Vettel, Alonso in tango for title

The Formula One title battle is turning into a straight duel between Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel for the honour of becoming the youngest triple world champion. By winning Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix after Alonso had spun off at the start, 25-year-old Vettel slashed the 31-year-old Spaniard's lead to four points with five races — a maximum 125 points — remaining.

Finland's 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen is third for Lotus but 37 points off the lead and has yet to win a race this season while McLaren's Lewis Hamilton is fourth a further five points adrift. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner refused to rule out McLaren, winners of five races this year, and Lotus but he also spelled out where the real challenge lay for the champions.

"Luck tends to balance itself out over a 20-race season and it will be down to what the two of them do on track now and the relative performances of the cars over the remaining five races," he told reporters.

Vettel has suffered two alternator failures and not scored on three of his races, while Alonso has twice drawn a blank -- both coming in the last four outings and due to first lap incidents beyond his control. Raikkonen is where he is because of consistency — 12 races in a row in the points — while 2008 champion Hamilton and his car have been quick but erratic. "The championship now is effectively a battle of five races between Fernando and Sebastian," said Horner. "You can't rule out the others but whoever does the best job over the next five races will ultimately prevail."

Ferrari pressure

AFTER the first seven races of the season were won by an unprecedented seven different drivers, the championship has settled into a familiar pattern with the focus on Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. Vettel's commanding pole-to-flag triumph, with the fastest lap thrown in as well, at Suzuka made him the first driver this season to chalk up back-to-back wins and he joined Alonso and Hamilton as a three-times winner in 2012.

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