Fernando Alonso emerging as title favorite

July, 25, 2012
07/25/12
1:21
PM ET

Rewind the Formula One season back to before the first event, when preseason testing was in full swing and constructors were still discovering their own capabilities and those of the competition. It was early, but the F2012 did not appear to have the pace of several rivals, and it seemed rather unlikely that Ferrari would win multiple grands prix, let alone compete for a championship.

But among all the doubters, Fernando Alonso cautioned any quick assessments, as he told Spanish sports daily Marca in the preseason, "There has been a tendency, especially from the media, to say that the car is bad and we are not having a good winter, but they don't understand. We are very calm because the car is very complex and there's no reason to believe that it won't be quick."

His confidence has echoed in his performances this season, and Germany was no exception. To date, Alonso has paced the competition for 216 laps this year, 94 more than anyone else. What's more, teammate Felipe Massa has just a single lap led on the season, a rather clear indicator of just how much Alonso has accomplished so far.

With his third victory of the season, he's 34 points clear of the field and has begun to emerge as a title front-runner despite arguably not having the quickest machine. After all, he has yet to post the fastest lap in any event this year.

Alonso enjoyed his 30th win Sunday in Hockenheim, and only three other drivers can claim 30 victories and 75 podiums in their career. Those names are Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, some of the greatest the sport has ever witnessed. It's a true testament to Alonso; while he has collected an incredible amount of podiums, he also has shown that those are not all finishes of second or third, and that he is consistently a threat to win. In Germany, he definitely demonstrated that from start to finish.

The picture behind Alonso was not quite as clear. Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button fought for position in the waning laps, and, although it appeared as if Vettel had secured second, a penalty for gaining an advantage over Button while leaving the track relegated him to fifth.

For Button, it was certainly a welcomed break, as it ended a run of only seven combined points in his previous six grands prix. For reference, Button scored fewer than seven points in a single event only twice all of last season.

He'll look to improve his position in Hungary, which drivers and teams must prepare for immediately with only a week between races. It's a challenging circuit that keeps drivers busy throughout the lap, and it has been hosting F1 since 1986. In that time, triumph has mixed with heartache at the Hungaroring, as drivers such as Damon Hill can attest to.

In 1997, for example, he appeared destined for victory in his Arrows machine before Jacques Villeneuve overtook him on the final lap after Hill experienced mechanical problems. Had Hill's car been able to hold on, it would have been an incredible upset, as Arrows was certainly a struggling squad. Perhaps this year will be just as memorable.

The eventual winner should be on high alert, however, as the driver to emerge victorious here has not recently been able to convert the rest of the season into a championship. Since 2002, only once has a driver won Hungary and the title in the same year (Schumacher in 2004).

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