x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Mark Webber will be champion

Although four drivers have a shot at the title, if Webber gets qualifying right on Saturday, it should belong to him.

At the start of the season I backed Mark Webber to be world champion and there is no reason to change my mind now.

All four drivers who go into the final round of the season with a chance of winning the championship have a good claim on the title, but I think that it will be Webber who comes out on top in Abu Dhabi.

Fernando Alonso has a definite advantage going into the race as he has an eight-point lead over Webber, but he also has the disadvantage of knowing that the Red Bull-Renault package will almost certainly be quicker than his Ferrari and should go well at Yas Marina Circuit.

Alonso has had a roller-coaster season and he made some surprising mistakes earlier in the year, like jumping the start in China and crashing in Monaco, but he has really raised his game since not scoring in Britain in July.

He has won four of the last eight races, but he will be the first to admit that the Ferrari is not likely to be as fast as the Red Bulls in a straight fight.

We saw that in Brazil last weekend where he was held up early on, but once in clear air in third place could do nothing about the speed of Sebastian Vettel and Webber.

Even in Korea, which he ended up winning, he was behind the Red Bulls and could not do anything about them until both cars hit trouble.

He has done well to be leading at this late stage, but the championship is out of his control, in my mind, despite the fact he only has to finish in second place to be crowned the champion. There will be two faster cars at Yas Marina going all out to deny him a third title.

The biggest challenge for Webber will be getting qualifying right on Saturday.

In the last couple of races there has been virtually nothing between him and Vettel on race day, and it has been where they have qualified for the starting grid that has been crucial.

Vettel has found just that extra little bit to take the pole positions in Japan and Korea and also start ahead of his teammate in Brazil.

If Webber wants to make his life easier and avoid all the drama and concerns over potential team orders he needs to dig deep and take pole in Saturday's session to give himself the chance to lead from the front.

Vettel is Webber's biggest challenger to the race win. The German has been excellent in recent races and while he has also made mistakes he does have the ability to bounce back well from every setback.

I think that is easier to do when you have a whole team around you and you feel supported, and I think he has that at Red Bull. In fact, he looks to have thrived in that environment.

Vettel is 15 points behind Alonso and I think he has too much to do to take the title as he needs the Ferrari driver to have problems, and considering the Spaniard has not had a mechanical failure in a race since the third round of the championship in Malaysia back in April, that looks unlikely.

Webber has been as quick as Vettel for much of the season, and has arguably made fewer mistakes. It was a shame for the Australian that his one major mistake, in Korea, came at probably the worst time possible and was such a schoolboy error to make as he ran wide in the wet conditions.

Lewis Hamilton could be a factor in the race as he has nothing to lose, given that he is 24 points behind Alonso, with only a maximum 25 to be won.

The McLaren-Mercedes should be quick on the straights with their F-duct design, but it would be an astonishing sporting upset if he won the championship from the position he is in.

But overall Webber has made the fewest mistakes and he has been the most consistent.

I think he deserves to take the title and I expect to see him celebrating his first world crown on Sunday.


Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver who won three races. His column is written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill