Despite his bullish assertion that he could still win the 2010 F1 world championship despite being 47 points behind at the British Grand Prix, there appears to be no such optimism from Fernando Alonso in 2011, after falling 74 points behind Sebastian Vettel.
The Spaniard, aided somewhat by the appearance of the red flag six laps from the end of the race in Monaco on Sunday. has compared Vettel's start to the season to that enjoyed by Jenson Button in 2009, when the Briton went on to claim the crown. Despite providing the sternest opposition to Vettel in Monaco, Alonso admits that the gap between Ferrari and Red Bull is currently big enough to render dreams of the title somewhat far-fetched.
"Well, we need to win three races and he mustn't score - I think that's more or less the calculation which I can do now," the double world champion acknowledged after Sunday's race, "I think, at the moment, it's not possible to close the gap, even with plenty of races to go, because if you are one second behind in every qualifying, you have to do some strange strategies, some starts or something out of the [ordinary in the] race, so it's difficult.
"At the moment, we will try to improve the car, race by race, in order to take the maximum every weekend. Victory for us is maybe optimistic, so we need to be realistic and start fighting for podiums in Canada and Valencia, and then we will see how the championship develops, because, right now, the distance is too much."
Alonso, who indeed came from 47 points down and almost snatched the title last season, said that Vettel's blitzkrieg
start to the year was akin to Button's dominance in the 2009 Brawn and, although the Briton faltered in the second half of the season to allow his rivals to close in, placed Vettel firmly in the role of favourite to repeat as champion.
"Winning five races in six grands prix, there's only one occasion that has happened - a couple of years ago with Jenson, and we know Jenson's result," he reasoned, "I think we saw in the last couple of years that, if you win five or six grands prix, you've nearly won the championship so, if you win five of the first six, you are in a very good position.
"I think [Vettel]'s driving fantastically. There's no doubt that Red Bull is also doing a very good job with the car, with the pit-stops, with the start, so they have a very good package, but the driver is delivering on the track. At the moment, it's difficult for us to beat the whole package. I guess we need to wait for the couple of normal circuits that are coming now. Even Canada is not a very normal one, with long straights and big stops for the slow corners, [but] Canada and Valencia will tell us something more [about our chances]. I don't think that here is a good reference in terms of performance from the cars, because our car is identical to Barcelona and we were two minutes behind there and we were two seconds behind here, so it's just Monaco, a unique circuit."
Despite his long-term pessimism, however, Alonso insisted that he was ready to try everything to wrest Monaco victory from Vettel, after the German decided to run to the flag on just one tyre change. With Alonso stopping twice, and third-placed Button three times, the leading trio were all on different strategies, but any potential showdown was negated by the red flag.
"You never know what is going to happen in the final result, but 100 per cent I was ready to try," he said, "He was having some more problems with the tyres in the last ten laps of the race. We were managing the tyres when I pitted, as I knew that, at the end of the race, it was our time to attack. But that last ten laps didn't come as we had the red flag and the safety car.
"I was ready to attack. It is difficult here, there is not much space. There is the risk of 50 per cent you overtake, 50 per cent maybe you crash, but this is Monaco and he is leading the championship so he has much more to lose than me, so I was ready to attack. There is nothing to lose for me. I am not leading the championship, so I will try to win the race and, if we crash, we crash!"