McLaren-Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button and Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner have all singled out Fernando Alonso and Ferrari as the 'biggest threat' over the remainder of the F1 2010 World Championship campaign off the back of the Scuderia's
dominant Monza form a fortnight ago.
This weekend's Singapore Grand Prix – the third race to be held under the spotlights of the Far Eastern city-state, and one that it is feared could be severely disrupted by the elements – has been tipped as a pivotal indicator as to the likely destiny of the drivers' and constructors' laurels.
Red Bull is expected to have the fastest car around the streets of the Marina Bay circuit, but it was Hamilton that triumphed last year, and Alonso – albeit controversially – the year before, with current world championship leader Mark Webber having never finished there in the two previous editions.
Aside from the aforementioned trio, defending title-winner Button and Webber's young RBR team-mate Sebastian Vettel both similarly remain very much in touch at the top, with a mere 24 points – or less than the value of a race victory – blanketing the crown-chasing quintet with five races left to run.
Perhaps more significantly, however, from the last four grands prix, it is third-placed Alonso who has achieved the greatest tally, with a return of 68 points to Webber's 59, 42 for Vettel, 37 for Hamilton and just 32 for Button. That, Hamilton opines, makes his former team-mate and bitter sparring partner dangerous indeed as the fever mounts and the tension rises.
“I guess the guy who won the last race,” the British star told BBC Sport
, when asked who he fears most in Singapore. “I'll let Fernando be the favourite – that's fine for me. Fernando seems to be [the main threat], because Ferrari have really stepped up their game and I am assuming they are our closest rivals at the moment.”
Indeed, with momentum on his side off the back of his third success of F1 2010 in Italy – popularly, in front of Ferrari's adoring tifosi
– Alonso has now closed to just 21 points off Webber's lead, and even more tellingly still, Button points out, the Spaniard is the only one of the five protagonists to have a team-mate in Felipe Massa ready and willing to play a subservient second fiddle role, given that all four of the McLaren and Red Bull drivers are still in with a shout of glory and are therefore facing a fight both inside and outside of their own teams.
“It just shows how important it is to finish and to get points but also to be right at the front challenging,” the 30-year-old mused. “Ferrari are more competitive now and have scored more points than anyone in the last few races. They were running an aerodynamic package that suits Monza, and maybe they put a lot of time in to win at home, but they showed their pace and we will see how they stand here. This is an important race to understand where Ferrari are and where we are compared to Red Bull.
“It's obviously the best situation for Fernando. It's got to help knowing that your team-mate will back you up – if that's the case, and I'm not saying it is. Felipe could be taking points off of us but, if our car is quick and we're winning races, he could be taking points off Red Bull which is also good for us.”