Mark Webber has conceded that his hopes of landing a first F1 world championship title in 2012 are fading after being beaten to the chequered flag in Sunday's Korean Grand Prix.
In truth, the Australian's hopes were probably already over, barring some sort of miracle combination of results over the final five rounds, but, having seen Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel get the jump on him at the start, he ceded another seven points to the German and currently sits 63 behind him in the standings, with just 100 still on offer.
"Yeah, it's getting tricky now," Webber, a winner in Monaco and at Silverstone this season, admitted, "I obviously need some bizarre circumstances. It's clearly possible for me to win grand prix, but you just need to get everything perfect and, today, I didn't, and I paid the price.
"I can win some races before the year's out, but the gap is massive to these two guys [Vettel and Fernando Alonso]. That's the way it is. We have quite a few races and all the points add up at the end of the year. Of course we're all on our game, we all drive pretty well.... and that's how it generally goes for us three, when we don't get smashed out by other people. [The title will be] difficult, but you never, never, never know."
Webber secured his best chance of winning a race since the British round in July when he out-paced Vettel in qualifying at the Korea International Circuit, but his car appeared to hesitate as the Australian went through the gears, allowing the reigning world champion to draw ahead on the inside line approaching turn one.
"The start wasn't sensational and I'll have to look into it," he agreed, "The initial launch wasn't good, the first bite just kicked to wheelspin and, from then on, I knew I could have some issues. It was just a very mediocre.
but it's not the best corner to lead off so I thought 'okay, we won't risk too much'. Then we got a good slipstream off Sebastian, but it was just neck-and-neck for us along the back straight. I had a tow but, once I pulled out, I just hit a brick wall. After that, I just tried to hang in there as best I could.
"[The rest of the race] was just about tyres, looking after the front right, and, at the end of each stint, it was difficult to keep it alive. The first two stints were quite tricky for me and, then, in the last stint I was much happier with the balance. But it was all too late then. Of course I'm disappointed, but it's mixed emotions. Second is a big difference to first - I have good points and champagne, but it's not what I was after, [although] I'm happy to get a good result on the other side."