Five become four - the great contenders 11 Nov 2010
Over the last 18 races, five different drivers from three different teams have won races and the lead in the drivers championship has changed hands a staggering nine times. As we head to the season finale in Abu Dhabi there are still four men with a shot at the title - a first for Formula One racing. With Jenson Button having dropped out of the running in Brazil, we take a closer look at the remaining contenders and weigh up their odds as they prepare to enter the ring for the final time this year
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
Career statistics: 156 race starts; two drivers titles; 26 wins; 63 podiums; 20 pole positions; 18 fastest laps; and 823 points.
Season statistics: Two DNFs; five wins; 10 podiums; two pole positions; five fastest laps; and 246 points.
Worst moment of 2010: Though his frustrating mid-season dry spell ended with a win in Germany, the ensuing controversy over his easy passage past team mate and race leader Felipe Massa took the shine off the victory. Arguably worse, though, was Alonsos Belgian Grand Prix - a poor qualifying performance, a collision in the race with Rubens Barrichello and finally a crash of his own making that brought his miserable Spa weekend to an end.
Best moment of 2010: His excellent victory at Ferraris home race in Italy. As well as bringing the Spaniard right back into title contention, the win showcased the positives in the teams strategic good sense.
Strengths: Experience, Experience, Experience. Not just his own, but also the teams. If anybody has the determination, ruthlessness and canny wiles to beat the Red Bull drivers at their own game and claim the title, its this pairing. And hes in the lead.
Weaknesses: Alonso may be heading the standings, but he and Ferrari couldnt muster enough against Red Bull to clinch the title in Brazil. Are they on the back foot? Have they missed their chance?
Mark Webber, Red Bull
Career statistics: 156 race starts; six wins; 20 podiums; six pole positions; six fastest laps; and 407.5 points.
Season statistics: Two DNFs; four wins; 10 podiums; five pole positions; three fastest laps; and 238 points.
Worst moment of 2010: His race-ending mistake in Korea was a close second, but it has to be his collision with Vettel in Turkey. Although he was able to continue to third, the fallout, especially in terms of relations with his team mate, could prove to be his undoing.
Best moment of 2010: Finally shaking off years of struggle with several victories at Formula One racings blue ribbon events, including the race all drivers want to win - Monaco. Following hot on the heels of his victory in Spain, Webber left Monte Carlo revitalised and leading the standings alongside team mate Vettel.
Strengths: He may not have Alonsos accolades, but Webber has just as much experience and determination as the Spaniard. Finally finding himself in a championship-contending car has been the making of the Australian.
Weaknesses: Arguably Webber wants this more than any of the others. Alonso is just loving being in the running again, whilst Hamilton and Vettel know they have many potential titles ahead of them. For Webber this could be a last-chance saloon and the pressure could get to him.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
Career statistics: 61 race starts; nine wins; 18 podiums; 14 pole positions; 6 fastest laps; and 356 points.
Season statistics: Three DNFs; four wins; nine podiums; nine pole positions; three fastest laps; and 231 points.
Worst moment of 2010: His ungainly attempt to overtake team mate Webber at Istanbul Park ruined an almost certain one-two result, and soured relations with his Australian team mate. A recent engine failure in Korea was just as shattering.
Best moment of 2010: His sparkling qualifying performances. Nine pole positions (and a further four front-row slots) from 18 races, is a phenomenal achievement. He hasnt started lower than sixth, and while hes sometimes struggled to convert grid position into wins, his Saturday pace in the RB6 has been pretty much untouchable.
Strengths: Last year he came very close to pinching Jenson Buttons crown and when his hopes dwindled, his smile never faltered. Whatevers come his way this season hes remained just as upbeat and behind his grin, is a mental strength that belies his youth and could win him the championship.
Weaknesses: The least experienced of the contenders, Vettel has less to draw on as he faces his first real glimpse of a title. He also has a team mate who is seven points closer to the championship than he is. Will he have to forsake his own hopes for the greater good of the team? Watch this space.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
Career statistics: 70 race starts; one drivers title; 14 wins; 35 podiums; 18 pole positions; seven fastest laps; and 478 points.
Season statistics: Four DNFs; three wins; eight podiums; one pole positions; four fastest laps; and 222 points.
Worst moment of 2010: A hideous Japanese Grand Prix, which saw him crash out in second practice and suffer gearbox problems on Saturday and then again in the race. A weekend to forget.
Best moment of 2010: Septembers Belgian Grand Prix was a showcase for Hamiltons talent. Whilst all about him rivals lost their heads in the wet weather, he remained cool, calm and collected to take victory and with it the championship lead.
Strengths: He is the rank outsider, and as such can arrive in Abu Dhabi with all guns blazing. Its too late for the softly, softly approach, and if anyone loves a challenge its Hamilton. You only need to look back to his 2008 title triumph, when he won it at the death from Ferraris Felipe Massa, to see that. His team mate Buttons own hopes of defending his 2009 title have already fallen by the wayside, so he also has a very capable wingman.
Weaknesses: Hamiltons energetic optimism seemed to finally give out in Brazil after a lacklustre Interlagos race. He is 24 points behind leader Alonso and his success depends on his rivals not scoring well - and him winning the race. Its a tough ask.
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