x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Make our wish come true for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Let's all keep our fingers crossed that Fernando Alonso keeps well away from the podium at the Brazilian Grand Prix today.

Fernando Alonso may be an affable Spanish chap but let us hope he does not clinch a third world title before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso may be an affable Spanish chap but let us hope he does not clinch a third world title before the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sport, fickle old beast, occasionally goes all puckish on us. It takes its adoring fanatics and twists them into unusual contortions.

Sometimes fans must root for teams they know to be the root of all evil because in a title chase it would help the team they know to be the source of all goodness. Sometimes a sympathetic figure joins the enemy, complicating matters.

And sometimes you end up watching a Formula One race with the peculiar wish that one driver end up nowhere near that podium, even if you have never met Fernando Alonso and even if for all you know he is the most decent Spanish male since Rafael Nadal.

Alonso is a spokesman for Unicef?

Lovely, just keep him off the podium.

That would be the rooting mission today with the Brazilian Grand Prix, because if Alonso does not make the podium, then a volatile F1 season does reach November 14 at Yas Marina Circuit still undecided. The ensuing week in Abu Dhabi will brim with tension and spite rather than stresslessness and cordiality.

I think we all agree that with a sporting event, tension and spite trump stresslessness and cordiality any day.

All manner of permutations come into play if Alonso does climb that Interlagos podium. If he wins, Mark Webber would have to do better than fourth. If Alonso runs second, Sebastian Vettel would have to win or Lewis Hamilton or Webber would have to exceed fourth or eighth. Third, and Webber would have to make the top 10, Hamilton the top four, Vettel the top three.

That's too much to cram into your earplugs. Just keep him off the podium.

Last year, of course, the Yas Marina Circuit debuted and dazzled even as the title talk deflated. Jenson Button clinched matters in Brazil and Bernie Ecclestone, the F1 chief executive, said: "I would have preferred Jenson to wait until the last second at the last corner of the last race to go on to clinch the title. But that's my feel for a bit of showbiz."

Then (wink): "I told Jenson my feelings, but he took no notice."

F1's first day-night race sparkled, and young Vettel won to clinch second place, and all agreed it would sparkle even more if the toddler track got a chance to name a king. It will do so if only Alonso will be so kind as to refrain from a top-three finish in Brazil.

Now, in this ticklish business of rooting against somebody to turn up on a podium, there probably should be some ethical guidelines.

You could always root for an injury-free crash, as occurred for Alonso back in Australia (where he finished fourth), or in practice at Monaco (sixth), or in Belgium (21st). In general, however, I try to come down on the side of rooting against car crashes, fearing it can be the gateway towards outright barbarism.

A controversy such as the off-the-circuit-pass penalty in the British Grand Prix (14th place) or Alonso's huffiness over Hamilton passing the safety car at Valencia (eighth) might do, but controversies tend to sap the fun and can lure in - oh, please, no - lawyers. That leaves choices such as the late-race puncture (Britain), the aerodynamic inefficiency (Turkey) and the faulty clutch (Malaysia, Britain). I plan to go with the faulty clutch in part because it is not evil to wish faulty clutches on people in populated areas with trained mechanics nearby.

Besides, to relieve the guilt that can come from pulling for clutch failures, you can point to the dubious aspects of Alonso's season, including overtaking teammate Felipe Massa at the top of the pit lane in China, or the year-long height of dubiousness, Ferrari ordering Massa in code language to yield the win to Alonso in Germany.

But for that spectacular corruption, Alonso's lead could be a thrilling four points rather than 11.

Reasonable people can endorse Ferrari's rationale with Alonso being the only title contender, but then you think about the race engineer giving Massa that message - "Fernando is faster than you; can you confirm you understand?" - and, well, just so dubious.

In fact, a Brazilian prosecutor told the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo that if Massa helps Alonso again similarly, Massa "will leave Interlagos in handcuffs" with a possible six-year jail sentence for defrauding the public.

So if Alonso reaches the podium, and the others do not prevent his title, and the Sao Paulo police carry Massa off in handcuffs, you would have to hand it to Brazil that it would be one doozy of a memorable event.

Those of us waiting in Abu Dhabi would just have to deal with it.

cculpepper@thenational.ae