A buoyant Fernando Alonso has claimed that there is no reason not to consider the Renault team as a contender for victory in each of the last two grands prix of the season.
Despite admitting that he was surprised to win the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, the double world champion clearly believes that the regie
has closed in on those teams ahead of it in the standings and, with the title fight still in full swing, that could see him take full advantage in China and Brazil.
"Again, it is difficult to believe," he said of the success at Fuji Speedway, "Obviously, the Singapore win was completely unexpected, because I started 15th and you never expect to win a race starting in that position. Of course, there were some special conditions with the safety car etc, but today we had nothing and we won again at a circuit that maybe is not particularly good for our characteristics.
"This one is still a surprise as, even if I started fourth, we [thought] that we don't have the pace to win the race. So, when I found myself second after turn one, I tried to be close enough to Robert [Kubica] and then maybe I'd fight with him for second, third or fourth place, maybe get a podium after a nice start or whatever. But I realised after the second stint that I had the possibility to win and, if I had no mistakes, this win will be for me.
"I cannot believe it right now but, obviously, back-to-back wins is a very nice feeling. The team did a great job to improve the car, and we are now maybe just behind Ferrari and McLaren - and that is completely amazing."
Although the bigger picture is very different to his title-winning years, Alonso compared the mood in the Renault camp to that of 2006, when he was battling Michael Schumacher for his second F1 crown.
"Obviously, in 2006, we had the championship battle, so everybody was maybe more concentrated on getting the points and pushing to the limit, but it is more or less similar," the Spaniard confirmed, "This year, we keep learning about the new regulations, the new electronics. Again, we improved the management of the tyres quite a lot in race pace, in the long runs. We've understood the problems at the beginning of the season and concentrated on working on those areas of the car, and now the results are coming, so I am very happy and very proud of my team. It is a great job from everybody in the factory and this is the result. These wins are for everybody."
Although Alonso insists that Renault continues to lag behind its frontrunning rivals in terms of horsepower - something attributed to the team's rigid adherence to the engine freeze rules - he insists that, with the way things are going at present, the team ought to be considered a factor for Shanghai and Interlagos.
"I think [the gap is] about four tenths, half a second," he suggested, "Okay, there are some circuits where we are a little bit closer, some circuits where it's a little bit more than half a second, but I think another four or five tenths would put us in a very strong position.