Sebastian Vettel insists that he can still overhaul Fernando Alonso in the 2012 F1 world championship standings, but concedes that he needs to continue finishing races as long as the Spaniard keeps picking up points and podiums.
Vettel inherited a second successive victory in the Singapore Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton was forced out of a comfortable lead with gearbox failure on his McLaren, and the pair exchanged the role of chief pursuer to Alonso, who maintained his hold on top spot after easing into third position in the race. The Ferrari driver's lead has been eroded since Monza, however, with Vettel now 29 points adrift with six races remaining and the German is more confident of being able to cut into the deficit in the coming weeks, provided Red Bull can ensure the reliability of his RB8.
"It looks better than before," he admitted when asked about his championship challenge, "Fernando finished third and I am not a genius, but I think it's looking ten points better than it was before. There's a lot of races left and it's a bit difficult to predict what's going to happen.
"We have to make sure that we finish the races first of all. I think the pace is there, even if we are not quick enough to win then it is good enough to collect a lot of points, and we have to make sure we do that. It's a tough championship so far, but we're still in it. We're still looking forward to the next couple of races, and obviously the target at the moment is to beat Fernando."
With his pursuers taking wins off each other in his wake, Alonso has been able to remain at the top of the standings despite not winning since Germany in July, but McLaren and Red Bull appeared to have a performance advantage over Ferrari at Marina Bay and regularly finishing ahead of the Spaniard will indeed allow the likes of Vettel and Hamilton to close in over the remaining six rounds.
The German had been the pacesetter early in the Singapore weekend, but lost out to Hamilton in qualifying, and then proved unable to challenge the McLaren in the race without compromising his position to the chasing Jenson Button.
"I saw that I was gaining a little bit in the first sector, not sure in the second sector but I could see that I probably lost a bit, and I think Lewis has been very quick in sector two all weekend," he reflected, "Also, I think I was fairly close to him, but obviously, the closer you get, it's a bit of a disadvantage, but I tried keeping the gap fairly much the same, lap by lap.
"I didn't really mean to close the gap, because I knew that, the closer I got, the more grip I lost, and obviously I will lose tyres and downforce just by running close to him, so I think it was a tactical race in the beginning, especially the beginning of the second stint after the first pit-stop. If you go all out in one lap, you probably go a second faster, but then you do this exercise for three laps and Jenson is coming. It's the races that we have these days but I think, as I said, Lewis was already quick in sector two so it was probably not a surprise to lose a little bit against him.
"It just underlines that we obviously struggled a bit, especially in the last section of qualifying. Up to then, I think it was fine and the pace was there. The confirmation was straight away there in the grand prix when we found ourselves behind Lewis and were able to push him quite hard. I think he was obviously trying to save his tyres, we were trying to save the tyres. It's a bit of a different race, very tactical, but I think the pace was there in the race throughout.