Fernando Alonso admits that scoring seven points more than Sebastian Vettel over the final four races of the 2012 F1 season will be a tough task, but insists that he is used to being in the role of hunter, having played it for so long.
The Spaniard had been in control of the championship battle since the middle of the season, but has seen his advantage gradually eroded, until three straight wins for Vettel once the Asian 'flyaway' events restarted saw them swap positions at the head of the table. A four-point deficit was turned into a six-point lead by Vettel in Korea, while Alonso attempted to limit the damage by again finding the final step of the podium. Asked whether he was frustrated by the turn of events, however, the Spaniard admitted that he would not let it get to him.
"It's nothing new, nothing new," he claimed, "The last five years of my career has been like this. I'm good, I'm confident - and used to this situation. We are always on the limit, but we feel comfortable like this. We seem to extract the maximum from the car when we are under pressure and, as I said, there are four beautiful races to come - some circuits where we are a little bit more competitive, and some circuits where we are maybe not competitive enough - and there will be good possibilities for us to fight for the championship."
Alonso surprised a few people when he revealed that Ferrari had not brought any major upgrades to its F2012 since the European campaign resumed in Belgium nearly two months ago, but pointed to the Scuderia's ability to keep him in the points and, more often than not, on the podium.
"We didn't bring anything new to the last six or seven races, so we are doing what we can at the moment and trying to save points, which I think we are doing perfectly every Sunday," he reasoned, "Again it was a perfect Sunday for us: good start, good strategy at the right time and in the right moment, then finishing again on the podium. I think it was a very strong Sunday, but we will hopefully make a little bit of a step in terms of performance and then we can fight for bigger things.
"Obviously, we lost the [championship] lead by six points but, if we think how it went for us the last four or five races, with two retirements [that were] nothing to do with the team - just some people flying over us and things like that - being six points behind leaves open a lot of possibilities for us in the last four races. Now we need to score seven points more than Sebastian, which will be extremely tough, but we believe we can do it."
Having claimed before the final round of fly-aways got underway that Ferrari's best circuits were likely to be Singapore, Japan and Korea, Alonso's belief might appear to be misplaced, but the Spaniard refuses to write off his title chances.
"We will see," he mused, "It will depend, obviously, on the updates in the car. I think we will see, in India, if there are any new parts but, if there are, we will need to test them..... For sure, the other teams will also bring new parts, maybe more than us, so we need to see which of them are working, which of them are not working and for who they work. I think the performance of the car will depend on that.
"I think, in Singapore, Suzuka and Korea, we felt competitive. In Singapore, maybe not so much, but we were able to be on the podium. In Suzuka, we saw Felipe finish in second and, here, both of us were third and fourth so, overall, they have been more or less good races for us - apart from the puncture in Suzuka. In terms of performance, I think we are there. Obviously, Red Bull have made a step forward and they have won three races. They were one and two in qualifying in Suzuka, one and two in qualifying here, one and two in the race here, so it's something that is not entirely in our hands.
"We are not the fastest car in our championship, so I didn't come to Korea expecting to be the fastest car on Sunday. We always said that we improve on Sunday compared to Saturday. Yesterday, we were P4 and P6 [in qualifying] and, today, we were in P3 and P4 [in the race], so definitely, on Sunday, there is always a step forward for us. However, we never believed or thought that we were the fastest in the race, and today was more or less as expected - or better than expected, because we were fighting with Webber all the race which was something we were not able to do in Singapore or in Suzuka....."