Philadelphia, PA – Look out Fernando Alonso, here comes Sebastian Vettel.
After winning the past two grand prix -- Singapore and Japan -- Vettel has moved to within four points of Alonso for the lead in the Formula One world championship standings. Just five races remain in what is appearing to be another epic battle between the two for the title.
Two years ago, Alonso held a 25-point lead over Vettel with two races to go, but Vettel won in Brazil and Abu Dhabi to clinch the championship by four points over Alonso.
Vettel, who is attempting to win his third consecutive F1 championship, has gained 35 points on Alonso since the Sept. 9 Italian Grand Prix.
Last Sunday, Vettel put on a dominating performance in the Japanese Grand Prix. The Red Bull driver started on the pole and led all 53 laps around the 3.6-mile Suzuka course. He crossed the finish line 20.6 seconds ahead of his closest competitor, Felipe Massa, who is Alonso's teammate at Ferrari.
"In terms of the championship, this race was a big step and it helped us, but we see how quickly things can change," Vettel said after his win in Japan. "I want to be very careful, because it's still a long way ahead, and there's a lot of things that can happen."
While Vettel was unstoppable in the Japanese GP, Alonso crashed on the opening lap. He suffered a punctured tire and spun around in the first corner after Kimi Raikkonen from Lotus made contact with him.
"Clearly, we must work a lot on the development of the car," Alonso said. "I'm not worried, but we must react to the step forward that the other competitors have made. Now we start a sort of mini-championship run over five grands prix. The aim will be to score at least one point more than all the others. What happened to us (in Japan) could happen to the others next time. The wheel turns, and that is what races are all about."
Sunday's Korean Grand Prix is the next round on the 2012 F1 calendar.
After Korea, F1 moves on to India (Oct. 28), then Abu Dhabi (Nov. 4) and Austin, Texas (Nov. 18) before the season wraps up in Brazil (Nov. 25).
This will be the third time F1 competes at the 3.49-mile, 18-turn Korean International Circuit in Yeongam, South Korea. Alonso won the inaugural race in 2010, while Vettel is the defending winner of the event.
When the racing circuit ran in Korea one year ago, Vettel had already clinched his second straight title. But Red Bull had yet to wrap up the constructors' champion. Vettel's victory there gave allowed the team to secure the championship for the second year in a row.
Right now, Red Bull leads in the constructors' standings with 324 points, compared to 283 for McLaren and 263 for Ferrari.
Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, Oct. 14. Race: Korean Grand Prix. Site: Korean International Circuit. Track: 3.49-mile (5.621-kilometer), 18-turn road course. Start Time: 2 a.m. (et). Laps: 55. Miles: 191.773 (308.630 km). 2011 Winner: Sebastian Vettel. Television: Speed.