It's not mathematically impossible for Fernando Alonso to pull off an amazing finish to this season's F1 championship, but it would require Sebastian Vettel to suffer such an unlikely series of mishaps that nobody in their right mind would put money on it. Certainly not Alonso himself, who conceded after the race in Japan.
"Even if Sebastian retired from all four remaining races, I would have to win all of them," he said in a post-race interview. "It's only a matter of time before he (is) champion."
Vettel himself was careful after the race, but with a 90 point lead, and 100 points available, his victory looks secure.
Following his fourth place finish at Suzuka, Alonso now holds the record for most points accumulated with 1571, though he freely admits that the increase in points awarded from 2010 assisted with that total, and no doubt pushed him ahead of Michael Schumacher.
Fernando & Ferrari
A disappointing race in Monaco this year, and some bodywork trouble in Malaysia (caused by a touch on the back end of Vettel's car), contributed to Alonso's current position. Since joining Ferrari, Alonso has struggled to make headway against Vettel, who's claimed every championship since 2010.
While Alonso has yet to win a championship with Ferrari, his final positions since 2010 - 2nd, 4th, 2nd and (so far this year) 2nd again, are an improvement on his seasons with McLaren Mercedes (3rd in 2007) and Renault (5th and 9th in the following two years).
2014: Shake Up
In 2014 the new engine rules will shake things up; the V8's are gone, replaced by smaller V6 turbos. There'll also be more races - twenty-two in all - including Sochi in Russia and Port Imperial, New Jersey; as well as Spielberg in Austria and Mexico City.
Alonso's Ferrari team-mate next year will be Kimi Raikkonen; Felipe Massa confirmed on the 10th of September that he's leaving Ferrari. There was a feeling after the race in Japan that Massa had ignored orders to allow Alonso to pass. "You are never happy with instructions", he said after the race, confirming that suspicion, though Alonso seemed happy to let the incident go.
Odds on this season's outcomes are available at betfair.com; those who believe in miracles might risk a tiny wager on Alonso. But with four races left this season, there are plenty of betting options outside the overall winner. Keep your eye out for Indian GP odds in the run-up to 27th of October.
Next year, with new engines, new driver combinations and new circuits, is going to be somewhat more unpredictable.