
Whichever way things roll, win or lose, in Brazil Vettel has the chance to demonstrate just how much he truly has matured.
This is his chance to end the argument once and for all...
FINAL RACE PERMUTATIONS
Before the Brazilian Grand Prix, the last race of the Formula 1 season on Sunday at Interlagos, only German Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull), strong 13-point lead, and the Spaniard Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) can still be world champions
Vettel, who has won five times this season, will be champion if:
- He finishes in the top four
- He finishes 5th, 6th or 7th but Alonso does not win
- He finishes 8th or 9th and Alonso does not finish better than third
- Alonso does not finish better than fourth
Alonso, who has already won three times this season, will be champion if:
- He wins while Vettel does not finish better than fifth
- He finishes 2nd while Vettel does not finish better than eighth
- He finishes in the top three, while Vettel does not finish better than 10th
In all cases where there would be a tie at the end of the Brazilian GP, Vettel would be crowned the benefit of the number of wins this season, he lead 5-3 before the final round.