Sao Paulo: 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 one week later.
"This championship I believe will go down to the last lap in Abu Dhabi," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told reporters.
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.
"There is still only a race win between Sebastian in fourth (place overall) and Alonso in the lead.”
"And how many times have we seen this year the championship to and fro? It`s impossible to have a crystal ball and predict what will happen in Brazil and Abu Dhabi."
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali also expected a tough fight over the last two races, rejecting a suggestion that another victory in Brazil might be enough for Alonso.
"I don`t think so to be honest. I would love it if you were right but I don`t think so," he said.
McLaren`s Martin Whitmarsh agreed: "Brazil is a great circuit and always produces a great race, but 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 an engine failure nine laps from the end while leading.
That left Alonso to collect the winner`s 25 points and, in the latest twist in a rollercoaster of a season, 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. World champion Jenson Button remains mathematically a contender but, 42 points off the pace, the McLaren man is effectively out of the running.