Fernando Alonso continues to confound F1 observers by insisting that he can still overturn a double-figure points deficit and win this year's world championship.
The Spaniard trails Sebastian Vettel by ten points heading into the inaugural USGP at the new Circuit of the Americas, and his Ferrari remains no match for the German's Red Bull, which has won four of the past five races and sliced through the field in Abu Dhabi last time out, but Alonso is doing more than just keeping morale high at Maranello by professing his belief that a third title could be just a week or so away.
"Confident? I'm very confident," he insisted on the eve of first practice at the Austin facility, "I trust my team, I trust myself. We are honest with ourselves, we know that we don't have the quickest package out there and we've qualified an average of sixth or seventh this season. If we see that, on Saturday, we are sixth or seventh, people will say 'maybe you say bye bye to the title'. No!
"I think it's our normal position but, even with this normal position, we were leading the championship until three races ago, and we are ten points behind the leader, so this is not our strong point. Our strong point is to score more points than the others on Sunday and I'm sure we will do this in the next two races."
Alonso, who once led the championship by 44 points prior to first lap exits at Spa and Suzuka, insists that being the underdog has made him more relaxed approaching the race in America and Brazil, and the experience of battling for titles since taking his own second crown in 2006 will also mean that he is more relaxed as he attempts to overcome the deficit to Vettel over the next two weekends.
"I'm much more relaxed, much more focused," he confirmed, "In 2006, I arrived at the last race fighting with Michael [Schumacher] in Brazil. It was quite stressful, quite an intense weekend, and not easy to get focused or sleep or things like that because it was a very emotional weekend. The year after, 2007, it was also a very stressful last race, three of us fighting for the world championship - Lewis [Hamilton], Kimi [Raikkonen] and me - and it was also a stressful weekend and not easy to do things.
"In 2010, we arrived in Abu Dhabi, again fighting for the world championship at the last race, [but] I was much more calm there. I was more confident and things in the race, in the weekend, were quite good for us. The race was what it was and we didn't win in the end, but, feeling-wise, we were much more prepared.
"In these last two races, I feel, as I said before, completely normal. It's good experience. It's the fourth time we have been fighting for the world championship up to the last race - hopefully - and you really feel the difference, being much more focused, concentrated, trying to do the job and understanding that if you do everything perfectly you have a chance. If you make a mistake, you will lose the chance, so let's focus on us."
Insisting that arriving at a completely new circuit, that gives no pre-race advantage to anyone, will not necessarily play into his hands, Alonso admits that he cannot do anything but try to take the title fight to the last round.
"I think we need to wait and see," he maintained, "I think, as Sebastian has said, now it is very difficult to imagine what [winning a third crown] can mean or what emotions that you could feel. We'll just concentrate on our job and try to do a good weekend and then fight in Brazil for the championship because, in my case, I cannot do anything here. I can only save this much points and wait for Brazil."