Despite finishing as runner-up in his second 'home' grand prix of the season, Fernando Alonso has joined former McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton in admitting that there needs to be a major turn of events if he is to claim his first world title with Ferrari.
The Spaniard topped Friday's free practice in Valencia, but always expected it to be something of a false dawn, and so it proved as Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull claimed both pole position and the race win. Alonso did, however, get the better of the German's team-mate, swapping places with Mark Webber a couple of times on Sunday afternoon to eventually secure his best European GP result since the event moved to his homeland.
Despite that, however, the two-time world champion languishes 99 points behind Vettel and, along with Webber, remains without a win in 2011. Until his Ferrari can match the potential of the RB7, he admits, a third crown will remain a pipe dream.
"I think I'm happy with the performance, and the team moving forward from a difficult start to the season, [but], obviously, the championship is not in our calculations at the moment," he conceded, "It's not in our hands, so we just need to take it race-by-race, try to win the races we go to and wait for some mistakes from Red Bull.
"At the moment, I don't think we can think of the championship in a proper way, [but] we'll see what happens in the last part of the season. The distance now - with 99 points, a hundred or whatever - is a lot, so it's not in our hands. As we said, we're one second behind, or eight-tenths behind, and, if anyone thinks we can win a championship being eight-tenths behind, it's because maybe they don't understand F1."
In spite of his long-term pessimism, however, Alonso reiterated that he was pleased with the progress being shown by Ferrari, which has made some high-profile personnel moves in recent weeks [see story here
], and said that he hoped to be able to give the team's fanatical fans something bigger to cheer before too long.
"Yeah, definitely," he enthused, "[Everyone] in Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro knows that our tifosi
are expecting us to win. At the moment, we are not in that position, but we are getting much closer.
"In the first three or four races of the championship, we were, on average, 1.5secs behind Red Bull in qualifying, now we are on average six or seven tenths [behind], so we have closed the gap by half. There is a clear trend, a clear direction, that is moving forward and we've made some good steps in the car. We need to wait for Silverstone, Nurburgring - circuits that are more normal circuits, not only straights and big braking - but we are confident that we have understood the wind tunnel problems we had at the beginning of the year so now all the parts we put on the car, all the ideas that we have, are working, so that is definitely a positive thing.
"What we can do on the track side - drivers, engineers, mechanics - is to deliver. It is to do clean races with no mistakes, good starts, good strategy, as we see today. I know there was a lot of criticism about the strategy in Canada, but I think that was more bad luck than wrong strategy. In terms of strategy today, we did very well. We overtook one Red Bull at the end and, hopefully, that will be in the papers tomorrow as well."