Fernando Alonso is not counting his chickens ahead of the F1 showdown in Abu Dhabi, admitting that any of his rivals has as much of a chance of championship success as he does.
Even though he goes into the 19th and final race of a long and hard-fought season with an eight-point advantage over closest rival Mark Webber, the Spaniard insists that there are too many permutations, and an equal number of contenders for race victory, to make predicting a third title a formality. With Ferrari appearing to lack the performance of Red Bull and McLaren at this event, Alonso did well to qualify third fastest after a balls-out final lap, and will start ahead of Webber, who struggled when it mattered most, but has Sebastian Vettel ahead of him on pole, and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton - a title outsider - and Jenson Button sandwiching him on the grid.
"I think we are more or less in the same situation as we were two days ago," the 2005-06 champion noted, "We know the situation, we know [there are still] four contenders, and I think everything is down to tomorrow's race.
"Anything can happen in the race, and we saw some changes in the last two or three events. In Korea, the Red Bulls were very strong and then they lost the race with some mechanical issues. In Brazil, we saw some problems with some pit-stops for Mercedes, and for [Ferrari team-mate] Felipe [Massa] as well, so, in a race situation, anything can happen. We just need to complete the 55 laps without any problem. I think it will be a tough, long race for everyone, but we are in a position at the moment that is very strong.
Alonso needs only to finish second in the race at Yas Marina, irrespective of who takes the chequered flag first, but, should he be further down the order, the positions of those ahead of him could be crucial. Starting ahead of Webber, especially with McLaren in the mix as well, is therefore important for the Spaniard, even if he doesn't believe there is a better side of the grid to be starting from.
"I don't think there's a huge difference but, if there's no difference, then you are eight metres in front of the fourth guy, so better third than fourth," he insisted, "I think we will see in the race tomorrow. Obviously it's better to be third and having Mark fifth than third and having Mark first but, as I said yesterday in the press meeting, I think the race is tomorrow.
"Saturday is important, we know, but, at the end of the day, as we saw in the last couple of events, [there were] interesting races, some mechanical failures, some problems, some mistakes, so we need to avoid all those tomorrow. The position in qualifying is okay, but the real race and the points are tomorrow. I'm happy for the position today, but we did nothing [with regards to the championship].
"As we've said [before] this weekend, our main target is to do the best job we can - to give a hundred per cent of the potential of the car, the team working all together in the same direction. We know that, sometimes, we can be on pole or winning the race, sometimes third or fourth or whatever, so we didn't have a clear target for the race, we just tried to do our best. If it was enough or not we will see tomorrow. Obviously, all the speculation about Red Bull or whatever was not our job."
Polewinner Vettel, who needs to win the race with Alonso fifth or worse, insists that there is more pressure on both the Spaniard and Webber, but Alonso has already shown how prepared he is to deal with tension by banging in his fastest qualifying lap having crossed the line with just ten seconds to spare in the final session.