Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has shrugged off his retirement in last weekend's Belgian Grand Prix, contending that the failure to score whilst two of his title rivals ascended the top two steps of the podium has done no real damage to his bid to add a third crown to his ultra-successful career CV this season.
Having arrived at Spa-Francorchamps – a circuit at which he has never triumphed in F1 – buoyant about his prospects of closing the 20-point gap separating him from the top of the drivers' table, Alonso went on to endure a nightmare, setting the pace throughout practice only to find himself out on the wrong tyres at the wrong time during qualifying, leaving him in the wrong place at the wrong time when the starting lights went out on race day.
From an uncharacteristically lowly tenth on the grid, the Spaniard found himself harpooned by the out-of-control Williams of Rubens Barrichello on the opening lap of the grand prix, and as one misfortune seemed to breed another he then made the wrong call on tyres in the changeable conditions, dropping him even further down the order. The Oviedo native had hauled himself back up to seventh place with just seven of the 44 laps to go when he put a wheel over the kerb and crashed into retirement at Malmedy.
Whilst Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button similarly failed to score following their collision at the Bus-Stop Chicane, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber conversely took the chequered flag respectively first and second to extend their advantage to 28 points over anyone else, with Alonso now 41 points shy of the lead in fifth. The 23-time grand prix-winner however, is adamant that he is far from out-of-play yet.
“Anything can happen and I believe that for us, it is still a real possibility,” the 29-year-old is quoted as having said by AFP
. “Only two of the five competitors for the championship scored points and so, maybe, at the next race it [will be] the opposite and we'll go back to the positions we had before where we were all very close.
“There are the same five drivers that can win and our chance is still 50/50, just as it was before the [Belgian] race. As we said before this grand prix, there were seven races and now there are six where everything matters – and who does the best job will be champion.”
Alonso's belief that he can successfully overturn the deficit separating him from new championship leader Hamilton before season's end has been given a boost by Ferrari's confirmation that it will continue to use its F-duct system in the forthcoming Italian Grand Prix at Monza – the most important race of the year for the Prancing Horse, taking place as it does on home turf and in front of the adoring tifosi
One dark cloud that could be looming, however, is the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) disciplinary hearing next Wednesday that is due to decide whether or not the Scuderia
must face any further sanctions over the Hockenheim team orders controversy – the outcome of which could result in Alonso and team-mate Felipe Massa being docked the points they earned for their contentious one-two finish in the German Grand Prix last month. Should he lose the 25 points he gained for victory there, the former's world championship chances would become significantly smaller – and perhaps even impossible.
Team principal Stefano Domenicali, though, insists that not only is he confident the governing body 'will understand our position' – but that he is equally confident that despite now trailing Red Bull Racing by 80 points in the constructors' chase, Ferrari remains every bit as much in the hunt for glory as does Alonso and has not the slightest intention of throwing in the towel.