Sep.24 (GMM) With six races to go, F1 2012 is becoming a two-horse race, according to former grand prix driver Karl Wendlinger.
Before pole sitter and runaway race leader Lewis Hamilton's McLaren gearbox failed on Sunday, his boss Martin Whitmarsh had admitted the outcome in Singapore would be crucial to the world championship.
Indeed -- instead of being 27 points behind with six races to go, the Briton now trails Fernando Alonso by a whopping 52 points.
Hamilton said afterwards that he will "never give up".
But his teammate Jenson Button, a further 23 points behind Hamilton, thinks it's all over bar the shouting.
"It's hard for anyone (to catch Alonso) except Seb at the moment," he said, referring to Sebastian Vettel.
Red Bull's Vettel won in Singapore, and is now Ferrari driver Alonso's closest challenger, pegging the gap to 29 points.
The next challenger behind Vettel, Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen who has failed to win a single grand prix in 2012, is now 45 points behind.
"It's between those two," said Button, referring to Alonso and Vettel, "but there's still a lot of people with a long shot."
Austrian Wendlinger, who contested grands prix in the 90s, said he thinks Singapore effectively counted Hamilton out of the running.
"The distance to Alonso is too great now," he told ORF television. "I believe it is going to be too difficult for Hamilton."
But that doesn't mean Hamilton won't be in the running for more poles and wins.
"At the next track, Suzuka, I believe Hamilton with McLaren and Red Bull with Vettel will be very good," said Wendlinger.
And then it cannot be forgotten that Alonso's Ferrari was not on the pace all weekend in Singapore, so if the Spaniard and Vettel have "a total failure and Hamilton wins in Japan, then "the whole thing takes another perspective", said Wendlinger.