Double world champion Fernando Alonso has asserted that the ability to remain 'cool' and 'calm' and not be pressurised into trying to 'win at all costs' will ultimately decide the destiny of the F1 2010 title laurels – as he opined that consistent podium finishes should be enough to finish the job.
Alonso has vaulted himself firmly back into contention for the coveted crown over the last two grands prix at Hockenheim and the Hungaroring, being controversially 'gifted' victory in Germany by Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa – earning the Scuderia
a date with the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) in Paris early next month for having transgressed the sport's ban on team orders [see separate story – click here
] – and then artfully staving off a determined challenge from Sebastian Vettel in a palpably faster Red Bull in Hungary last weekend.
Whilst he is still only fifth in the standings behind Red Bull Racing duo Vettel and Webber and McLaren-Mercedes compatriots Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, the Spaniard has closed to within just 20 points of the championship lead, when at one stage he had languished some 47 markers adrift of the top spot – and despite RBR's fearsome Budapest pace, he is adamant that with 175 points still remaining to play for between now and season's end and a resurgent Ferrari defiantly back on-form, the battle for glory is wide open.
“We have to be happy with what we have done to-date,” mused the 23-time grand prix-winner as he prepares for the resumption of hostilities at the end of the month. “We have had some good races and some disappointing races as well, but overall we are in a position in the championship now where we are very close to the leaders. We are in a position where we are able to take the lead of the championship if we win one race. We are there and we are still in the fight, which is the most important thing.
“It's true that some races have gone better than others, just as there were some lucky breaks and times when bad luck seemed to follow us around, but I believe these things tend to balance out. Over the last two races, we have considerably reduced the gap to the championship leader. There are five of us all within 20 points, so it's as if we are starting from square one; from now to the end of the championship, we can expect seven finals and anything can happen.
“This break comes at the right time. July was very busy with three races in four weeks – drivers, mechanics, the whole team, we all need a rest after this rush. We set ourselves the target of reducing the points gap and we did it. Now is the time to ensure we have the right spirit with which to tackle the final seven races.”
The first of those, of course, will be the Belgian Grand Prix – a race Alonso has never won – around the legendary Spa-Francorchamps, a circuit that he classes as 'unique' and 'definitely the most enjoyable to drive...with every type of corner and climbs and drops' that provide 'a fantastic feeling'. Whilst Red Bull left the field trailing in Hungary, it is McLaren that is hotly-tipped to shine in the Ardennes.
That being the case, the Oviedo native well recognises the importance of being regularly there or thereabouts from Spa to Abu Dhabi two-and-a-half months later – and hopes that his experience of doing battle for the honours on three previous occasions in the top flight could just pay dividends.
“We must have a lot of respect for everyone,” the 29-year-old urged. “McLaren has been very strong, especially [Lewis] Hamilton, and Red Bull has shown it always has a competitive car. This is a time to stay cool, without succumbing to the tension that will grow with every passing race, on the track and away from it. We will need to be clever to manage this situation, staying calm at all times.
“We always aim for the win, but there was no chance of that in Budapest, which I was definitely not pleased about. However, we know some tracks suit our car more and others are more suited to our competitors – we must try and win the races where our car is strong and finish second in the others, as was the case in Budapest. It was surprising to see how the relative performance between us and Red Bull changed in the space of a week!
“Continuity will be the cornerstone to this title fight. I reckon that actually our performance is pretty similar, especially in comparison to McLaren, Mercedes and Renault and that maybe in Germany, the Red Bull car was not so competitive, while it was at its maximum in Hungary on a track that was a perfect match for its characteristics.
“We need to use our experience as a team. Ferrari have won so many championships, and in my career I have been in the fight for the title three times, from 2005 to 2007. Twice I was in the role of the hare, so I can appreciate the different situations that arise, even if it does not mean much.
“When you are in the lead, it is very stressful if you lose points, but when you are trying to catch up you are aware that you cannot afford to make any mistakes, even if it is a nice feeling in a team when you know you are starting to fight back. For us, the most important thing from now to Abu Dhabi is to try and always finish on the podium – it won't be vital to win at all costs, but whoever gets six or seven podiums will be champion.”