Double F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso has warned that despite the distance that has now been put between himself and Red Bull Racing duo Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, and McLaren-Mercedes team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button in the standings in the wake of last weekend's Japanese Grand Prix, none of the crown-chasing quintet can yet be counted out-of-the-equation to lift the laurels.
McLaren's troubled Suzuka weekend – allied to Vettel, Webber and Alonso occupying the three spots on the podium come the end of the race – means that Hamilton and Button are respectively 28 and 31 points adrift of the top of the table with only 75 remaining to play for, and many writing off the pair's chances of bringing the title back to Britain for the third time in as many years.
The leading trio, however, are blanketed by just 14 points, meaning that if either Vettel or Alonso was to win the next two races in Korea and Brazil, they would be at least equal on points with Webber heading into the Abu Dhabi finale on 14 November, if not even better.
As he reflected on a grand prix that he classified as 'positive' albeit having left him with 'a little bit of regret' at not having been able to take the battle to the runaway Red Bulls around a circuit that was to all intents and purposes tailor-made for the Adrian Newey-penned RB6, Alonso mused that Ferrari must keep on pushing now as the tension heightens and the stakes approach their zenith.
“The outcome of the Japanese Grand Prix remains positive, even now in the cold light of day,” the Spaniard reflected in his blog for the Scuderia's
website. “We are in a phase of the season where one negative weekend can cost us dear, and to come away with a good third place from a race that we expected to be difficult was important. We were certainly hoping that perhaps the situation would have been different at Suzuka, but we must not forget that it's a track that seems to have been designed to show off the qualities of the Red Bull.
“As early as Friday we understood that it would be difficult and, even if we knew what was coming, there remains a bit of regret that we couldn't fight for the win. Now, though, we must put the weekend behind us and concentrate on the next race, where we know that we must try to raise our level of performance – another fifth place in qualifying would certainly not help us.
“In Korea we will have to attack, because now we must close the gap to Webber. To lose any more ground would make the situation more complicated. We've been working on the new track for a few days on the simulator – the first two sectors are very quick with long straights, while the last sector reminds me of the last part of the circuit in Abu Dhabi. The tarmac is wide, which should make it possible to try overtaking moves.
“I'm always curious to discover a new circuit, both from a personal and professional point-of-view. From next Wednesday onwards I will try to discover if the simulations have been accurate enough. Then we will have a few more kilometres of running available on Friday compared to usual, so we can find the right feeling on the track.”
Looking further ahead, Alonso went on to underline the importance of receiving strong support from team-mate Felipe Massa, who has been too far down the starting grid of late to do much damage to the Oviedo native's rivals – and urged that to discount any one of the five protagonists for glory from the reckoning just yet would be suicidal.
“I still think that the fight for the title is open to five drivers,” the 29-year-old stressed. “Too many times this year we've seen someone come back into the game after they'd seemed out of it – and that could easily happen again. Having said that, perhaps the only one who can afford a bad weekend is Webber; for all the others it would perhaps mean giving up any chance, especially the ones who are a bit behind today.
“The Korean Grand Prix could therefore start to be decisive for some – and for me it will be important also to be able to count on my team-mate, Felipe. I know that he will be really hoping to make up for two negative results, and he has all the capacities required to return to the podium. What's more, it will be very useful to work together to discover all the secrets of the new track so we can prepare our cars in the best way. In a moment like this, every detail matters to achieve our goals.”